Report on ‘Shrines of Portugal’ Pilgrimage
September 26th – October 3rd, 2013
Spiritual Director: Fr John (Sean) Cunningham
Arrival in Fatima
After a good send off from Una at Dublin Airport, all 38 pilgrims arrived In Lisbon, safe and sound, thank God, with Aerlingus. They were met and welcomed by Elsa and Ana and taken to the Santo Amaro Hotel in Fatima. Our opening Mass was in the Chapel of Resurrection (underneath the New Basilica) at 6 pm .The Pilgrimage was off to a good start. Ana would be taking care of us while we were in Fatima and she did a great job.
The visits to the villages, apparition scenes and Parish Church succeeded admirably despite wet and windy weather. The tour of the Shrine area and the visit to the ‘Light & Peace’ Exhibition were informative.
Stations of the Cross
The carrying of the Cross was shared, the prayers were individually led and the hymns were the responsibility of all to hit the right notes as we moved along the ‘Way of the Cross’ on a dry afternoon in a spell of bad weather.
The Capelinha Mass at 3.30 on the Friday afternoon of our Pilgrimage to Fatima was, of course, the highlight. It always is. Our Spiritual Director, Fr John (Sean) Cunningham was the chief celebrant and a number of pilgrims participated in the Liturgy.
Members of the pilgrimage group took part in Rosary and Candlelight Processions each night at 9.30 pm.
Sunday was a great day. One of our couples recited the English decade ( 4th.Mystery) of the Rosary on Sunday morning. The International Mass was at 11 am. We had our own Sunday Mass with the Sacrament of the Sick at 6.30 pm.
The morning trip to Santarem was relaxing and prayerful. We had a guided tour of the area and narrative of the Eucharistic Miracle before our Mass at the Church there.
Out tour to Aveiro included Mass in the Cathedral dedicated to St Dominic and a boat trip in the ‘moliceiro’ which is the typical boat of Aveiro. Many have photographs to prove it. We were able to follow our schedule and do everything as planned despite wet, foggy and sometimes windy conditions. The only casualties were panoramic views.
While in Braga we were privileged to have our Mass at the famous Shrine of Bom Jesus before heading off to the Shrine of Sameiro dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. We still had time for a visit to the ancient Cathedral of St Michael’s in Braga which is known as the Ecclesiastical Capital of Portugal. An afternoon visit to Balasar enabled us to see a video of Blessed Alexandrina’s life and to see the Mysterious Cross which appeared on the ground. We also visited Blessed Alexandrina’s home.
In Oporto, we had our Mass in the Church where the mortal remains of Blessed Maria now rest and we visited the Convent where Jesus appeared to Blessed Maria of the Divine Heart. The hero of the moment at this Convent was the coach driver who manoeuvred his big coach through a tight entrance and street to the amazement of locals and pilgrims alike.
Back in Lisbon again, our accommodation was in Costa da Caparica – the Salthill of Lisbon. Our last morning was productively and beneficially spent at St Anthony’s Church in Lisbon where we prayed and had our Mass. We also visited the Cathedral and had a panoramic tour of Lisbon on route to and from St Anthony’s before heading for the Airport and back home to Dublin.
This was a great pilgrimage with no opportunity missed. There were activities and Mass on each of the eight days including the day of arrival and the day of departure. This is not always possible. The girls Elsa and Ana were very helpful and good to us and left no stone unturned. The coach drivers (in particular, ‘George’ as we knew him, who came on tour with us) were excellent, the coaches were comfortable and the humour of everybody was good. The Hotels, Santo Amaro, Mercure and Costa da Caparica were comfortable, hospitable and provided tasty and varied food and plenty of it. Our pilgrims seemed to be satisfied with all aspects of the Pilgrimage.
Sincere thanks are due to Therese O’ Connor and Office Staff here at home including Una at the Airport, to Elsa and Ana and the divers for their punctuality, care and attention, to the Hotels’ management and staff, the personnel at the various Shrines, Aer Lingus and so many others including, of course, our own Fr John (Sean) Cunningham (without whom this pilgrimage would not have been a pilgrimage) and the pilgrims themselves (especially those two or three in particular who helped the less mobile among us). You all contributed to making this pilgrimage the success it was and sincere thanks to all concerned. You were all super folk. It was indeed a great pilgrimage, thank God.
John B McLoughlin