Phil Devine, 21, Liverpool (Coach 1)
This year was my last as a yellow shirt on the wonderful Coach 1. Five years on from my first pilgrimage, when I said, "I'll give it a go but probably won’t go again", it is now central to my year. The joy gained from Lourdes always gives my faith the boost that is normally needed after a year of ‘normal’ life – it’s a week filled with smiles, singing and time for reflection. The Lourdes community is unique, as though you don’t see many of these people for a whole year it’s as though you have never been away when you do meet up again.
Eamonn Sumner, 22, Stockbridge Village (Coach 2)
I didn't like the person I was becoming pre-Lourdes, and it is because of this special place that I’m proud of the person I am today. Because of my visits to Lourdes I have developed traits I now believe to be a necessity: humility, empathy and compassion. This year I had had trouble with my faith but our coach had a catechesis session and subsequently I found myself sharing my feelings among the group and consequently felt a lot better about what was troubling me and for that I couldn’t be more thankful. There is a lot of cynicism surrounding the magic of Lourdes; in my instance, nowhere else would I have spoken up or been so welcomed by such an amazing collection of people.
Jack Simpson, 18, Upholland (Coach 4)
This was my fourth year in Lourdes and my first as an Over-18. The highlight was my first day on Over-18s’ duty, waking up at 6am and going to join the pilgrims for breakfast; simple yet special experiences of just spending time and having conversations with some inspirational individuals. Serving and growing in faith together with 450 other young people forms friendships that will last a lifetime. Moreover, this year I have developed social skills I didn’t have before; I have been given a newfound confidence which I will use to bring the joy of mission back to my own parish and youth group.
Charlotte O’Toole, 19, Burscough (Coach 8)
Since starting with the Youth service in 2012 I have learned so much about myself, made so many new friends, created so many memories and my faith has really strengthened ... and this year was no different. Serving the sick, elderly and frail really makes you realise what is important, and after a week’s worth of prayer and reflection, you learn not to take things for granted. For me, this year’s highlight was watching some of the younger members of my coach team form a special bond with their sick pilgrims as throughout the week, they got to learn so much about their life stories and what brought them to Lourdes. There were lots of smiles and a few tears, but along with that came the satisfaction of knowing what a difference that we, as youth, were making to their lives.
Paddy Reilly, 21, Liverpool (St Frai)
The Saint-Frai (Purple/Plane) team are the step between the Youth and Hospitalité. While still a part of the Youth Service, the Saint-Frai team work predominantly in the hospital. With spending the majority of your time directly around the pilgrims in the hospital, faces quickly become names, names become stories and ultimately pilgrims become friends. You certainly get a sense that you are appreciated, and we appreciate the assisted pilgrims in return.
• Dates for the diary
6 September – Youth Alive/Lourdes Reunion Mass, 6.30pm at St. Mary's, Lowe House
17 September – Life & Soul: new Praise and Worship prayer group open to all, 7pm at Life & Soul Cafe at Lowe House