Lourdes Pilgrimage Student Blogs

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Elaine Kelty

Dominican College

Sion Hill

The highlight for me on this day was The Youth Mass that took place in the Underground Basilica. As part of the Flag and Stewarding Team I had the opportunity to take part in the flag parade. We met in front of the accueil where we started the preparations for the parade. We had to wear a special flag belt called flog and white gloves.  I wasn’t sure what to expect for the Mass and I was unsure of what I had to do. Our  coordinator though was very helpful and led us through the whole Mass. We all slowly walked up in twos between the pews. We had a guard of honour for the priests as they walked up. I was very happy when I got to sit down with the flag. They’re much heavier than expected but when I parade and see the people’s faces it makes me happy. I remember I told a woman in the Accueil that I was on flags and she was very happy and excited. She said that the flags were her favourite part and she wanted to watch us get ready. It made me realise how important the flags are for people, and how they hold something special for different people. This made me happy and proud to hold the flags.

The Mass was very interesting and led by one of the coolest priests with the best hair I’ve ever seen, Father Paul. He told a very interesting story about not having doubt in Jesus and to trust in him. Halfway through the Mass each school brought up a candle from Darkness into Light. It was to remind us that even when we are in the dark, there is still light and hope ahead.

A lady who was working on the wards for 25 years was awarded a special services medal by the Archbishop. Her family flew over for the ceremony and it was very emotional to watch. It showed the love and pride they have in their family.

At the end of the Mass all the Blue Shirts got a picture with Father Paul and the Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. We were all given a bracelet that said You are not alone. I think that this is really important  to remember. Today’s Mass was very special and one that I will hold close to me.

The highlight for me on this day was bringing and joining the pilgrims on their picnic outside the Acceuil. As we brought them outside to enjoy the musical performance with people playing on the guitar it unfortunately rained all of a sudden. We did not let this dampen our spirits as we moved into the restaurant inside the building so they could enjoy the rest of their picnic without the rain. I didn’t expect so much fun and happiness from so many people and making the most of it with music, dance and laughter. I really enjoyed being in such a positive atmosphere that everyone had created in that room filled with so many pilgrims and helpers. Days like this really make me want to come back next year and I really hope that does come true for me.

The torchlight procession was definitely the highlight of my day. I brought a woman from my ward down to the gathering with the candles before we all set off. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so many people had said different things about it. The rain didn’t dampen anyone’s spirits as we all walked with the sea of blue voitures with the candles lighting up. I became closer with the lady just from that procession as I pulled her along with me. She made me wrap myself in her blanket so I could keep warm as we all prayed with everyone in front of the Basilica. As we all went back to the Accueil she was so grateful for me bringing her on the procession.

The highlight of my day was spending time with a woman I clicked with from the minute I talked to her. My job this week in Lourdes is working on the wards. I really enjoy getting to meet new people as I thought it would be a very hard job. I took her to the torch light procession and I talked to her about her children and her life back in Dublin. This makes me appreciate the time I spend with my family as this woman lives alone and doesn’t get out much only when people visit her. She’s a woman I’ll never forget and someone that I’d love to stay in contact with as she’s had an impact on my life during this pilgrimage.

This evening after the torch light procession we headed straight to prairie. During this all the blue shirts were lucky enough to receive the sacrament of reconciliation with a few kind priests who were willing to give up their time to forgive us of our sins. The confession in my opinion was really eye opening and enjoyable as afterwards it felt as if a weight had been lifted off our shoulders. It was a great night and was really enjoyable with all our new found friends.


Clongowes Wood College

Today was another busy day in Lourdes. It began with our Reception Duty – preparing the Voitures, with blankets and rain covers, for the pilgrims. Soon the Accueil Reception was buzzing with activity as the pilgrims began to make their way to St Bernadette’s Church for the Penitential Service. Tommy and Joe gave out Mass leaflets at the door and then the impressive procession of priests was led by Paddy, Ronan and Ben carrying the huge Diocesan banner and other parish banners into the beautiful church. This short service was followed by the opportunity for all pilgrims to have reconciliation with a priest.

The afternoon began with the Mass of the Anointing of the Sick which also took place in St Bernadette’s Church. Archbishop Martin was the chief celebrant at this beautiful and poignant Mass with all sick pilgrims receiving an anointing. Seeing so many people receive the sacrament was very moving. This Mass was immediately followed by the sick pilgrims processing through the Grotto. It was very special being able to experience this as a Diocese as the Grotto is an intimate space amidst the size and space of the Domain.

