The pilgrimage visit of the Miraculous Relic Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Plymouth Cathedral gets underway in a spirit of new evangelisation…
Guardians Andrew, Dick, Michael, Vincent, Ewa and Mike made the 250-mile journey from The Shrine in Bedford to the beautiful Cathedral of St Mary & St Boniface to bring the Miraculous Relic Image for the first time to the far southwest of the country. Plymouth Cathedral has just completed a major refurbishment programme, which has seen the building closed for many months while it was restored to its former glory.
On Friday, 6th July 2018, the weather was glorious for the long journey down. The Guardians’ team were met by the Dean, Monsignor Canon Bart Nannery, and our pilgrimage partners Terry O’Carroll Provincial Grand Knight and the Brothers of Province 19 of the Knights of St Columba (KSC) for the prayers of installation and the siting of the Relic Image on the Sanctuary, ready for the Service of Reception and the Guadalupe Mass. The congregation, many coming from areas outside Plymouth, gathered to celebrate the start of the four-day programme of services, talks and shared spiritual experiences.
Monsignor Bart received the Relic Image on behalf of Bishop Mark O’Toole. In his moving homily, Monsignor Bart told us of his hopes for the creation of a spirit of new evangelisation, quoting directly from the words of Pope Saint John Paul II and asking that the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe to St Juan, ‘Am l not here, I, who am your Mother?’, be our starting point in the pilgrim journey during the coming days. Veneration continued until 9.30pm due to the numbers wishing to greet Our Blessed Mother on her arrival. It was a most rewarding and very busy evening.
Saturday began early with Morning Prayer, in which we were joined by Brothers of the KSC and members of the Cathedral’s parish. After Mass, the attendance was steady throughout the morning with a small group coming from Cornwall and larger groups coming from Bristol and Swindon. A reflection Behold your Mother was followed by the Angelus and Rosary Chaplet led by Guardians Ewa and Mike.
The afternoon programme started with a talk given by Guardian Andrew on the history and wonders of the Miraculous Relic Image and the Guadalupe apparitions. Later in the afternoon, one of the highlights and a regular feature of the pilgrimage visits took place: the Pro-Life prayer service. This had been organised by the local branch of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) and was led by Father John Blelawak. Pro-life supporters renewed their commitment to the LIFE values of the church and listened intently to the lecture which called on us to challenge the apathy in our society today.
After a short period for veneration we were joined by large numbers of the Polish community for a prayer service led by Father Jarecka and a talk on the Guadalupe apparitions given by our Polish Guardian, Ewa. Following evening mass, Guardian Andrew gave a reflection, Mary, Mediatrix of all Graces. The evening closed with the Rosary Chaplet of Our Lady of Guadalupe led by diocesan groups from the Legion of Mary.
As we were closing, a group of traveller families arrived. They had heard about the pilgrimage visit from Margaret Doran, our contact at Appleby Horse Fair Catholic Mission. We gave the families extra time as they had travelled eighty miles to be with us!
It was a second day of joy and grace for all!
The Guardians’ morning office started the Sunday programme. The first Mass of the day was at 8.00am and veneration continued until the 10.00am Mass at which the Hymn to Our Lady of Guadalupe was sung by the choir. Father Peter’s homily focused on ‘Like St Juan we are all messengers of Our Lady’. Guardian Ewa was not with us as she had been invited to speak on the history and wonders of the Miraculous Relic Image and the Guadalupe apparitions at the Polish Church of Christ the King. After Mass, veneration continued until noon, when Guardian Michael led the Angelus and Rosary Chaplet of Our Lady of Guadalupe.
The afternoon programme started with the talk given by Guardian Andrew on the history and wonders of the Miraculous Relic Image and the Guadalupe apparitions. Later, Guardian Ewa led the reflection and prayers to Our Lady. At 5.00pm the beautiful Service of Vespers led by Monsignor Bart, Father Peter and the choir took place with the congregation standing around the Relic Image. Vespers concluded with Benediction. Mass followed, at which Monsignor Bart used his homily to tell the Guadalupe story and express his own devotion to Our Lady.
The evening ended with a well-attended presentation ‘Live and let live and live and let die’ given by Michele and Father John from the diocesan evangelising team, which looked at the way in which we can all be evangelists and bring our Catholic faith into our conversation and everyday lives when interacting with the rest of society. Veneration continued until 9.00pm.
It was another day filled with blessings.
Monday opened with Morning Prayer and Mass. While waiting for the first school students to arrive for our Schools’ Morning, Bishop Mark O’Toole visited us and spent an hour in silent prayer before Our Lady’s Miraculous Relic Image. On leaving, Bishop Mark talked to the team: he thanked them for bringing the Miraculous Relic Image and blessed the work of the Guardians.
The Schools’ Morning took place in one of the Cathedral meeting rooms. Guardians Ewa and Mike gave the presentations, for which the group of students from Notre Dame High School had walked five miles from their school (raising funds for CAFOD) to be with us. Before returning to their school, the students venerated Our Lady’s Miraculous Relic Image.
The reflection, A Catholic Conversion, was given by the team and the Angelus and Rosary Chaplet was led by Guardians Vince and Dick.
The afternoon programme began with the talk given by Guardian Andrew on the history and wonders of the Miraculous Relic Image and the Guadalupe Apparitions. Veneration continued until the Healing Service which was led by Father Danny. These services are always well attended at Plymouth and a group from the Torquay and Torbay area joined us. A highlight of the service is when pilgrims come forward to be personally blessed by holding the humeral veil and being touched by the Blessed Sacrament: it proved to be a deeply-moving and intense spiritual experience for all. Later in the evening, the reflection ‘Mary the Queen of Heaven’, was given by the team. Veneration continued until 8:30pm. It was a wonderful and inspiring day.
Tuesday morning, our final day at Plymouth Cathedral, began with Morning Office and Mass. A group of 50 primary school students, who had not been able to get to our Schools Morning, arrived to venerate and hear the story of the Miraculous Relic Image from Monsignor Bart, who willingly stood in for our schools team (who had returned to Bedford the previous day). Veneration continued in steady numbers during the morning, with the team giving the reflection ‘The Catholic Conversion’ and Guardians Dick and Vincent leading the Chaplet of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Service of Return was delayed from 12.00 noon, as a group from a nearby parish arrived with their priest and asked for a talk on the Guadalupe apparitions, which Guardian Andrew gave. The Service of Return began with Monsignor Bart as Principal Celebrant. Guardian Andrew gave the address and thanked all who had contributed to making the Pilgrimage such a success.
Guardian Michael presented the picture given to mark the occasion of the Pilgrimage Visit to Monsignor Bart and the Cathedral team. Guardian Dick made the presentation to Grand Knight Terry O’Carroll and the KSC Brothers. Michael Stratford, the Cathedral Sacristan and a KSC Brother was enrolled as an Honorary Guardian in recognition of his help and support to both Guardians and pilgrims, and certificates of appreciation were presented to KSC Brothers and members of the volunteer team. A large group of pilgrims, led by Father Danny, remained behind for the ceremonial closing prayers and to say goodbye, and followed us in procession as the Miraculous Relic Image left the Cathedral.
Our visit to Plymouth Cathedral had been a happy and spiritual rewarding experience for both pilgrims and Guardians. We had made many new friends and good numbers had learned more about Our Lady of Guadalupe and been able to experience the grace and blessings that come from veneration of her Miraculous Relic Image.