My love for Lourdes began on my first pilgrimage in October 1999.  Martin and I travelled by coach from Wallsend, Tyne and Wear, with a wonderful friendly bunch from the North East, including my parents and other family members.  It was the year of my 40th birthday; they say ‘life begins at 40’, and my life and relationship with Mary our Blessed Mother certainly did! 

Lourdes had such a profound and life-changing effect on me that I couldn’t possibly find the words to adequately describe it, except to say it was, and still is, my heaven on earth.   So began many wonderful pilgrimages to Lourdes, and every time I return to the Blessed Grotto I experience that warm ‘coming home’ glow in my heart.

It was on one of these pilgrimages that I started to feel: ‘Yes, this is wonderful, but wouldn’t it be great to be here with fellow parishioners from my own church?’  That little voice remained in my head until I returned to Lourdes, once again with friends from the North East.  The voice became louder and the feelings so strong that it was becoming increasingly difficult to ignore!  As much as I thought I couldn’t possibly organise something like that – my confidence was extremely low – still that voice persisted and nagged until I felt I was being shouted at!  

So I finally gave in, approached our newly arrived priest, Fr Andrew, and said: ‘How do you fancy a trip to Lourdes?’  In October 2005 our first pilgrimage took place and the rest, as they say, is history.  Three wonderful pilgrimages later, and with the great help of God and of our Blessed Mother, our 4th Parish Pilgrimage will take place this October.

For those who haven’t been with us and are wondering: ‘Why travel by coach?’ I can promise you that the group bonds so well travelling by coach.  We do try and have fun on our journey:  quizzes, bingo, DVDs and of course cups of tea/coffee (yes, there is a toilet!) with regular stops to stretch your legs.  We also have an overnight stop in the Paris region to break the journey and have a good night’s sleep.

In Lourdes we stay at the Hotel Alba, which is a lovely comfortable hotel with full-board food and friendly staff.  I arrange Mass in various places during our stay; there are so many places to visit and experience, too many to mention them all: wonderful basilicas and chapels, the Baths, the incredible larger than life Upper Stations cast in bronze and iron, the torchlight Marian procession, and most importantly the Grotto itself (a very moving experience at night).  There is also free time for personal exploring and devotion.   Three years ago we had a fantastic day trip to Gavarnie, up in the mountains with spectacular scenery; we all loved it and I’m sure we will visit there again.

On leaving Lourdes we travel to Nevers for an overnight stay to visit the convent at St Gildard where St Bernadette became a nun and spent her life from the age of 22 years to when she died aged 35 years.  We celebrate Mass in the chapel alongside the incorrupt body of St Bernadette, a wonderful, moving end to our pilgrimage.

I firmly believe that everyone who visits Lourdes has been invited by our Blessed Lady herself.  Is Our Lady calling you

If anyone wants to go to Lourdes or wants further information, please contact Kath Brown on the Parish Centre telephone (01935 433314) or e-mail (parishcentreyeovil@gmail.com).

Lourdes