We then had our own slot for visiting the Baths. We were uncertain what to expect but were buzzing with anticipation as we had heard so much about them. We prayed for our intentions before going in and were then immersed in the water. It was freezing cold but invigorating and then we were surprised to find that we were instantly dry and didn’t need to towel down. The Baths were definitely the highlight of our day.

After dinner we visited the wards and spent time chatting with sick pilgrims. This sounds like a small thing but it means so much to them to have interaction with young people and we always come away humbled to hear how much the Lourdes experience means to them.

This was followed by Night Prayer, which is a great way to spend some quiet time together, and then we went to a hotel for a Sing Song. We had a great time belting out songs, with some getting the chance to show off their solo talents. An exhilarating way to end the day.

Before we came to Lourdes we had heard so much about it and it has definitely exceeded our expectations. A beautiful, vibrant place and an amazing experience.

Clongowes Students:

Ronan Molony

Thomas Inglis

Joe Bullman

Patrick White

Ben Matuschka



Jade Boylan –  Colaiste Chill Mhantain

Before arriving to Lourdes and preparing for my pilgrimage, I had very different visions in my mind than those I was faced with on arrival, partially because I’d never been on a pilgrimage before. I had lower expectations in fact. I expected it to be much more plain and simple; getting up super early, collecting sick pilgrims and bringing them to wherever they want to be. It’s not that plain at all, in fact it is very rewarding every single day. Every morning, no matter how tired you are, you look forward to going to the Accueil to meet your pilgrim and those you’ve made friendships with along the trip. Knowing that you’ve achieved something as much as smile on a sick pilgrims day really highlights the whole experience. On my first day of arrival, I met so many different people from all parts of Ireland, all so friendly and hoping for the same outcome of the pilgrimage. For most of us that is brightening the sick pilgrims day, making new friendships and building our spirituality. This is my third day here, and I feel I have accomplished this already. When I met my assigned pilgrim, she was so enthusiastic and grateful for everything we were doing. She would tell me stories about her childhood and experiences in Lourdes. Every single one of the volunteers in blue shirts do their best for the pilgrims and the teamwork between people who were once strangers is unbelievable. This was mostly recognised on the night of our second day, when the volunteers in blue shirts took part in a table quiz based on things like sports, music and Lourdes itself. As for the white shirts, they are incredibly supportive when we need them and are always making sure we’re okay. On the morning of the third day, there was a youth mass at 10am, possibly one of the nicest ceremonies I’ve been to. The music was incredible and the atmosphere was so different to at home yet 10 times more enjoyable. That afternoon, there was a party in the restaurant part of the ward where pilgrims and volunteers displayed their talents through singing, dancing and poems. It was unbelievable to see such energy in one room. I’ve been rescued from the smallest lift after 10 minutes along with 10 volunteers and I’ve been rejected by a pilgrim when I asked them to dance at the party, but these last 3 days have been the most unforgettable experience already. I am by no means the most religious person in the world, but I strongly feel being here on this pilgrimage has strengthened my spirituality and built on my beliefs.


Matthew Nolan

Coming onto this pilgrimage I didn’t really know what to expect as I’d never been on a pilgrimage before. I knew the journey was going to be a tiring one but I didn’t know it would be as rewarding as it’s been.

The pilgrims I met in the ward were absolutely fascinating, each of them coming to Lourdes for different reasons, some coming for the first time. Being on ward support, my job was to help the handmaids and brancardier.

Having gone to bed late last night after the table quiz and getting stuck in the elevator for 15 minutes, today we woke up slightly late at 8:30 am, having to be on duty for 9 am, you can imagine it was a bit of a rush to get ready and be at the Accueil. The first thing I did this morning was greet my coordinate Niamh and then wait for the pilgrims whilst the nurses attended to their personal care. When it was okay to enter the room, we immediately started cleaning the room for them to come back to a healthy, clean room at night again.

At 9:45 a.m, myself and James made our way over to the underground Basilica to set up for the Youth Mass, myself and James and a few others duties were to escort the priests while they gave communion. The singing in the Mass was phenomenal and I couldn’t recommend a better choir if I wanted to! After the mass we went back to the Accueil to have a party, unfortunately the rain got the better of us and we had to bring the party inside, where we had some tunes and lots of dancing! During the party, I really felt a sense of community within the domain as everyone, young and older, were brought together with singing and dancing and it truly made the early mornings and late nights worth it as I saw the pilgrims faces light up as I danced with my assigned pilgrims. Shortly after the party was over, we attended the candle lit procession in the domain, although the weather was absolutely terrible, it was beautiful to see all the candles brighten the place up. Although, this pilgrimage is only three days in, I feel as if I’ve accomplished a lot from making friends with the other blue shirts (and white shirts) to plain and simply making a sick pilgrims day. I know I’ll cherish this experience forever because of all the wonderful friends and memories I’ve made, going back to school after this experience will certainly be a shock but I know I’ll go back with a fresh outlook on life and a new found appreciation for all the things I take for granted on a daily basis.

