Group 93 first travelled to Lourdes in 1976 and is one of the oldest groups travelling to Lourdes with the Trust. The group is based in the Newry area but takes children from throughout Northern Ireland and North County Louth. The group invites children with a learning disability to join with us in a very special week in Lourdes.
Our week normally starts in the early hours of Easter Sunday by boarding a bus to the airport to commence our journey to Lourdes. In recent years the group has stayed in the Hotel Roissy, developing a good relationship with the owner and staff. The week in Lourdes is a very busy time with the group visiting the baths, attending the Blessed Sacrament and the torchlight procession, the Boly Mill, the Cachot, and of course an odd visit to the local cafes and game of football.
The highlight of the week for many is the Irish Mass on a Tuesday where all the Irish groups come together to celebrate mass. This is an unforgettable experience of song, dance and prayerful celebration. On Wednesday of Easter week many groups tend to take an excursion out of Lourdes, and for the past few years we have visited the town of Jean de Luz with its beautiful sandy beach on the Atlantic coast, ideal for a picnic, building sand castles and playing football.
Saturday marks the end of our week in Lourdes. A group of children that were strangers a week ago are now good friends. Some say farewell at the airport, others return on the bus to Newry. This time is a mix of sadness with the end of an unforgettable week and joy at seeing family waiting for the bus to pull in. For the helpers it’s the end of a years preparation. We are all rejuvenated and encouraged for the year ahead and look forward to starting our work again for the following year.
In July 2006 Group 93 was privileged to be invited by President McAleese to attend a garden party in Aras an Uachtarain. An individual had become aware of the work of the Trust though a fundraising event which the group had held and consequently wrote to The Presidents office advising her of the work we do. Those invited to the garden party represented various organisations throughout the country that were involved with helping people in their local communities and was a very enjoyable occasion.
During the year our group carries out various fundraising activities which have included everything from selling raffle tickets to our Chaplain doing a parachute jump.
Like many groups, those helpers that travel with Group 93 tend to have been travelling for a number of years or have strong family connections with the group. Even for those helpers that have travelled for many years, each year is an occasion for renewal and fulfilment due to the various personalities of the children which join us for this very special week.
In 2007 we were delighted to see a past Chaplin return to Lourdes with IHCPT as Bishop. Bishop John McAreavey had travelled for a number of years as the Chaplain to our group and has been very supportive to the work we do.
Group Leader Mr. James Digney