Chairman's Report - AGM 2017
A lot happened in 2017:
- The pilgrimage increased in size from last year.
- It received massively favourable feedback, particularly – and encouragingly, from young people on social media.
- Candles for past members and friends of SOLL were lit at the atmospheric church of St Savin during a new service of remembrance initiated this year.
- Sadly, for health reasons Archbishop Kevin was unable to travel with us. He will next year.
- We also said farewell - or perhaps just au-revoir to St Bede’s School Bradford whose merger with another school compels them, with great reluctance, to travel with the Leeds diocese.
- SOLL’s grave in Lourdes was cleaned – something long sought, and achieved at no cost thanks to St Bedes, who did the work themselves!
- Under Allan Cook’s leadership a rail travel option to Lourdes was launched.
- We also improved how we operate. Updates and new additions arising from the mailshot at the start of the year increased the reach of the Society by 75 members & friends.
- We have also taken dramatic steps to future proof the operation of the Society:
SOLL has been buttressed for decades by affordable office premises, and volunteers.
Many will recall that after 60 plus years at Horseferry Road, the Society has lead a peripatetic existence of necessity moving to the basements of Soho, to the rambling pile of the missionaries of Mill Hill, and currently to the very small office at Hayes. We have been reliant on the volunteer services of once many, but latterly of only Jim, Win, Billie and, of course, Ray.
We have long needed the capability to pick up the reigns should we have to and we are indebted to the immense work that Lucy Wearing our Secretary has put in to working with Ray to understand and record the processes of the office. Not only do we have something, but it is visually clear and understandable.
Thanks to Lucy and Ray, we now have a contingency plan.
Our next step is to enable shared access to, in particular, the Society database which is core to our operation.
2018 will be a challenging year.
We are really staring down the barrel on costs.
- Lourdes is neither easy nor cheap to get to. There is one weekly scheduled flight from the UK - the same frequency as to St Helena – should you be disposed to visiting Napoleon’s old home instead of Bernadette’s. Prices are not cheap and it is cost and convenience above all that led the Massabielle Group to recently decide to visit Knock in 2018 instead. Even during the winter that airport is serviced by 2 flights to London daily as well as from a number of other British destinations. Travel to Lourdes is predominantly via other airports in the south of France and the options are narrowing.
- I am delighted to say that a practical bridge to the Massabielle Group is the appointment of a representative to the SOLL Council which will assist liaison for 2019.
- Our pilgrims from Exeter have traditionally shared the aircraft with the Plymouth diocese. They are now going in August but there is interest from a newly launched group travelling at the same time as us. This is new territory for all, we want to encourage a practical means of travel from the West Country not just for 2018, but beyond - but the costs of doing so are not inconsiderable.
- Holy Family and St Michael’s School have faced pressures to justify travel expenditure on what are proportionately small numbers of the school roll.
- Finally, the Sanctuaries have imposed levies, SOLL has paid these, but they are rising. EUR2 day in 2018 – a 100% rise.
Financially SOLL, in comparison with most other pilgrimages is well off but always generous with our assistance.
But we rely on bequests for income.
I believe our Society is left money, fundamentally, to enable people to travel to Lourdes.
We do want to assist the Massabielle Group and address the issues so as to enable them to be able to travel with Holy Family School again on our 2019 pilgrimage. We want to emphasise our support and encouragement of both. We do want to encourage pilgrims to travel from the West Country, and we do want more Sick Pilgrims and students to join us.
How we do this, the balance between enablement and economy is a test of all our abilities for there is no simple solution.
But that is not to say there are no solutions at all.
“Challenge” is an overworked business euphemism. Where I worked it always meant bad news: work would be harder, with more to do - usually quoted in partnership with “issues”. (Really bad news if both were contained in the same sentence!)
I looked it up: “A task or situation that tests someone's abilities”
So 2018 will be test of all of our abilities, ideas and of our receptiveness to new ways of doing things.
But unlike work, SOLL’s destiny is in our own hands, it is a pilgrimage where people do more than come along, they give their time, their treasure, and their talent and in doing so give the spirit of Lourdes to others and in turn receive it themselves.
A few thank you's:
- To John Lamb and Miranda Villiers who have completed their terms on the Council and Sarah Novel and Maggie Ryan who are unable to continue in the current positions for health reasons.
- To the commitment of those on our medical teams, Particularly Dr David Beckett, Maggie Ryan who was Chief Nurse and to Billie who despite being unable to join the pilgrimage did so much of the vetting and preparation. And, of course, to Phil for running the Pilgrimage as its Director.
- There was a very audible gasp from students at the Medal Ceremony during the pilgrimage when I announced that Ray was undertaking his 50th pilgrimage with the Society. It has been his life’s work and he has fronted, counselled and encouraged in his cheery manner just about everyone who has ever been in any contact with SOLL. Ray’s ways are Ray’s ways, and getting him to take time away from the office to visit the Holy Land to celebrate those 50 years has not been straightforward. But he has done it!
We seek more Sick pilgrims, and to grow the pilgrimage generally.
Graham Smith used to write that our pilgrimage to Lourdes does not end until we assemble for departure again next year.
Encouraging friends by word of mouth and letting people in your parish newsletter know you are going is something everyone can do - from one year to the next.
The Times once asked various author’s “What is wrong with the world today?” – and GK Chesterton replied only, “I am”.
Our membership and friends do much good beyond Lourdes, but for all of us, supporting this pilgrimage is something we can all do – to make in our small way, a difference.
Dave Farrow, Chairman
"Want to get young people involved in the Church? Take them on a pilgrimage"
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Thank you for your support ...more details
Roy Andrade, Pat Corrigan, Joyce Gregory, Sheila Howitt, Peter Kelly, John Naraine, Pat Salter, Adriana van den Berg, Gaspar Viegas, Dennis Willis and Trevor Wiltshire
May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed rest in peace and may our Blessed Lady, Consoler of the Afflicted, pray for those who mourn.
Monthly Masses are offered for those on the list, in addition to which weekly Masses are offered for ALL deceased Society Members including many who die without the office being notified.
Society Life Friend, Wiggy de Souza, has sent us the following requests from Pope Francis:
Weep not for what you have lost, fight for what you have.
Weep not for what is dead, fight for what was born in you.
Weep not for the one who abandoned you, fight for who is with you.
Weep not for those who hate you, fight for those who want you.
Weep not for your past, fight for your present struggle.
Weep not for your suffering, fight for your happiness.
With things that are happening to us,
we begin to learn that nothing is impossible to solve,
just move forward.
THE HOLY FATHER MAKES A REQUEST FOR PRAYERS THAT GOD PROTECTS HIM AND GIVES HIM FORCES TO MEET THIS DIFFICULT TASK . . . . SO BE IT! SO BE IT, LORD JESUS!!!
Our Lady of Lourdes pray for us
St Bernadette pray for us
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