My 306 Experience

Last September I was granted the opportunity of a lifetime so I was told, I was accepted to travel to Lourdes with group 751 and spend my week working with the wonderful people apart of group 306. I didn’t understand this whole aspect of Lourdes or even the idea of this pilgrimage, none the less I grabbed it with two hands and as Easter Sunday approached rapidly and I was on my way. I arrived to Lourdes on the Sunday night at around 11pm me and the other 19 girls headed for bed with thoughts about what the week ahead of us was going to bring.

Monday morning came and my partner Chloe and I walked to the hotel Padue, it was just around the corner, we couldn’t have felt more at home with the welcome Trish our group leader gave us and all the other carers on team 306, me and Chloe were completely relaxed all the worry and nerves we had talked about since September had left us and been replaced with excitement.

Our week began on a high and it didn’t drop once! The guests that I got the honour of spending my week with and getting to know were the most inspiring and affectionate people I think I will ever come across. I travelled to Lourdes with the thought in my head that I was going to have to bend over backwards to make the guests smile and laugh and enjoy themselves and ensure that they got something out of it, I was so so wrong. I got more out of my week in Lourdes that I will ever get out of any leaving cert or college course, I thought I was going to help the guests enjoy themselves and have the best week of their lives but no weight of gold will amount to how those 9 people made me feel, no weight of gold will amount to how much I learned about myself and about my perspective on life and no weight of gold will ever replace the happiness and joy I felt that week.

The extraordinary people that made up group 306 2015 have left a mark on me that I never ever want to lose, I had the greatest and toughest week of my life and I will never be able to thank Trish enough for taking me on for the week in Lourdes!

Nothing I say will justify how Lourdes made me feel, utter joy and complete fulfilment to the highest feeling possible I think just about does it! I couldn’t possibly have enjoyed my week anymore than I did I have so many stories and the best memories I will ever make to keep with me to remember this special experience.

I think my favourite memory of Lourdes or experience in itself was seeing the transformation in the guests, when I walked in that Monday morning one guy in particular was having absolutely none of me, he wasn’t tolerating my singing, my dancing or anything I did really. At our first group mass I stood at the top and acted out and sang the moves to rise and shine and every time I looked at him he would have his hands folded and eyes rolling. On the Tuesday he grabbed my hand whilst we were walking and still didn’t say much still, and by Wednesday we were the best of friends. He would have lead the whole underground basilica to rise and shine at the International mass if he could have. I will never forget the connection and love he showed for the rest of my life.

I learnt so much throughout my week. The guests taught me that the only thing that gets in the way of a person’s happiness; is not being the person you really are. Being able to be myself was a huge part of my time in Lourdes, and seeing the love was still shown towards me by the guests and the carers meant so much. Last September I would never have imagined how much one week and 24 people could have changed my life, and I will forever have gratitude for each of them. I cannot wait to return as a carer with group 306 and I hope to for as long as I am able. There’s no getting rid of a bad thing!

My Lourdes Reflection

My Lourdes journey started in September when I was chosen for the experience of a lifetime. From September onwards the group of us and our brilliant leaders worked to get everything prepared for Lourdes. The other girls were such an important part of the journey, we all properly bonded as our 751family when we were brought on our retreat to kilcuan. The months of preparation led to an unforgettable experience to say the absolute least.

During our reflections at night we had many words to sum up the experiences we had throughout the week: unbelievable, magical, joyful, peaceful, happy, unforgettable and our favourite serendipitous. I had been told so many times how amazing Lourdes would be and I, like the rest feared that I would be the one person that didn’t have the Lourdes experience we were told about but it was way beyond my expectations, it was perfect! Everyday was just as special as the last bringing more fun, plenty of laughs, tears at times, lots of ice-cream and some new songs and chants!

Lourdes is such a happy place and that happiness is infectious. I learnt so much from the week. Its so strange how much seven days could actually teach me. It was unreal to feel such joy from such simple things, the happiness of others and seeing how much the smallest thing can mean to someone, even something as small as smiling at them, pegging them or giving them a badge. The week made me so grateful for everything I have and I also have so much more appreciation for the things people do for me.

One of the things I was never told about Lourdes was how much other people would teach me while I was there, the leaders, carers, the girls of group 751 and especially the guests! The guests of group 306 thought me more than I could ever imagine. They gave me so much by just being themselves and it thought me how important it is to be yourself. Every single one of their personalities and their strength inspired me. They showed me how important it is to see someone for who they are on the inside and not what’s on the outside. They also made me realise how important it is to give to others and be kind because the joy you give and receive is priceless. To learn these things and many others was life changing and eye opening. I feel privileged to have gotten the opportunity to do so in such a fantastic way and I wish everyone got this chance. The week challenged us all but we were ready for the challenge. I really cannot put into words what the week meant to me, it was without a doubt the most physically demanding and mentally challenging week ever but above all it was the best week of my life.

I enjoyed every second of it and will remember it forever!