Group 170 are home
We have had a wonderful time in Lourdes, making friends and memories.
Thank you for all your help and prayers.
Click the link below for photos and our blog about this year’s trip.
Why do we go to Lourdes with HCPT? A helper's answer:
When is a holiday not a holiday...?
Sandals, scarf, shorts, and rain coat... check
Risk assessments, care plans, meds, feeds, wheelchairs and starry starry headbands.... check
Mass cards, prayer books and altar cloth... check
Ok. This isn't your average holiday packing list, but this isn't your average holiday. In fact, it isn't a holiday at all - it's a pilgrimage. Not that it is that different to your average holiday; we still suffer delays at the airport, experience lost luggage and melt downs at security and wonder if the sun will ever come out. We have fun and games, ice creams and excursions and, quite often, the sun really does shine. But the HCPT Easter pilgrimage is something more. Much, much more...
The dictionary definition of a pilgrimage will say something about it being a journey of spiritual importance – usually to a location of importance to one’s faith. This is true of many of HCPT Group 170’s helpers; many of us are Catholics and our faith is important to many of us- but not to all. So, why do we make this trip every year? Using up our annual leave and paying our fares to spend a week in Lourdes with a few thousand other folk, around a third of whom have additional needs...
We do it because there is nothing else quite like it and no holiday in the world will ever come even close to the HCPT Lourdes experience. We do it because we are privileged to be entrusted with some very special children and because of the tight bonds we quickly develop with our Group 170 family and which extend far beyond our pilgrimage week.
We do it because we want to see ‘our' children flourish in ways no-one could have predicted. To see them grow more independent, more confident and to help each of them realise that they are not the only ones with particular needs. We do it to give their families a break and to challenge our own abilities.
We do it because there is no place else that we can expect to see a grown man dressed as a unicorn at dinner because his group of children are having a fancy dress party. There is no where else that a child can have a full on melt down during the Offertory procession at Mass and not one person will tut, or frown, but 5 strangers will go and lend a hand if it might help. We do it because there is no Bible bashing or ‘preachy' preaching and the unspoken ‘rules’ of church going can be quietly bent and no-one judges anyone else for their faith or way of practising it.
So yes, the HCPT Easter pilgrimage is a journey to a famous Catholic shrine, where we may or may not find spiritual nourishment. More importantly than that, it is also a journey within our very selves to a place of importance, to that place where love itself dwells, that place from which we restore one another’s faith in human nature.
Welcome to the wonderful world of HCPT Group 170
We are the Southampton based family group from HCPT The Pilgrimage Trust who take sick, disabled and disadvantaged children on pilgrimage - holiday to Lourdes in France every Easter. Over the years, more than 60 children have travelled with our group.
Group 170 was formed in 2008 and travelled for the first time in 2009. Since then we have built up a strong team of helpers and some wonderful supporters who help us to raise money, help us out with the practical aspects of preparing for Lourdes, refer children to us and pray for our safety and good times whilst in Lourdes!
One of our helpers reflected on their Lourdes experience:
Unless you change and become like children you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven
As we travelled out to Lourdes I was really struck by the immense trust that the children placed in us as their helpers. Although we had all spent time with our young charges, familiarising ourselves with one another prior to the trip, they barely knew us and yet, they quite happily climbed on a coach with us, waved goodbye to their families and, for the next eight days, trusted us to take care of their every need – from personal care and sustenance to emotional support and entertainment. I was in quiet awe as the children took our hands or settled back into their wheel chairs and let us take them into unknown territory. I was humbled that these very young people, some of whom had never been away from their loved ones for more than a few hours, surrendered themselves to our care. I was delighted by their questions, their curiosity and their sense of wonder. And with utter clarity I understood what Jesus meant when He said that we will never enter the Kingdom, unless we change and become like children. Unless we become like those Easter pilgrimage children, who surrendered themselves to us and had the time of their lives…