Sunday 17th May, the feast of the Ascension, at St Chad’s Cathedral in Birmingham saw the gathering of the Hospitality crew for a special ‘Blessing of Hands’ Mass prior to the departure of the pilgrimage on Saturday 23 May. The Mass was celebrated by the Dean of the Cathedral and Pilgrimage Director, Canon Gerry Breen and concelebrating were Fr Tony Rohan, Fr John Gilbert, Fr Jan Nowotnik, Fr Gerry Lennon, Fr David Hartley, Fr Michael Leadbeater and Mgr Timothy Menezes.
In a packed Cathedral the traditional banners were displayed and the atmosphere was buzzing with excitement. Each group wore their designated coloured hoodies and filled the church with a splendid array of diversity. Everyone was in full voice led by vocalist and lead guitarist Dan Callow, pianist Andy Ross and flautist Fiona Bonham (Jo Boyce was unable to be with us as she had flown to Trinadad for her mother’s birthday – happy birthday Jo’s mum, and safe trip Jo!).
There were many, many familiar faces and not a few newbies embarking on their first ever Lourdes pilgrimage. It is a very poignant moment when everyone goes up to the altar steps to have their hands blessed for whatever ministry they may be partaking in. It makes one think, this is real, this is it, I am being called on to serve, to be missionary and it’s important I do it as well as I can and with a happy heart.
Mgr Menezes preached and encouraged us all on our pilgrimage reminding us that this celebration of the Ascension is like a departure lounge at an airport and that next Sunday’s feast, the day after we arrive in Lourdes, Pentecost, is akin to arrivals. The sadness of departure and the joy of return. We were reminded that there are two important groups that go to Lourdes, those living with sickness and disability and those who are first timers. We all need to pray for each other as life is a pilgrimage and God reveals his love over a lifetime of moments and experiences. God is with us there and God is with us here.