Oblate Youth Service work in Lourdes

My OYS Lourdes Experience


How I Got Involved

My Lourdes ExperienceThere isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t talk to God. It hasn’t always been the case. I was raised in a Catholic household, sent to do my catechism  but when it was time for me to start my Confirmation classes I looked my mum in the eye and simply told her I wouldn’t do it. It definitely didn’t go down well at all, but in time the issue was left alone. I spent many years after that slowly moving to a place where I became just about indifferent to God. It was a feeling of - if He’s there, well, I’ll see Him at the end and until then I’m doing me. So I did and you know contrary to what I thought as a child, nothing came down to smite me, life went on just fine. Apart from a 4 months or so phase when I’d decided I was an atheist (still no smiting by the way) I was never above the occasional prayer.

Lourdes ExperienceIn 2007 I went to mass on what would have been one of the rare occasions at the time. It was easier to just go every now and then than to have to explain to my parents for the umpteenth time why I preferred not to. That was the day I met Peter Clucas. He was visiting the parish and spoke about Lourdes. To this day, I can't say what exactly about the things I heard made me want to sign up. I remember making an easy decision and almost never questioning it. I had to wait several months and miss the group train before any doubt (and some panic) set in.

My First Lourdes Experience

I found myself on a last-minute 8 hour overnight train to Lourdes. It was in that moment (having all that unanticipated alone time) that it really sunk in that I’d actually willingly chosen to spend a week with a couple of acquaintances from church and over 90 other young adults, doing what, for who again?

Experience LourdesIt’s a question which has been answered in several different ways over the years.

It started with the very simple Oblate Youth Service principle; we’re helping not 'invalids' but guests. My initial thought was yeah, OK, fair enough, the word 'guest' does seem more fitting. But like many of my initial notions about Lourdes this was due to evolve. I’ve come to better understand to what extent the guests are at the core of the week and how easily the word 'invalid' could trap you in a tunnel vision which only lets you see someone who needs your help and in turn you could miss the opportunity to make a new friend.

I would have to say that was the first thing I walked away from Lourdes with, new friends among the guests and Oblate Youth Service members. They are people who are special to me despite the fact that I only see the majority of them once or twice a year.

My Experience LourdesMy Lourdes Reflections

Before Lourdes, I’d never seen so many people who had reasons to stop and feel miserable, chose instead to be happy, to get up and go, to chat, to just do anything but wallow in self-pity. I’d never been with people my age that interacted with those they helped with so much kindness and willingness. For me, it was looking at ‘goodness’ personified and when I eventually stopped and thought about it; there was the realization that I had just began taking part in something unique and certainly special.

As time went by that first week and with every visit back over the last few years, there is something that struck me. It’s that everything that happens, the guests, the volunteers, the work, the fun, every part there is to love about the whole week, started with a little girl Bernadette who had faith. Faith in God.

I finally was confirmed in 2010. This followed one of the answers to ‘doing what, for who?’ A leap of faith for me.

Lourdes is a place where, once you open yourself up to any aspect of the experience, you can’t help but look forward to going back and every time you do there’s something new to live.

Oblate Lourdes Experience