The role of helpers
A pilgrimage is first of all a spiritual journey that allows us to get to know God better. We create the circumstances where we can find Him – or that He can find us. The Ampleforth Pilgrimage to Lourdes is also about our service to each other, and most particularly our service to the sick. This is intertwined with our spiritual search, just as loving God and loving our neighbour are inseparable.
Our time in Lourdes is a time of joy and of fun. Laughter, companionships, social times are important. It is not a spiritual retreat spent in a solitary inward-looking way. Our faith is built by sharing in groups, and through prayer and action combined.
The time we spend together in Lourdes is organised so that a balance of being available to help the assited pilgrims and having personal time to reflect and enjoy the pilgrimage can be achieved. This ensures a warm, welcoming and relaxed atmosphere that allows people to have a successful pilgrimage. And while the social side is important, we must always be able to fulfil the spiritual and service element of our time in Lourdes. Losing sight of this balance upsets the essential nature of 'pilgrimage': a sense of sacrifice and a giving up something, which is in itself good.
By joining the Ampleforth Pilgrimage we become part of the Ampleforth community founded on Benedictine values. We must strive to be worthy successors of the traditions set by Basil Hume and supported by many monks and Ampleforth families.
Why go to Lourdes as a helper?
The primary reason for going to Lourdes is to take part in a pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place; it is a spiritual experience and we should have a desire to deepen our relationship with God. A second but very important reason is to share our pilgrimage with others, and especially those who are sick or disabled and may need the support of a helper, and friendships made in Lourdes are often friends for life.
What is expected of helpers?
Voluntary helpers on our pilgrimage care for all other pilgrims; but primarily they support the team of doctors and nurses in looking after pilgrims who are sick or disabled. The service they give is varied, and can be very demanding, both physically and mentally. Because of the nature of our service helpers must be fit and emotionally stable. Helpers offer their service to others in a spirit of love and generosity.
Helpers could be expected to do any or all of the following:
- Praying, listening and talking with other pilgrims
Assist with mobility e.g. assisting sick or disabled pilgrims into or out of bed, or from bed to a wheelchair or voiture
Helping with washing, dressing, eating and other personal needs
Visiting the Grotto and going to services together (including daily Mass) and taking part in processions
- Take pilgrims shopping and to places of interest in Lourdes, which can involve pushing someone in a wheelchair up and down steep hills
- Going out for coffee and spending time together
- Being a companion and friend, and helper to those in need
- Assisting the Hospitalite de Notre Dame de Lourdes with processions, at the baths and from time to time at the station
Being on Pilgrimage is a social occasion and great fun, in the best Benedictine tradition! The time we spend together in Lourdes is a most wonderful experience and could change your life.
lf you feel you are ready to offer your services to the Ampleforth Pilgrimage you will be expected to prepare fully for the pilgrimage, and you will be given guidance and support in your preparation from experienced helpers. Once in Lourdes you will be part of a group under the direction of a group leader, nurse and chaplain who will be able to guide you through your pilgrimage.
More information is available from Diana Williams, the Pilgrimage Director, who can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org