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February 24, 2022

Dear friends.

It is a great privilege to write this letter informing you that the Ferns Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes will take place again this year after a two year gap due to the Covid Pandemic. Even to announce this event is a sign of hope and encouragement that we will be able to restore as many elements of our faith journey as possible. We are building back, gathering again and looking to restore those things which we treasured the most. In the months ahead we will be striving to rebuild our Sunday gatherings for the Eucharist, our comforting and supportive funerals and anniversary Masses and the many rituals such as patterns which gave us a rich religious tradition.

Because it is a first step back after a worldwide health crisis, the Diocesan team who have responsibility for the Pilgrimage are being extra cautious. The pilgrimage this year will have no invalid section as it would not be possible to guarantee a safe and happy experience for them. Likewise, there will be no Youth Section as their role is helping with the invalids. For further caution, the pilgrimage will be four nights instead of the usual five. The pilgrimage will depart on June 20th 2022, retuning on June 24th.

For many people, the Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes was an eagerly awaited event each year. The Lourdes Pilgrimage gathers people across the Diocese and makes them friends as they travel together. This travelling together has been one of the marks of pilgrimage all down the centuries of Christianity and is even more relevant this year as Pope Francis calls the whole church to a Synodal Path. Synodality in plain English means walking with and talking to people who share our world with us. Secondly, the Lourdes Pilgrimage puts us in touch with an international church. We see people from many countries, proudly carrying their banner and mingling together. The variety of languages can test the pilgrim, but they are a reminder that the Church is universal and carries with it the mark of the culture wherever it is practiced. And of course, the most important part of all is that pilgrimage give us an opportunity to discover the hidden depths of God within us. In Lourdes, the journey to find God is the journey through Mary’s life.

As we take our first tentative steps back to normality, it is good for us to remember that we have lost people over the past two years who were familiar faces on the Diocesan Pilgrimage. Some of them travelled regularly as pilgrims and some were former volunteers and helpers. They have completed their earthly pilgrimage and we pray they are enjoying the happiness of eternal life.

It is my honour to launch the 52nd Ferns Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes and to invite you to be a part of these wonderful and blessed few days, in that place made holy, by the visit of the Mother of Our Lord.

May all our journeys, physical, spiritual and emotional draw us closer each day to the God who loves us.

With every good wish and blessing

+Ger Nash

Bishop of Ferns

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