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Pilgrimage to Ladywell

Our team of servers from Saint Stephen’s headed the long procession of pilgrims who came from Blackburn, Manchester and Chester Dioceses to join Bishop Philip on the journey to the Shrine.

The procession set off from the lovely church of St. Mary, Fernyhalgh and wended its way along the pretty country lane the quarter of a mile to the Shrine. Bishop Philip said the Rosary as we all walked slowly along. The wooden statue of Our Lady, surrounded by pink and white flowers, was carried shoulder high in the midst of the pilgrims. On arrival at the Shrine we took our seats for the Mass in the attractive garden, which was eventually packed with pilgrims all anxious to listen to the Bishop's address.

This is where our title comes in. The bishop told us that three hours previously he had been about to abseil down a church tower in Whittle le Woods. As he placed his second foot over the parapet he suffered a moment of utter fear. “What am I doing here?” he asked himself “How can this be?” Then he prayed and launched himself into the air. When he reached the bottom he prayed again – in thanksgiving. He likened these three things to Our Lady's reception of the news that she was to be the Mother of Christ - how she couldn't believe it at first but then went on to pray and give thanks. He went on to encourage us to take the bit between our teeth and do something wonderful for Christ, be it something as simple as inviting someone to come to a service or to doing something more daring. He encouraged us to be more outward looking in our mission to win more people over to the love of God.

After Mass everyone tucked in to their picnic lunch. Josh went off to the shop and bought a rosary, which Bishop Philip blessed for him. Like the rest of our servers (Neil, Terry, John and Ian) he had worked hard all through the day. We then took part in the sprinkling with holy water from the well. Unfortunately by this time the weather had begun to worsen and it was becoming windy and cold so Benediction was brought forward to three o’clock. This was a wonderful ending to a very uplifting day and we all bade farewell to Bishop Philip as we set off back to the car park.

A first experience for me, and one that I hope to repeat. You tend not to realise that there is such a place of pilgrimage on your doorstep. If you can't make Lourdes or Walsingham - remember Ladyewell.

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