Over past years HCPT has I think arranged 3 week ends away at Hosanna House for Group Leaders. That held last week end under Father Perry Gildea and his team is I think the first I have attended since starting this blog hence the words and pictures below. Also although other pilgrims referred to Twitter and Facebook as places they might record some points I have always worked on the basis wrong as it turns out that those media are really for the generations after mine to use so have stuck with this blog.
A slight difficulty which admirably arose through the need to keep costs down, was the need to check in for the flight to Toulouse from Gatwick airport by 6am. Discussing ways in which other group leaders tackled this slight timing difficulty was interesting. One stayed at a nearby hotel but to the cost of that stay had to be added the cost of a mini-coach from hotel to airport. Another found or rather her husband did, a more interesting solution involving a Japanese style compact/mini hotel within the airport itself with copious coffees etc included in the price. She was able to rise early on Friday morning and simply walk through the airport to the flight check in point. Paul the Group's deputy and who presumably was still at the time affected by jet lag from our trip to America, decided to travel to Gatwick at about midnight and simply lie down on a bench there until the before dawn check in time.
Having ummed and ahhed for a while I decided to try for the first time in the 30 years+ of living in Wimbledon, the night bus N87 to Vauxhall and then walk to Victoria for the 4 am Gatwick express train. Amazingly easy and as it turned out, another night bus arrived at Vauxhall in good time for me to be whisked off to Victoria Station for the Gatwick express. Coincidentally I met Paul rising from his bench almost at the moment I arrived at the airport.
The group leaders' retreat to Hosanna House was all too short. Some really interesting talks and sharing together were the order of the days with folk-singing over a glass of wine or two at night. Perry and his team lead us in intriguing discussions and there was a reconciliation service on Saturday culminating with a mass on Sunday before our departure.
There were several visits to Lourdes and the grotto and I took the opportunity to have a coffee or 3 with Paul and some of the others and look at some of the hotels one or two of which had been flooded by the recent storms there. Interestingly our own hotel the Alba which I think had just closed for the winter, had taken the trouble to send me emails confirming their wish to accommodate us as usual in 2013 and saying that only their basement had been flooded. However I know that there is ongoing debate with HCPT HQ about the slight increase in costs proposed by The Alba for 2013 on which we are keeping our heads down as it is a good hotel which has accommodated us really well for years.
The Grotto area of Lourdes which had been depicted on Canadian TV during news about Kateri Tekakwitha who had just been canonised a saint by Rome, as being very badly hit by floods, had been largely cleared up. Some sterling work must have been put in to achieve this by locals. I did not visit the underground basilica but others HCPT Group leaders did and were impressed by the clean up there too.
The photo on the left immediately above depicts the bridge furthest away from the domaine. This had been badly damaged by the floods and will need some repair work before being reopened.
The other and nearer bridge was also damaged but half of
the bridge path was open.
A refreshing and great retreat week-end for group leaders for which I am very grateful to Father Perry his team the other group leaders and of course HCPT HQ.