Further to the update below we now hope to make a final decision on whether to go ahead with the pilgrimage by mid-April.
11 February 2021
AN UPDATE FROM THE PILGRIMAGE DIRECTOR
First of all I want to wish you all a very happy Feast Day on this Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes and pray that Our Blessed Lady will intercede for all of us in these difficult days and especially those who are sick or isolating and are alone.
I thought it would be useful to give you some idea of what our thinking is at the moment regarding our Pilgrimage this year. Our primary consideration is the safety and welfare of all our pilgrims and so our decisions will be made with this as our number one priority. We will be guided by the advice of experts and according to whatever regulations are put in place by our own Government and/or the French Government. It is with this in mind that we have made the very sad decision that we will not be able to take any assisted pilgrims to Lourdes this year. This is on the advice of the British Conference of Lourdes doctors and nurses and after conversation with Bishop Mark and our own medical team.
It is very much our wish that we will be able to take a Pilgrimage to Lourdes this year. This will be a small pilgrimage, flying from Liverpool and hopefully including a youth Section. This will limit our numbers to around 180 as this is the total number of seats available on the plane. We hope that all those joining the Pilgrimage will fly with us as the plane will only be viable if we can fill it. We will not be providing any overland travel this year. We will also be reducing significantly the number of hotels in Lourdes but will keep a selection across all the price ranges. Although the character of the Pilgrimage will be very different with no assisted pilgrims and a much smaller group of young people, we will still have the usual full programme of Spiritual Activities.
We hope to have a clearer idea of what will be possible by the end of this month when the Government reviews its own advice and we plan to make a final decision as to whether we will go ahead by Easter. We hope to have brochures and booking forms available soon. If we subsequently decide not to go ahead we will refund in full any payments made. Our agents also advise us that our travel insurance will provide full Covid 19 Cover.
I hope this gives you some sense of what we are hoping will happen. Please keep everyone involved in the planning in your prayers.
Fr David Long
“You have but one teacher and you are all brothers” (Mt 23:8). A trust-based relationship to guide care for the sick.
Dear brothers and sisters,
The celebration of the XXIX World Day of the Sick on 11 February 2021, the liturgical memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Lourdes, is an opportunity to devote special attention to the sick and to those who provide them with assistance and care both in healthcare institutions and within families and communities. We think in particular of those who have suffered, and continue to suffer, the effects of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. To all, and especially to the poor and the marginalized, I express my spiritual closeness and assure them of the Church’s loving concern.
1. The theme of this Day is drawn from the Gospel passage in which Jesus criticizes the hypocrisy of those who fail to practise what they preach (cf. Mt 23:1-12). When our faith is reduced to empty words, unconcerned with the lives and needs of others, the creed we profess proves inconsistent with the life we lead. The danger is real. That is why Jesus uses strong language about the peril of falling into self-idolatry. He tells us: “You have but one teacher and you are all brothers” (v. 8).
Jesus’ criticism of those who “preach but do not practise” (v. 3) is helpful always and everywhere, since none of us is immune to the grave evil of hypocrisy, which prevents us from flourishing as children of the one Father, called to live universal fraternity.
Before the needs of our brothers and sisters, Jesus asks us to respond in a way completely contrary to such hypocrisy. He asks us to stop and listen, to establish a direct and personal relationship with others, to feel empathy and compassion, and to let their suffering become our own as we seek to serve them (cf. Lk 10:30-35).
2. The experience of sickness makes us realize our own vulnerability and our innate need of others. It makes us feel all the more clearly that we are creatures dependent on God. When we are ill, fear and even bewilderment can grip our minds and hearts; we find ourselves powerless, since our health does not depend on our abilities or life’s incessant worries (cf. Mt 6:27).
Sickness raises the question of life’s meaning, which we bring before God in faith. In seeking a new and deeper direction in our lives, we may not find an immediate answer. Nor are our relatives and friends always able to help us in this demanding quest.
The biblical figure of Job is emblematic in this regard. Job’s wife and friends do not accompany him in his misfortune; instead, they blame him and only aggravate his solitude and distress. Job feels forlorn and misunderstood. Yet for all his extreme frailty, he rejects hypocrisy and chooses the path of honesty towards God and others. He cries out to God so insistently that God finally answers him and allows him to glimpse a new horizon. He confirms that Job’s suffering is not a punishment or a state of separation from God, much less as sign of God’s indifference. Job’s heart, wounded and healed, then makes this vibrant and touching confession to the Lord: “I had heard of you by word of mouth, but now my eye has seen you” (42:5).
3. Sickness always has more than one face: it has the face of all the sick, but also those who feel ignored, excluded and prey to social injustices that deny their fundamental rights (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 22). The current pandemic has exacerbated inequalities in our healthcare systems and exposed inefficiencies in the care of the sick. Elderly, weak and vulnerable people are not always granted access to care, or in an equitable manner. This is the result of political decisions, resource management and greater or lesser commitment on the part of those holding positions of responsibility. Investing resources in the care and assistance of the sick is a priority linked to the fundamental principle that health is a primary common good. Yet the pandemic has also highlighted the dedication and generosity of healthcare personnel, volunteers, support staff, priests, men and women religious, all of whom have helped, treated, comforted and served so many of the sick and their families with professionalism, self-giving, responsibility and love of neighbour. A silent multitude of men and women, they chose not to look the other way but to share the suffering of patients, whom they saw as neighbours and members of our one human family.