James Byrne 

….on Saturday morning I cleaned the wards, next I went to the underground Basilica where I escorted the priest around all the voitures during communion. It was a lovely Mass accompanied by music from the choir. It was amazing to see everyone in one place praying together. After lunch we had a party with the pilgrims where we sang and danced. It felt so great to see the pilgrims smiling and having a great time, it really made my day. We went out into the candlelight procession where I got soaked, it was an amazing experience to feel part of such a large group and the long line of candles looked amazing. Today felt special to me, it felt like all of my hopes and expectations came together, it’s un- explainable to be honest. That sums up my experience so far everything is so hard to explain and you really have to experience it all yourself to understand.

St. Killian’s Bray

This is my third day in Lourdes and so far I am having a great time. This morning I was I was helping the pilgrims get ready for the reconciliation service. After last night’s prairie where we had our reconciliation service I was hoping that today’s service with the pilgrims would be as moving and it was. I especially liked Father Paul’s homily on the student who had a spiritual experience while in hospital, very moving. I cannot believe how fast time is going here. I hope to come back next year relive this wonderful experience all over again. Amber.


As a Moldovan girl this experience is not an easy one. I enjoyed every second of it. There was a small language barrier between the pilgrimages but I overcame that barrier and thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the pilgrims. Every day they greeted me with a smile and a warm welcome. I hope to return to Lourdes again as this experience has taught me many things. Luliana


Today myself and Georgia began our day by parking wheelchairs and voitures in St Bernadette’s Church for the penitential service. Both of us found this service uplifting and gave us a new sense of direction in our lives. In the afternoon we were on flag duty for the mass of the anointing of the sick which was very touching and moving. Today has been a wonderful experience as have the days before and the days to come. We already cannot wait to come back next year! Niamh and Georgia


My job in Lourdes is reception and I love my job. I have been chatting with the most generous and light hearted people in the form of the Dublin Diocesan pilgrims. When I help place a sick, blind or deaf pilgrim in a voiture, in my head I know that they are in the safest condition they can be with their blankets and water-proof blankets (if needed). The best part about my job is that when they come back and tell me about their day, I feel happy knowing that they, themselves are happy. Seán


The Teresian School

Monday 11th September:

We began the day in the Accueil in St. Patrick’s Refectory area acting out the Stations of the Cross for the patients. We partook in the acting out of the 9th station, in which Jesus falls for the third time. It gave us an insight into the creative interpretations of our religion. Some free time followed this, during which we gathered in the wards and sang songs with the pilgrims. This was really rewarding as the pilgrims enjoy music and singing with the young people. It was lively and great craic. There was also an opportunity for pilgrims to attend the baths before lunch time.


After lunch pilgrims went out to do some shopping in the town of Lourdes. Many bought candles and we helped them to light them by the grotto. We could see that the pilgrims really appreciated us and we have created strong bonds with them. As today was our last day we really tried to spend as much time as possible with our pilgrims and took photos with them.


After this we had our closing mass in St. Bernadette’s church. It was poignant to realise that our wonderful journey with the pilgrims was coming to an end. However on a brighter note, the archbishop’s homily spoke positively about the change in Christianity and how young people like us need to be at the centre of that change to ensure the safety of our religion.


After supper we brought the pilgrims to level 5 of the Accueil for a farewell party. We sang songs and danced for a few hours. This put a wonderful end to the incredible experience over the last 5 days. The atmosphere among us all really summed up the pilgrimage – joy, fortitude and love.


Finally at the end of the evening, the blue shirts gathered for the last time for Prairie, where we had previously gathered as strangers, we now gathered as friends. We reflected on the past week and were presented with our group photo with the Archbishop. It was nice to see how such a large group of people could make such an immense impact on pilgrims in such a short space of time.


It’s difficult to put into words how special this trip was for us and for the pilgrims. It was overall a life changing one and we are all excited to be applying to return next year. (Sarah Domoney)



Saturday September 9th


Maryfield College


Today was an extremely busy day for the blue shirts. Our day started off with the Dublin Diocesan Mass. We all had different jobs which included bringing the pilgrims down to the Grotto and handing out mass leaflets. The mass was said by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin. Our favourite part of the mass was the sign of peace. There were many different nationalities and pilgrimages there and although a lot of people did not understand the ceremony, the sign of peace was common to everyone. After the Mass we brought the pilgrims to the steps of the Basilica where the pilgrimage photos were taken. It was really nice to see everyone involved in the pilgrimage all together.


