Lourdes: Archbishop thanks HCPT for 'wonderful work'

 Warm words of thanks for 'the wonderful work that you do' were expressed to HCPT The Pilgrimage Trust at their annual Trust Mass in Lourdes this week by Archbishop Peter Smith of Cardiff.

He spoke at the end of a joyful Mass of 5,000 pilgrims, including 2,000 disabled children, in the underground basilica of Lourdes on Thursday 16 April. The Mass saw a procession of more than 200 priests, dressed in distinctive group scarves and hats, and as many banners, indicating the broad geographical reach of the Trust.

Popular church music by Bernadette Farrell, Marty Haugen, Mike Anderson and Graham Kendrick was sung with great enthusiasm, swaying and clapping. The bishops of the other two Welsh dioceses Bishop Edwin Regan of Wrexham and Bishop Tom Burns of Menevia also officiated in a service organised by the Welsh Region of the Trust. Most of pilgrims were from UK and Ireland, but some were from as far afield as Eastern Europe, the West Indies and the United States.

During the week after Easter each year, the family groups of HCPT The Pilgrimage Trust seem to take over the French pilgrimage town. In colourful hats, sweat shirts and arrays of badges they could be seen this year holding group prayers near the grotto, walking in the candlelit procession with luminous headgear, and singing hymns with actions outside every pavement café. For more than 50 years, HCPT The Pilgrimage Trust has brought children to Lourdes, organised in small family groups and each group with a chaplain and a medic. It is the biggest children¹s pilgrimage to Lourdes from the UK, and attracts thousands of young helpers who are very visibly committed to ensuring their even younger charges have a wonderful faith experience.

Among over 200 groups was Group 144 from Chiswick in West London, which has been going for 26 years. One of the children in the group, Sean Stephens, summed up his pilgrimage by saying that: "I love it here because everyone gets on and helps each other". Founder member of the group, Larry McCrudden, who has been going to Lourdes with the Trust for 32 years, reflected that, 'this is a wonderful holiday with Our Lady for children and helpers, and it is particularly life-affirming to see so many young helpers being so dedicated, and paying their own way, to look after disabled children'.

Sixth formers from StBenedict¹s School in Ealing were assisting with caring for and entertaining the children of the group. Group chaplain Fr Stewart Hasker, parish priest of St. Bridget¹s parish in Isleworth felt this particular pilgrimage to Lourdes 'is a place where Christianity works'.

For more information on the work of the Trust contact HQ on 01788 564 646 or see: www.hcpt.org.uk.

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