I might write a headline that states:
"Small pilgrimage organised - not many attend". I am speaking, of course, about the 2011 LMS Welsh National Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of the Taper in beautiful Cardigan, West Wales.
This year we had an attendance of 35 pilgrims (and two of those had wandered in by mistake) - I jest. It was a low turnout but a definite improvement on the previous year - double the numbers, in fact. Good but not good enough.
|Our Lady of the Taper - second class shrine!|
This is a National Shrine to Our Lady, it has been a place of pilgrimage since medieval times and, in those days, they journeyed on foot or on horseback, without the benefit of cars and coaches, and I can tell you one thing - they could muster more than 35 pilgrimes on a special feastday.
Now St Winifride's Shrine in North Wales also has an LMS pilgrimage, generally a few weeks before Cardigan's and they attract hundreds of pilgrims (I believe this year c. 700 people attended).
|Holywell definitely has the ambience|
So why the difference?
I guess a number of reasons. Firstly, there is no disputing that Holywell (St Winifride's) has it on the beauty and ambience score. The poor old church at Cardigan is one of the worst examples of post Vat II architecture going but....it is home to the Blessed Virgin and the image of Our Lady of the Taper and it is the National Shrine of Wales.
Secondly, Holywell is known as "the Lourdes of Wales" and like its French counterpart it does have a well or spring, also known to have been the source of miraculous cures. Cardigan, sadly, has no such unique selling proposition ("usp"), to use marketing jargon.
Also, it has to be said that the LMS promoted the Holywell Pilgrimage and then, more or less, sat on their hands when it came to Our Lady of the Taper's turn. You cannot organise a national pilgrimage organically.....it just will not work.
So what's to do? Well, here are a few ideas that the LMS might like to consider, for the sake of brevity I have placed them in bullet point form:-
1. Promote the National Pilgrimage with full colour inserts in Mass of Ages
(parity with Holywell and Walsingham)
2. Invite three well known priests to celebrate a Solemn High Mass - people
will support an event of importance - sorry to put it that way but you get the
3. Promote the day around the Parishes of Wales with leaflet and poster drops
and invite specific groups such as the Legion of Mary, SVP., Knights of St
Columba etc to participate - possibly attend a few parishes to make a
4. Invite the Juventutem groups to attend and to undertake a walk from St
David's Cathedral, ancient seat of Welsh Catholicism, to Our Lady of the
5. Ask the Archbishop and Bishops of Wales to attend.
6. Invite all Welsh clergy to join a procession of......?........could you do better
than the Holy Rosary?
I know, for a fact that LMS members in Menevia would get behind such an initiative and that the Confraternity of the Holy Cross would, I believe, weigh in also. What we need also are few Welsh Catholics who are London based and who could network among the groups that could be tempted to attend, plus, of course, some support from the Catholics of Wales itself...it is your pilgrimage after all...I am just a faux Welshman!
Finally, planning for success takes time.....12 months is not too long......we have 10 months left, 8 if the LMS want the pilgrimage to take place on or close to the Feastday of Our Lady of the Taper.
And...hold it on a Saturday! or....alternatively......
.........move the National Shrine to Holywell. Well there's a thought!
Holywell photo: http://cathud.com/