Friday, 7 October 2011

Small volcano erupts - not many killed!

That is the sort of headline newspaper reporters write when an event does not come up to the required level of global news importance.

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
The shrine is located in the town of Holywell near Flint in North Wales and is, if anything, more remote than Cardigan so, presumably, distance is not a deterrent. For that matter, Walsingham is not all that convenient but hordes still go there each year.

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 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 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
    personal appeal.

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 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:


  1. Thanks to you I have been finding out a bit more about the Welsh Shrine. Personally, I have a particular interest in Walsingham. I am sorry to hear that your Welsh Shrine does not attract enough attention. It really is an embarrassment for the Church in general. As you probably know I have a strong devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham and the conversion of England.

    Although Walsingham does receive considerably more pilgrims it is still an embarrassment to the Church that despite these higher numbers there is still an vast ignorance of our National Catholic Shrine.

    I did a bit of research in to the reasons why. I asked around to those people 'in the know'. Now I know that this is going to sound like 'the old chestnut' being wheeled out again, but the unanimous verdict is that the newer Catholic members of our congregations are not taught about the significance of our pilgrimage sites, and those who are old enough to know better have just given up going on pilgrimage. However, before I start bleating about the negatives I am going to suggest a solution.

    I think that every RCIA program in the country should be advised to undertake at least one trip to either Walsingham or Cardigan before they are confirmed.

    As a matter of fact I have had contact with the head of the RCIA network and I will endeavour to get them to bring the issue up at their next meeting. It would certainly be interesting to see what they have to say.

    I will give you an update when I start to receive replies. By the way, when they reply (and inevitably say no), I can assure you that it will not be the end of the issue. I been meaning to deal with this issue for the last year and you have just given me a nudge to get stuck in to this (and it will not stop at the RCIA network). Thanks again!

  2. Excellent strategy have given me some good tactical routes. Thank you.

  3. There are lots of good ideas here. Here are a couple more:

    Get a minibus full of people (at least) from Swansea and from Cardiff. It's not rocket science. There are trads in those places.

    Hire a polyphonic choir. Under LMS rules the local rep has a budget for music for a one-off event. If he wants to exceed it he can ask.

    As for why it is not better attended at the moment, here are a couple of things you've missed.

    Geography certainly plays a role compared to Holywell. Holywell is close enough to Flint for people to go by train - I don't know if any do - but more to the point there is a motorway all the way to Chester from the East, North, and South, and a good road beyond that. It is within easy reach of major populations in Chester, Birmingham, and Liverpool. Look at the map: Cardigan is not.

    It is much longer-established as an LMS Pilgrimage, and it always happens on the same weekend. Habits take time to establish. When it started it was the only way for many people to get to a Mass on a Sunday for months either side.

    And here's an extra tip for free. Stop whinging. The work of the LMS is done from the grass roots, not the centre. Things grow organically. If there is local energy and ideas things happen. Stop whinging about not getting more help from elsewhere and actually do something about it. And stop comparing your pilgrimage with others: its not unfair that St Winifrede gets more pilgrims than Cardigan, it's just life. St Winifride's has become the LMS' biggest pilgrimage not because the locals whined until the Office magiced people out of thin air to go, but because of their dedication and hard work over many years. So why not follow their example?

  4. Dr Shaw - I am sorry that my post has caused you such angst and sorry, also, that you have chosen to respond in such a fashion; it does you no credit whatsoever.
    I normally remove insulting comments but will let this one stand so that readers may make their own assesment.

  5. I sent correspondence to the RCIA Network on how to get this issue brought up at their next national meeting. I also sent correspondence to the Walsingham Association to ask their view on this and to see if they will also bring the issue up at their next meeting with the aim of lobbying the RCIA Network. I do not expect much from this first correspondence but, I will keep following it up. I will let you know what happens (don't hold your breath in the first instance).

  6. Oh dear! two "whinges" and a "whined" and a hostile response with it Richard. You hit a soft spot me thinks. Pity, among friends too.
    Never mind. Keep up the good work.
    Hey! have you thought about joining the Pius X society? No friendlier but in the same church each week.

  7. Thanks Momangelica. Yes, we attend the SSPX Masses from time to time and all of our children received the Sacrament of Confirmation from one of their Bishops. Hoping for a good outcome to the talks with Rome.
    God bless.

  8. Dear Richard,

    I think you'll find that for many of the faithful Holywell is much more accessible than Cardigan. There are large centres of population nearby or else close enough to make a day trip possible. For me, and for many others, Cardigan would be impossible to reach on that basis.

    Thanks to Mass of Ages I have been aware of the pilgrimage to Our Lady of the Taper for many years, but I have never once considered assisting because of its remoteness. Holywell is accessible to me and to many others in the Marches and North West of England.

  9. Simon, many thanks for your comment. I agree that Wales is a difficult place within which to travel.
    Just a point about Cardigan though; it is no more than 90 minutes from the capital city, Cardiff or the second city of Wales, Swansea.
    I do not begrudge Holywell its popularity at all but I do believe that Cardigan should be able to muster more than 35 pilgrims for the national event.
    Us LMS members locally work hard to make it a success but it does need a bit of money thrown at it (not much) in the same way that Holywell and the shrine's English counterpart, Walsingham, receive publicity and support.

  10. It should be pointed out that Dr Shaw is Chairman of the Latin Mass Society.