7th August, 2020

Reflecting on the First Virtual Lourdes Pilgrimage

Virtual Pilgrimage

The Ampleforth Lourdes Pilgrimage has recently returned from their Virtual Pilgrimage to Lourdes.  It had been a very bleak day in April when the committee cancelled the Pilgrimage to Lourdes for 2020. However, we quickly realised that we might well be able to have a Virtual Pilgrimage.  It would not be at all the same as being in Lourdes but we would find a way to draw together as a Pilgrimage family.


Firstly, we had to get virtually to Lourdes.  Emma Craig, Ampleforth Abbey Trust Development Manager, organised a Pilgrimage for Pilgrimage, and a team of runners, cyclists, walkers, swimmers, rollers, steppers and even skippers made their way over three weeks to cover the distance from their own homes to Lourdes, and then, we were doing so well, we carried on to Fatima!


A Pilgrimage Handbook ‘Together in Prayer’ was produced and sent to all those who may have difficulty joining us online.  305 people registered for the Virtual Pilgrimage and they received a daily email with the links and thoughts for the day.  A team of young helpers ensured that as many as possible were able to join all the activities online. The days were nearly as full as if we were actually in Lourdes.


There were daily Masses that reflected what we would have been doing if we had been in Lourdes.  As well as being streamed from Ampleforth, there was a mass from the Grotto in the grounds of Portsmouth Abbey, Rhode Island.  Our Sunday Mass came from our National Shrine to Our Lady at Walsingham, said by the Rector, Monsignor John Armitage, who is a very good friend of the Pilgrimage and on Wednesday Mass came from Fr Jock Dalrymple’s prayer room in Edinburgh. There were talks, too, most days.  These also related to what we would have been doing had we been in Lourdes.  The talks and Masses are still available and will remain on YouTube for a limited period.


We also joined together to pray the Rosary and take part in Lectio throughout the week.  So that we could hear our own musicians, many recorded the hymns that we are familiar with in Lourdes, for a CD, all in harmony, but from their own homes. Their lovely music was threaded throughout the Masses and talks all week.  Many made videos of ‘Walk in the Light’ from wherever they were. We even managed to recreate a Ward Party, where all the individual contributions were very skillfully drawn together by Richard Tams, and Café Society, which included live music and chat in small breakout groups.


We could not have done any of this without the hard work of the Virtual Pilgrimage subcommittee, led by Philip Westmacott and the technical expertise of Tim McKeever. 


I am so grateful to all the celebrants, talk givers, the Manquehue Movement who led the Lectio sessions, to those who led the Rosary and to all who contributed music and videos for the CD, Café Society and Ward Party.


Thanks to the very active participation of so many we were able to join together and renew our pilgrimage connections, and all from our own homes. We will certainly meet again in 2021.


Diana Williams

Ampleforth Lourdes Pilgrimage Director


You can access the Ampleforth Lourdes YouTube page using one of these links: