Sat, Mar 23, 2019

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Lourdes Pilgrimage 2011

The Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes was organised from the 7th to the 12th of September. De La Salle College Churchtown was invited to participate in the Post Primary Schools support programme for the Pilgrimage. Six students - Darragh Carroll, Scott Finlay, Shane McGreevy, Luke O'Donoghue, Joseph Squire and Chris Walsh - accompanied by Ms E. O'Connell and Mr A. Quirke comprised the De La Salle College group. Two of our Sixth Year students of last year, Killian Roche and Eamon O'Shea participated as well. The students spent their time assisting and helping the pilgrims from the Dublin diocese in all aspects of the Lourdes experience as well as developing and reflecting on their own faith journey.  

On the 7th of September we had an early start.  We arrived at 6 o' clock in the airport to instantly start working. Myself, Luke O'Donoghue, Scott Finlay and Mr Quirke all got a taxi to the airport and we met Ms O'Connell, Joseph Squire, Darragh Carroll and Christopher Walsh. We were all in our uniform, all looking the same.

All of the pilgrims started to arrive at the airport. Our job was to start chatting to a pilgrim who was on their own and then escort them down to the departure gate. Some of us had to bring more the one pilgrim down to the gate, so that meant having to walk all the way back to security and pick another pilgrim up. All the pilgrims and passengers for the flight were all ready to get on board the plane.  We were sitting around waiting for hours till we got our seat on the plane. Finally we got onto the plane and the seats were so small I don't know how people could sit in them so I had to sit at the edge for extra leg space.

Our flight over flew by as we were all the chatting on the plane. The time passed so fast. It felt like we only took off and we were landing again. Just before we landed the pilot came on the speaker and said were are landing soon and it is 25 degrees outside. We were all so happy for a bit of sun. It is never that hot in Ireland. We landed in Lourdes airport and the heat was like a boom of heat  just hit you. We got on a bus that brought us straight to the hotel. We had lunch in the hotel and it was basically a dinner. All of us thought we were getting a sandwich or something but is was a full 3 course dinner. It felt like dinner time the amount of hours we had been awake for. It was our first day of work in the Accueil. It was not what I expected at all. I didn't think it was like a hospital we were going to work in but it was. The first two days were a bit boring and I was thinking to myself this isn't that great, but after the third day I got to know more people and the pilgrims got to know me and things were just better and by the fourth day I was thinking to myself I might come back next year.

On the first day we didn't get to see Lourdes much. On our first night I experienced something so amazing, we were walking across the main basilica and at the same time there was a torchlight precession taking place. It was amazing I have never seen so many candles in my life. The candles were everywhere even all the way up the side of the basilica. It was an amazing sight. The first day in Lourdes was then over. One of the longest days ever from such an early start and then you are back in bed late. The next morning is an early start again. Its our first full day and everyone is looking forward to it.

Another early start myself, Scott and Darragh all had to be down to the Accueil nice and early to get ready for breakfast while Joey, Chris and Luke got an extra 30 mins in bed. After our breakfast shift Scott, Darragh and I had 3 hours to spare so we had a wander around Lourdes. It is such an amazing place, so many amazing views and the sun was just the icing on the cake. One of the lads from another school told me that he had been down to the baths. So I asked him what is it was  like, he then told me basically 'you go into the bath, they dunk you in then you get dressed'. I was amazed and confused at the same time. So for the rest of the day all I could think of was that it wasn't possible to be dunked in water and then be able to put your clothes back on straight away.  After I heard this I couldn't wait to get to do the baths.

We met so many new people and the pilgrims got to know you so well and every day at dinner they would have another story to tell you. It was the last night and there was a big party. Ireland played their first World Cup match that night. About 20 of the white shirts at the party dressed up as rugby players. They performed the Irish version of the Haka and sang Amhrán na bhFiann and Irelands call. It was a great night so amusing and a brilliant way to end such a memorable experience and a fantastic time we had in Lourdes. It was our last night back to the hotel and into bed. We were home on the first flight in the morning.

The final morning was here and we all packed our bags and went down for a quick breakfast before we got on the bus. We were on the bus waiting for group from Michaels who all slept in so Mr Quirke went and woke him up. Finally on our way to the airport and we got roped into a job unpacking the van with all the pilgrims' bags. We then went through security and had to put wheel chairs into bags as quick as we could. It was hard work. After that we then went to get a seat on the plane. Luke and I sat in the front seats because I needed space for my legs. The air steward  came up to us and said 'Sorry guys you can't sit here, it's for doctors only'. I stood up and he told me 'No, you can stay you need the space'. I was delighted as it was the best plane journey home. There was loads of turbulence and the plane was so bouncy, it got scary at one stage. We landed safely that's what everyone cared for most.

We were home now and my time in Lourdes was so amazing.You can't explain what it is like its somewhere you have to go and see for yourself.



Shane McGreevy


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