In discussion groups facilitated by experienced helpers, the new volunteers were encouraged to reflect on why they are coming to Lourdes for the first
time, and shared their fears, thoughts and expectations about the shrine and the
work involved in accompanying sick and disabled people.
Most Lourdes pilgrims with reduced mobility use wheelchairs, and so the Director of the Carmelite pilgrimage to Lourdes, Johan Bergström-Allen, gave a demonstration of how they work. Volunteers were then given hands-on experience in how to use a wheelchair, and what it feels like to sit in one.
Fr. Antony Lester supervises as new helpers learn what it is like
to handle and to sit in a wheelchair.
The preparation day gives new helpers practical training in key skills, as well as an introduction to the spirituality of Lourdes, and a chance to meet one another.
The final part of preparation given to new helpers was a reflection by Jesuit priest Fr. Nicholas King on the pastoral theme proposed by the Lourdes Sanctuary
in 2012 which is 'With Bernadette, Praying the Rosary'.
The Union of Catholic Mothers in Walworth provided a delicious buffet lunch; the UCM has been raising money for the Carmelite pilgrimage to Lourdes throughout the year, for which the Province is extremely grateful.
After lunch the focus was on preparing experienced volunteers for this year's pilgrimage, updating them on practical details of the programme, giving them some spiritual input, and offering them the opportunity for discussion and ideas-sharing.
Matt Betts and Fr. Tony in conversation with experienced helpers.
In order that helpers with children can contribute to the pilgrimage, the Catholic Association has a group called HCP (Helpers' Children's Programme); one of the group's members, Tom, spoke about the experience of coming to Lourdes as a child and the opportunities children have of helping in certain appropriate ways.
Tom spoke about the helpers' children's programme.
After reflecting on the pastoral theme of the year, experienced helpers met in small discussion groups to reflect on ways to improve the pilgrimage for pilgrims, especially the sick and disabled.
Experienced helpers in small group discussion.
The preparation day closed with prayer, and words of thanks to the Carmelite friars and parishioners of Walworth for their customary warm welcome to the Catholic Association.
For more information about the Carmelite pilgrimage to Lourdes with the Catholic Association, please click here