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OFSTED Inspection, November 2018

FINAL REPORT

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Lourdes Pilgrimage Reports – May 2016

During the May half-term, staff and students from St Thomas Aquinas joined the Birmingham Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes to care for sick and elderly pilgrims.
The theme of this year’s pilgrimage was ‘Merciful like the father’ in line with the Church’s Jubilee Year of Mercy. As a diocesan community we began our pilgrimage with the Passage through the Door of Mercy, where we were able to reflect on the graces of God’s mercy.

In Lourdes God’s mercy is particularly felt, especially in the way in which everyone is welcomed and the pressures of modern day life give way to God’s healing love and presence.

On Tuesday we celebrated the Hospitalite Mass, which fell on the Feast of the Visitation, and we were reminded of the joy which can be found in serving others and living out our faith in a very direct way. Throughout the week students gave generously of their time and energy to look after those in need and in return witnessed the joy of the Holy Spirit. A few special highlights from the pilgrimage included the Anointing of the Sick, the Torchlight procession and the concert led by Jo Boyce and friends on Wednesday evening.

On the last night of the pilgrimage, Monsignor Tim Menezes led a beautiful night prayer for our school group, where students spent time in quiet reflection and lighted candles for those close to them and the school community. 

I am particularly proud of each and every student and the care, kindness and compassion they displayed throughout the week. Well done to Lianne, Charlotte, Holly, Lily, Scarlett, Niamh, Ruth, Ciara and Tirna.

Despite a French rail strike which threatened our journey home, Our Lady of Lourdes continued to look after and protect us, ensuring we returned back to Birmingham safely and in time for the students’ exams on Monday morning!

Mr Miastowski
Head of Year 12


For me, Lourdes was a real journey and it started when I first signed up to go!  Months of anticipation and worry lay ahead as I'd not been away from home before for that long and this was going to be a real test for me and bring me totally out of my comfort zone.  But then after a car journey, followed by train to London, Eurostar to Paris and TGV to Lourdes - we were there!  Tired, hungry but there!
 
And that's where I didn't look back all week!  Why was I nervous, worried, anxious - it turned out to be such an amazing, humbling and most emotional experience of my life and I am just so grateful that I was a part of this 2016 Lourdes experience.
 
Sunday morning began with Mr Miastowski and Miss Browne taking us on a tour around the Domain to see where the baths, Grotto and the Accueil Hospital were. It was lovely to have such a peaceful and relaxed feeling as we were walking round, compared to how hectic the previous weeks at school had been!! Our first shift was on the Sunday morning at 11am, where we were told that we'd be serving the pilgrims lunch. We were all very nervous to meet the pilgrims at first, however, they were all so welcoming with smiles on their faces, which was a massive comfort.
 
On the Monday we went through the Door of Mercy, which felt like the official start of our pilgrimage. Every pilgrim I spoke to had something unique about them and had different stories to tell. I could have sat with them all day. There were two pilgrims I bonded with the most during my time in Lourdes; John and Chris Farrell. They were from St Brigid's parish and I later found out that Olivia Young had spent time with them last year when she visited Lourdes.
 
We met with Father Tim, who was a former student of St Thomas Aquinas and we had the pleasure of having dinner with him followed by him leading us in night time prayer. This was a very special time in our pilgrimage as we were able to reflect on the events that had happened over the week and say prayers for the people in our lives before lighting a candle at the grotto.
 
We had an afternoon off on the Wednesday and our teachers organised for us to take the funicular railway up an extremely steep mountain (very scary!) to Le Pic du Jur. From the top, the views were amazing and you could see the whole of Lourdes and the surrounding areas and even the Pyrenees!! This was quite a highlight of our trip!

On the Wednesday night there was a concert held by Jo Boyce, who is an amazing singer from Birmingham. This is where I had my ‘Lourdes moment’. We got all the pilgrims dancing and enjoying themselves and it was so lovely to see each and every one of them with a smile on their faces. Essentially, this is what we went to Lourdes to do, to put a smile on the pilgrims’ faces!! As a group, we all had such a good night and one of the pilgrims’ wife taught me how to waltz – something I didn’t think I would be able to do!!     
         
My experience at Lourdes really strengthened my faith, as it made me realise that I do take a lot of things in my life for granted. It was truly amazing to see that so many people have such strong faith and have so much belief in the power of God. And even though the pilgrims were so ill, they still said their prayers every day, and went to mass, even when they didn’t feel like it. This has encouraged me to do the same.
 
And the week was not to end without a drama, as train strikes hit France and flooding in Paris meant that we had to cut short our visit by a day and return by coach.  We had to hastily say our goodbyes to our lovely pilgrims and indeed friends who we had spent the week with and pack for our journey home!
 
And my journey doesn’t end here: it is only the beginning.  Yes, we are home and in the comfort of our own homes and loved ones and familiar and safe surroundings, but for me the experiences I had will stay with me forever as will the people who I had the pleasure of meeting. 
 
Charlotte Behan
Year 12

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