After lunch, we brought the pilgrims to the baths, or else brought them on a walk if they did not want to take part in the baths. It was a good chance to get to know and talk to the pilgrims, and also the other school groups. Everyone seems really friendly and are really easy to get along with. After taking the pilgrims back to their wards, we joined a group of people in the Accueil, who were enjoying a sing song. Everyone joined in together singing and it was really lovely. The pilgrims outside loved it too it seemed. It moved us how much the pilgrims enjoyed it, but also how much everyone was willing (and wanted to) get involved. It was a lovely atmosphere. We then got our own chance to visit the baths. Everyone was quite nervous as we didn’t know what to expect, but after taking part in the baths we were all happy that we had done it. It was a very different but wonderful experience that we all came out of feeling very refreshed. Next was the Eucharistic Procession. We had never seen the underground Basilica before and we were all in awe of its size and structure.


After dinner it was back to the wards to spend some more time with the pilgrims before our Prairie. Even though it is only the second day, we are already making bonds with the pilgrims and are really enjoying their company and we really hope they are enjoying ours. So far, we are having an amazing time here in Lourdes and are really delighted that our school was given the opportunity to come here. We have made some great new friends and hope to make even more throughout the next few days.


By Niamh, Sarah, Emily and Eimear



Gonzaga College


On first coming to Lourdes, we didn’t know what to expect. We thought that we wouldn’t really be needed and wouldn’t have too much interaction with the pilgrims. We also didn’t expect how friendly the pilgrims would be to us. However, as soon as we reached the Acceuil and were split up into our duties we understood our great importance to the pilgrimage. We couldn’t have imagined how much it meant to the pilgrims for us to be there, and without us the pilgrims would have had great troubles getting around the area. We expected that it would be very tough work and very tiring but we couldn’t have anticipated how wrecked we were at the end of the day. However it was a fantastic day and a great start to our week here.



We woke up early and made our way down to the Acceuil where we received our initial “voiture” training which are pulled vehicles used to transport the pilgrims from place to place. After this we began our work in the wards. We chatted to the pilgrims, cleaned the rooms and helped out in whatever way we could. In the afternoon we all took part in the Eucharistic procession which was a truly humbling experience. We finished in the underground basilica which is huge! We finished off our day with a table quiz which became a game of who is the best at cheating with their phone. We all lost. We finally settled down for the day and began our well deserved sleep, readying ourselves for the coming days.


We woke up at 5:45 on our first day of Lourdes, we went straight to voiture training where we learnt how to transport the pilgrims, after that we went straight to our first day in the wards where we cleaned up and chatted the pilgrims until 8:30 when we had our first Mass in the grotto with the Archbishop which was amazing. After lunch we had the Stations of the Cross where we acted out the story of Jesus while the pilgrims watched. This was very fun and educational.  We then went and had a lovely afternoon tea in the sun with the pilgrims and had a sing song. At 5 the Eucharistic procession was on so we all got a pilgrim and walked around the Lourdes campus to the church while everyone clapped and watched which was amazing. Finally when that was done we had dinner and prairie.  Mount Anville, De la Salle, Loreto Dalkey and St Michael’s sang music which was nice.



The student view… Today was the first day in Lourdes and it was a very busy one, seeing new faces and talking to people of very different backgrounds.


Today I was assigned to working in St Patrick’s ward A. Here I met the pilgrims that I was assigned to looking after. Their names were Carmel , Nora and Sister Mary Kate

In the morning I brought Nora and Carmel to the grotto where we attended Mass and talked for a while after. They told me that they were both friends who met here in Lourdes last year .

Nora was an Irish teacher and because of this she urged me to speak Irish as we “have to appreciate our native language”.  Although I am not the best at Irish I knew everythig she was saying was nice as she helped to translate and  kept smiling and laughing whenever I didn’t understand. Nora is here with her whole family.


Later on that day I brought sister Mary Kate to the procession.

Here I brought her in her chariot through the parade-like ceremony into the Mass in the underground chapel

Sister Mary Kate was a lovely woman to meet as we talked about different things and she also said she’d pray for me for good luck in the Leaving Cert.


The highlight of the day was by far the table quiz at the end of the day!!! We were split up into groups of 8ish and my group was four boys and four girls. It was great fun talking to the girls and it’s safe to say Luke had his eye on one of them😉 They had eight rounds and then the winners got a box of celebrations. I answered loads of questions and was by far the best on my team (lol). We then chatted after for a bit and got to know each other better before heading our separate ways and had a quick cold drink before bed.