Downside pupils and OGs help at Lourdes

Once again, a vast number of Downside pupils, both past and present, offered to take part in the Order of Malta Volunteers (OMV) Pilgrimage to Lourdes. 

To be a volunteer you have to be less than thirty years of age (except for the medics, chaplains and one or two others). The young helpers commit themselves to assisting the hospital pilgrims, putting the interests of others first. As always, the two processions – the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament and the Torchlight Marian Procession- are highpoints for any pilgrim.

Mildred Maybury – Caverel Upper Sixth Form
“I applied to go to Lourdes with the OMV partly with a view to studying medicine, but mostly because I had never heard a bad word said about the experience.  I enjoyed it hugely and encourage anyone who gets the opportunity to take full advantage of it. There are three main areas of the experience; the hospital pilgrims (HPs), the spiritual side and the social aspect.

The HPs are first and foremost the reason we go and throwing yourself in fully in this respect is absolutely essential to get the most out of the experience. With lots of enthusiasm, being with an HP never fails to be enjoyable. I frequently made mistakes or was rather slow on the uptake when caring for an HP, but was never made to feel a fool as the HPs have the most wonderful sense of humour and so found it hilarious when I messed up. Some HPs are only capable of saying yes or no so it can take a very long time to establish what they want or need, but the smile they gave when our team got it right and the laughs along the way made the time extremely well spent.  I found the HPs gained energy through the week, unlike the helpers, the more time we joyful young people spent with them.

I was in the choir Equipe of helpers which, although meaning slightly less contact with the HPs, was similarly rewarding. The OMV choir is very good and as I’m sure you would agree, good music makes a mass interesting and can contribute hugely to the week.  The most moving service of the week for me was the service of the laying on of hands. During this the Veni Sancte Spiritus was sung and was so moving that HPs and Helpers alike were weeping. This is a memory that will stay with me forever.

And finally, the social side:  I was never alone with an HP, but always in a group of two or three helpers. Usually there would be one slightly more experienced helper who would ask the right questions and whom I could learn from, which was essential!  Working with lots of different helpers like this and time spent at “The Bronx” in the evenings meant that I encountered a large majority of the 200-odd helpers and felt very at home talking to any and all of them, regardless of their age or responsibilities.”

Pablo Camprubi – Roberts Upper Sixth Form
“It is an incredible experience which is difficult to beat and if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity to go as we do thanks to the close bond Downside has with the OMV, it would be terribly sad to miss such an awakening experience where you have the chance to step out of your comfort zone and learn about the lives of those less fortunate than ourselves.”