This year, I returned for the fourth time to Lourdes, my third as a helper, on HCPT’s annual Easter pilgrimage.
Group 216, one of hundreds of family groups across the UK and the world, took eight wonderful children on the trip to celebrate this year’s theme: ‘You are Special.’ And what a week it was!
After four months of family meetings, regional days and families kindly letting us invade their homes, the time came for us to hop on the plane and head to Lourdes.
It’s hard to explain the pure joy that comes with HCPT’s trip to Lourdes to someone who hasn’t lived it without sounding like a crazy person.
At Easter, the streets are an explosion of vibrancy, with the colourful group uniforms (though apparently, our hat wins the ‘most distinguishable’ award – make of that what you will), and wherever you are, there is music in the air. There is so much love around you – between helpers, children and even pilgrims who don’t have a clue what they’ve walked into – that it dissolves any anxiety or challenges that you may be facing in your life; giving you the strength to overcome it on your return home.
But first and foremost, the children are at the centre of the helpers’ week. Our motivation for going is to give them an unforgettable, often life-changing, experience, bursting with fun.
The children sing songs, drink the world’s yummiest hot chocolates, play with parachutes in the sun, see bears at the animal parks and go on trips to the mountains. This fun is balanced with learning about the story of Bernadette and Lourdes, reflecting and especially this year, with the theme being ‘you are special’, being reminded of their strengths and how important they are.
We light candles for our families back home and on Thursday, groups from across the world come together for Trust Mass which takes place in the enormous underground basilica and was this year hosted by the ASPCG (the American branch of HCPT). On Tuesday, HCPT groups unite for the torchlight procession – a hugely special experience for all involved.
I have written a similar post on my return from Lourdes for the past few years, but that’s because I want to spread the love of HCPT Manchester and Group 216.
So what can you do?
HCPT Manchester fundraises all year round so that the families of the children who go to Lourdes don’t have to pay. So, if you’re in a position to contribute financially, please do.
If not, you can simply spread the word… tell everyone you meet about the brilliance of HCPT!