More than 100 pilgrims from a Carlow parish packed their sunscreen and shorts this month as they made their way to France to celebrate camaraderie and Faith.
Parishioners of Graiguecullen and Killeshin took part in the 43rd annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, and with the help of parish fundraisers, 30 people with disabilities were also able to attend.
“There was a whole feel-good factor about the whole pilgrimage…everyone was in good form, everyone was healthy out there, and we had a great bunch of young people who helped in different ways,” parish priest Fr John Dunphy told The Irish Catholic.
Highlighting the four ‘Fs’, he said: “There was a Faith element; a lovely friendship element, friendships built up over the trip; we do have fun as well, there were little sing-songs at night; and we do have food, it’s important to us.”
All pilgrims participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and many took great comfort in the Anointing of the Sick. Noting that pilgrimage is not just an outward journey, but also an inner one, Fr Dunphy said that people were “genuinely spiritually renewed” on the trip.
While it’s much easier to express your religious beliefs in an environment where spirituality is extolled, Fr Dunphy stressed that the challenge for pilgrims is to firmly hold onto their renewed sense of Faith when they return to a more secular Ireland.
“The challenge now is perhaps coming back to an Ireland where it’s more difficult to live your Faith, it’s easier to do it when there’s thousands more out there living and practicing their Faith – it’s a big to challenge to go back and live your Faith at home. Hopefully their sense of renewal, the experience that they had, will help them to do it.”