Travelling to Lourdes as an Assisted Pilgrim
Every wondered what it’s like travelling to Lourdes with the CA as an assisted pilgrim? The wonderful Jean Mellows provides an account of her time with the CA!
“It was the year 2010 and my husband had died thirteen years before. We had a very large and wonderfully united family, but they had all left home to follow their own careers and inevitably our family house was too big for me. I had moved to a more appropriate dwelling just for myself and my memories.
One of my families was much involved with the Lourdes Pilgrimage and they asked me, tentatively, if I would like to join them on a Pilgrimage. I simply jumped at the chance and everything was set in motion. I was to share a room in a hotel with a lady in similar circumstances to mine and we became great friends and indeed shared a room for eight years. Accepting the suggestion that I should go was the best decision that I could have made. It is a wonderful experience in every way and I have now been every year for nine years!
I was nervous to start with, wondering if I was going to “fit in” but all fears were dispelled from the moment we arrived. The feeling of a Christian welcome and friendship is tangible as you gradually meet your fellow Pilgrims, and the programme for each day’s activities is displayed in the hotel foyer, giving times and meeting-points for Mass and the other activities.
I am one of the “wheelchair” brigade and there are a number of young people – mostly sixth formers or students, who have previous training and wear recognisable uniforms, who are ready with wheelchairs to take to any of the appointed activities, whether it be Mass, to the Grotto where Our Lady visited Bernadette, or to any of the outings arranged on the Pilgrimage.
I am now 93. At the beginning of this year I was told that I could not reasonably be looked after in the hotel anymore and that I should transfer to the Accueil (the hospital). This completely threw me and I envisaged a sparse ward with a considerable trek to the showers and facilities! In fact I almost decided to stop going, but a “Higher Power” told me that I would be miserable at home while the Pilgrimage was going on! I decided to take a leap of faith and go. On arrival my fears were flipped away in an instant. I was taken to a delightful bedroom for two people with a shower and all facilities. My companion and I were chosen for each other so that we were compatible and the volunteer staff were all eager and anxious to help and give us all the aid we needed (I can no longer shower and dress myself). We were even brought a cup of tea to wake us up!
The bedrooms in the Accueil are placed in a wide arc, leaving a large empty space in front of them with plenty of chairs, making a friendly, companionable meeting place at leisure times. The dining room is light and cheerful and the Pilgrims are allocated to seats at the tables so that you get to know your companions. The “wheelchair pushers” are organised to take you to each of the Masses or activities at the correct time, and altogether the Accueil experience is relaxed and totally pleasurable.
I am looking forward to next year already!”