Best ever Lourdes pilgrimage says Sidmouth helper

A GROUP of disabled children, four in wheelchairs, have returned from a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

A GROUP of disabled children, four in wheelchairs, have returned from a pilgrimage to Lourdes.

They were helped by students from Sidmouth College, who accompanied the 12 children with disabilities and special needs.

HCPT The Pilgrimage Trust, group 141, flew from Exeter Airport to Tarbes near Lourdes.

Helper Stephanie Turner said: "During the week we visited the grotto where we, as Catholics, believe Mary the Mother of Jesus appeared to St Bernadette.

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"We celebrated daily mass, including a wonderful Trust Mass organised by the Welsh and attended by about 5,000 other HCPT trust groups.

"We also had sing-songs in the cafes, a fancy dress party, face painting and lovely picnic in Pont d'Espagne."

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Children in wheelchairs enjoyed the snowman competitions and snowball fights.

"We also took the funicular railway to Pic de Jeur and celebrated mass in a cave. The children also acted out the story of Bernadette and Stations of the Cross."

Children on the trip came from Mill Water School, Honiton, St Mary's, Axminster,

Ellen Tinkham School, Exeter and Vranch House, Exeter.

"They overcame their own problems, some of which are very severe, and during the week each child's personality shone through," said Stephanie.

At first some were very quiet and homesick, but by the end of the week had blossomed "and were not only helpful and kind to each other but to the helpers too - including me!" It was Stephanie's fourth pilgrimage with the group and she believes it was the best.

She said: "I feel very honoured to be a part of HCPT. All of the helpers learned a lot from these very special children and it is a privilege to be in their company."

She said the experience was good for the college students "who matured into confident young men and women as the week progressed.

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