Such closeness is a precious balm that provides support and consolation to the sick in their suffering. As Christians, we experience that closeness as a sign of the love of Jesus Christ, the Good Samaritan, who draws near with compassion to every man and woman wounded by sin. United to Christ by the working of the Holy Spirit, we are called to be merciful like the Father and to love in particular our frail, infirm and suffering brothers and sisters (cf. Jn 13:34-35). We experience this closeness not only as individuals but also as a community. Indeed, fraternal love in Christ generates a community of healing, a community that leaves no one behind, a community that is inclusive and welcoming, especially to those most in need.
Here I wish to mention the importance of fraternal solidarity, which is expressed concretely in service and can take a variety of forms, all directed at supporting our neighbours. “Serving means caring … for the vulnerable of our families, our society, our people” (Homily in Havana, 20 September 2015). In this outreach, all are “called to set aside their own wishes and desires, their pursuit of power, before the concrete gaze of those who are most vulnerable… Service always looks to their faces, touches their flesh, senses their closeness and even, in some cases, ‘suffers’ that closeness and tries to help them. Service is never ideological, for we do not serve ideas, we serve people” (ibid.).
4. If a therapy is to be effective, it must have a relational aspect, for this enables a holistic approach to the patient. Emphasizing this aspect can help doctors, nurses, professionals and volunteers to feel responsible for accompanying patients on a path of healing grounded in a trusting interpersonal relationship (cf. New Charter for Health Care Workers , 4). This creates a covenant between those in need of care and those who provide that care, a covenant based on mutual trust and respect, openness and availability. This will help to overcome defensive attitudes, respect the dignity of the sick, safeguard the professionalism of healthcare workers and foster a good relationship with the families of patients. Such a relationship with the sick can find an unfailing source of motivation and strength in the charity of Christ, as shown by the witness of those men and women who down the millennia have grown in holiness through service to the infirm. For the mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection is the source of the love capable of giving full meaning to the experience of patients and caregivers alike. The Gospel frequently makes this clear by showing that Jesus heals not by magic but as the result of an encounter, an interpersonal relationship, in which God’s gift finds a response in the faith of those who accept it. As Jesus often repeats: “Your faith has saved you”.
5. Dear brothers and sisters, the commandment of love that Jesus left to his disciples is also kept in our relationship with the sick. A society is all the more human to the degree that it cares effectively for its most frail and suffering members, in a spirit of fraternal love. Let us strive to achieve this goal, so that no one will feel alone, excluded or abandoned.
To Mary, Mother of Mercy and Health of the Infirm, I entrust the sick, healthcare workers and all those who generously assist our suffering brothers and sisters. From the Grotto of Lourdes and her many other shrines throughout the world, may she sustain our faith and hope, and help us care for one another with fraternal love. To each and all, I cordially impart my blessing.
Rome, Saint John Lateran, 20 December 2020,
Fourth Sunday of Advent
I am delighted to announce that after much thought and reflection Bishop Mark has appointed Siobhan Cartwright as the new President of the Hospitality in succession to John Campbell. All of you will know Siobhan who has been associated with our Pilgrimage for well over twenty years. She co-ordinates the support of our assisted pilgrims in the hotels and has also been secretary of the Diocesan Hospitality. She is deeply committed to the message of Lourdes and to our Diocesan Pilgrimage. I really look forward to working with her in the future for the good of all who are part of our Shrewsbury Pilgrimage Family. I know Siobhan is shocked but deeply honoured by her appointment. Please keep her very much in your prayers.
PILGRIMAGE MANAGEMENT TEAM
Bishop Mark has also agreed to the appointment of a Management Team to support me in my work as Pilgrimage Director. This will be comprised of all key personnel who lead different aspects of our Pilgrimage and I am very grateful to Bishop Mark for agreeing to this. The Team is:
Fr David Long Pilgrimage Director
Siobhan Cartwright President of the Hospitality
Phil Malone Pilgrimage Administrator
Dr John McKay Chief Medical Officer
Nuala Fitzmaurice Matron
Richard Emsley Chief Brancardier
Sandy Fairley Youth Pilgrimage Director
Andrew O’Brien Diocesan Safeguarding Officer
Fr Chris Matthews Diocesan MC and Pilgrimage Liturgy Co-ordinator
Fr David Long
It is with sadness that I have to inform you that due to illness John Cambpell has had to step down from his role as President of the Hospitality. As you all know John has been an incredible servant to our pilgrimage for so many years. Until a couple of years ago he was also Chief Brancardier and has been President of the Hospitality for twenty years. During that time John has been a wonderful smiling presence around the Pilgrimage gently guiding us and encouraging us all. He brought incredible commitment and generosity to all the roles he has taken up in service of the Pilgrimage. Lourdes and our Pilgrimage has been such a part of John’s life that it is hard to imagine him not at the forefront of things in the future. I do hope that in time his health will improve sufficiently for him to be part of the pilgrimage where hopefully we can look after him rather than him looking after us. Please keep John and his wife Vera in your prayers at this difficult time.
Bishop Mark will appoint a new President in the New Year. If members of the Hospitality wish to nominate someone that they think should be considered for this important position please send their name directly to me at St Vincent’s, Tatton St, Knutsford WA16 6HR before 21 December with the reason why you are suggesting the person.
Fr David Long