How time flies – it didn’t seem 5 minutes ago that Ann and I were leaping out of bed at 6.00am to drive down to St Paul’s to collect everyone for last year’s pilgrimage and there we were again. This year we had 21 pilgrims, the largest group to date, including Fr Bernard, Deacon Chris and two pilgrims from St Michael’s, Rossington.
It was a grey morning but at least the weather forecast was very positive and we would be calling in to see Fr Michael at Our Lady of Good Counsel, Sleaford, always a treat. This year, though, a special treat as the church had been given a major facelift and looked fresh and new.
After the customary cups of tea, biscuits and, from a nearby Greggs, bacon butties, we were on our way laden with marmalade blessed by Fr Michael. This year a convoy, the 17 seater minibus and Trish Cushieri’s car.
We arrived at Walsingham after hymn singing and the Rosary on the minibus just in time for the Angelus and Pilgrim Mass at 12.00 noon. Fr Bernard, of course, concelebrated and got us off to an excellent start – our spiritual refreshment had begun. The Celebrant in Chief, incidentally, was Mgr John Armitage, one-time curate to Fr Bernard, who had clearly benefitted from Fr Bernard’s homily preparation training.
But first, a more mundane refreshment, it was time for lunch.
After lunch and checking in, back to the Shrine; such a peaceful place and despite the beautiful weather, we had it virtually to ourselves. We took the opportunity to enjoy the Rosary in the open air followed by the Stations of the Cross using the reflections written by Celia Bermingham especially for St Paul’s. We finished just in time to join in the Evening Prayer and Benediction at the Chapel of Reconciliation followed by a quick coffee at the Anglican Shrine – they bake a mean cake these Anglicans.
After dinner and the Pilgrim Service at the Church of the Annunciation, we took the opportunity to socialise at the Bull Inn where we just managed to squeeze into a snug. An enjoyable evening followed made more so by Phil Hall who, with his guitar, led and/or accompanied us in songs from the 60s and Irish favourites, much to the consternation of Sarah Bedford who called, in vain, for something a little more modern. The whole pub seemed to have enjoyed our performance and we were congratulated on the quality of our singing by one of the regulars. And so to bed.
This time a beautiful morning and up in time for the Angelus and Morning Prayer at 8.15am followed by a hearty breakfast and the Procession to the Shrine. Everyone was in good voice, praying a Decade of the Rosary and singing hymns led by Phil Hall and John Neary. This is a wonderful experience –the devotions, the fellowship, the weather and the countryside combined to make the presence of God almost palpable. Wonderful, but also humbling which put us in the right frame of mind for our last service, the Sacrament of Penance.
All too soon the Pilgrimage was over and once again we were setting off for home. By popular request, a stop at the Little Chef, Sutterton for lunch - chips and cheese seemed to be the favourite choice. An added celebration was Bernie Fox’s birthday.
Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the Pilgrimage and it was nice to see a healthy combination of newcomers and old hands. Certainly I am looking forward to next year but, in the meantime, have a look at the gallery of photographs – thanks to everyone who contributed.