Belvedere College - Oblate Youth Service - Lourdes

Oblate Youth Service - Lourdes

Oblate Youth Service - Lourdes


Alex Kavanagh

Everyone has a vague notion of what goes on in Lourdes. So when our lads returned from Lourdes people asked polite questions and we responded with the equally generic responses of “It was great!” and “It was fantastic!” and “It was tough.” We did this because it’s just so hard to put into words. Lourdes is a pilgrimage where almost everything about you is tested and challenged. Your character, your generosity, even your resilience and mental toughness are all tested. You discover a lot about yourself in Lourdes, namely just how strong you really are or just how compassionate you really can be.
People have asked me before “Why was it challenging? It doesn’t sound very hard.” This is of course a fair question, which once again comes down to being able to put the experience into suitable words. But what is important to remember is that the passion and happiness in Lourdes overcame the challenges every day without fail. To us it might have just been a quiet chat and tea with Mary, Tony or any number of the V.I.P’s (Very Important Pilgrims), but to them it was someone caring, someone willing to listen and give and in so doing, add to their day. That’s what the essence of Lourdes is… making the guests happy.
On the first day when we arrived in Lourdes it was all slightly hectic. The first year helpers were experiencing all the unpacking, the joking and comradery of the Oblate group for the first time. But the seasoned Oblates were well used to it. So we were given tours, training, rooms and talks, everyone seemed pretty relaxed and after our first full day in Lourdes the work began. We rose early and met at the Accueil. The buses full of the V.I.Ps were on their way and most of the group lined up at the doors to get ready to escort a V.I.P to their room. It was the moment the bus doors opened that this group of mixed and somewhat unfamiliar people became the Oblates. It was like a switch being turned on with each person in the room all at once. We went from being strangers to becoming a team.
When I say the week went quick, people generally don’t understand. It was, for myself at least, as if all the days blurred together into one ongoing spectacle. Each time you helped a guest with their shopping, brought to a mass, or joined in a procession, your own time was cut a little shorter but also made the experience much better. It was a week in which people in the group made connections with both each other and the V.I.Ps without even realising.
Thinking back to Lourdes, several images come to mind. First, the breath-taking view of the candle light procession from the top of the Cathedral. Second, the emotional highs and lows of watching the guests leave early on the morning of the second last day. There were tears and laughs. There was worry and relief. It was an excellent way to sum up the trip. Our minds were so frantic that we didn’t know what to think, but we knew that we had been part of something special, something which we would always remember, but more importantly, so would the V.I.Ps.
To any students who are reading this, please at least apply for the Pilgrimage. You won’t fully understand it right away, certainly not from reading this or hearing others talk about it. It’s something you need to go and experience and throw yourself into. We all did and I can say without a doubt that going to Lourdes was one of the best opportunities afforded to me in Belvedere. A huge thank you goes to the leadership and care of Ms. O’ Donoghue and Ms. Culligan.

Meath Pilgrimage to Lourdes
Aaron Linnane

September 2016 was unique for Belvedere students travelling to Lourdes. It was the first time the school sent out three different groups to work with the sick in Lourdes. Travelling with the Meath Diocese was the newest addition to the already very well established Oblates and Dublin Diocese groups. We were a little unsure of what to expect as it was the first year to go with this group but we didn't panic and instead approached it in a very open manner knowing that our experience so far in Belvedere would stand to us. Belvedere were the only school on the Meath Pilgrimage. There was also a youth group from the Meath Diocese. There was plenty of work for everyone involved. We were all struck by the very strong work ethic demonstrated by all the nurses and volunteers. Everyone was there to ensure that all the VIPs were looked after and all their needs met. We were given a very warm welcome by everyone involved.

The VIP’s enjoyed their time immensely in Lourdes, which for us meant that the pilgrimage was successful. A huge bonus for our group was the strong bond created between all the Belvedere students and teachers and the tremendous satisfaction we gained from the gratitude shown to us by the VIPs. It was a privilege witnessing, sharing and experiencing the VIPs enjoyment of the whole trip.

I would like to think that everyone of us discovered something new about ourselves and have gained a wider understanding of what it means to be a man for others. We all have gained a further understanding of what our faith means to us. For me this was clear as, on the open day in DCU I sat in the nursing lecture hoping to learn where and how I can pursue my new found interest in this area inspired by the Lourdes trip.

To give a further insight into my own personnel experience in Lourdes I often reflect back on my feelings and experiences recorded in my journal from the pilgrimage –

“We have been here for a short four days but it has flown by. It's only when you stop moving or sit down that you realise just how tired you are, but that's how you know that you're doing a good job. Seeing everyone smiling and happy is such a good feeling and knowing that everyone is being looked after means that the trip has been successful so far. Some of the people here are just so upbeat and bring everybody's mood up. The nurses are all so helpful and I admire how they do this all year round. They deserve so much credit for what they do and I have a huge amount of respect for them. The VIPs are amazing. I wish I could stay longer - the week is coming to an end too quickly but until then I am going to apply myself as much as possible and help out whenever and wherever I can so that hopefully the VIP’s have a wonderful experience over here. I'm loving this experience.”

Overall I am very proud to say that I was part of the first Belvedere Group to Travel with the Meath Diocese. We got stuck into the work and helped out whenever possible to ensure that everyone had a good experience. It really was a fantastic experience that will stay with me long into the future.

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