This ‘Thought for this Week’ is simply a few thoughts from the Derry Youth’s experience of the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes 2022. Our Derry Youth team consisted of six young people from across the parishes of Iskaheen, Moville, Melmount, Maghera Glen and Badoney Upper. Personally, we felt, that this particular pilgrimage provided us with a unique encounter and insight into the reality of Synodality. Considering the challenges of ‘walking together’ online for almost two years, it was a wonderful opportunity to spend time together in person and to take the time to get to know one another properly. As one of our group said, “I built great bonds with people that I would never have imagined” and another first time pilgrim felt that “what kind of sums up the call of Our Lady is to expect the unexpected.” We all were surprised by the many different ‘walks’ of life and stories encountered behind each pilgrim we met and we also gained great insight through the time spent sharing in the group about the various different jobs or opportunities we experienced during the week.
Pope Francis has recently again put great emphasis on the gift of intergenerational relationships. He previously has said that, ‘the world has never benefited, nor will it ever benefit, from a rupture between generations’ (Christus Vivit, n. 191). The Holy Father continuously encourages the young and old to ‘journey together’. One of our pilgrims recognised and stated, that “the intergenerational connection that was made on our pilgrimage was so strong this year”. There was somewhat a great sense of co – responsibility and both our Youth and the other Diocesan pilgrims clicked so well.
For me, this pilgrimage marked my second time in Lourdes and there were certain things that I got to do and visit for the first time. For example, on Wednesday, we walked from Lourdes to the City of the Poor. Ironically, I remember our leader showing me what is known as the ‘Green Cathedral’ and I immediately started looking for a building! However, it was an outdoor space, constructed with a flight of stoney/grassy steps. It represented such a rich example of Synodality for me, an invitation of faith, in that it created space for the Church or ‘People of God’, and not bricks nor mortar. A fellow pilgrim recounted that ‘the open-air Cathedral’ naturally encouraged silence and time for reflection, without distraction.” Being exposed to the natural beauty of God’s creation surrounding them drew them deeper into that space.
Our last event, before the conclusion of our Lourdes pilgrimage, was the Youth Ministry Candlelight Service. One of the group said, that, “my favourite part was our ‘Lighting of the Candles Ceremony’, because we came together to think of our loved ones and our intentions, while singing hymns It was a beautiful moment”. Indeed, it was a very emotional and uplifting experience, that captured all that one felt and somewhat accomplished on this pilgrimage.
Undoubtedly, our young people, myself included, have made both profound friendships and lasting memories for life.
Hollie Frystal and the Derry Youth Ministry (Lourdes Group 2022)