After many requests from members of the travelling community, whom we met on this and previous National Pilgrimage Tours, the Miraculous Relic Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has just returned from the 448-mile roundtrip to the Gypsy and Traveller Horse Fair in the town of Appleby in Cumbria.
Guardians Michael, Dick and Andrew left the Shrine in Bedford on Saturday morning for the five-and-a-half-hour drive to this beautiful part of the country for this memorable and very different Pilgrimage Visit.
For this year, 2017, we decided on a one-day Pilgrimage Visit for Sunday 11th June, arriving the day before to set up and be ready for the next day when there would be Veneration, Mass and a programme which included a Procession, Benediction and Guardian-led talks, devotions and prayers.
After booking into our accommodation, which was around 30 miles away from Appleby, the Guardians arrived at the Fair around 6.30pm Saturday evening. The weather for the area over the previous few days had been high winds and rain. There was mud everywhere! The Catholic Travellers’ Mission tent was situated by the main crossroads, just outside the village and directly by the showground, caravan pitches and grazing area for horses and ponies.
Welcomed by Margaret and Paddy and a team from the Travellers’ Catholic Renewal Mission, we discussed the setup and programme for the following day. The Guardians were asked to lead evening prayer in the Mission tent.
We arrived at the site early on Sunday morning in the rain but the sun was trying to break through. The prayer of installation was said, and veneration started almost immediately with eager pilgrims lining up in the rain for their chance to be with Our Blessed Mother. The weather brightened up as the morning progressed but the high winds continued and there were constant showers, though nothing could dampen the spirits of the travelling community, who in large numbers came to spend time in the respectful veneration of Our Lady’s Miraculous Relic Image.
Father Philip Conner, Chaplin for the 2017 Fair, came to celebrate Mass. The tent was packed for what was a joyous and uplifting occasion. We were further blessed to have two Baptisms, and three First Holy Communions take place during the Mass, with the children dedicated to the special protection of Our Blessed Mother Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Guardians presented them with rosaries to mark the occasion.
The Sisters of Charity, who came from their convent in Newcastle, supported us throughout the day and were a great help with prayer petition slips and giving out prayer cards.
After Mass, Father Philip, with a large group following, carried the Blessed Sacrament in praise and procession through the nearby roads.
Throughout the remaining day Veneration and the programme of prayer and reflection took place. Both adults and children listened to the story of the Guadalupe apparitions and the history of the Tilma. The Guardians and Travellers shared testimonies of their spiritual journeys. It was also, for the Guardians, an opportunity to meet old friends from the travelling community in Wales whom we had met when the Miraculous Relic Image visited St David’s Cathedral.
All too soon it was time for us to say goodbye. Members of the Mission helped us to load the van for the long journey back to the Shrine in the Church of the Holy Child & St Joseph, Bedford. For both the Travelling Community and the Guardians, this Pilgrimage Visit has been the occasion of great joy and spiritual renewal, and we look forward to visiting them again. The help, support and fellowship shown to the Guardians by Margaret, Paddy and the team reflected a genuine spirit of Christian Love.