On the morning of Saturday 6th July about 30 local people turned out for what was to be the second local Parish Pilgrimage. The first had been organised by Fr Hope Patten for 24th/26th October 1922 and was eagerly anticipated by him, however when he went to meet the train bringing people to this first Walsingham Pilgrimage there were only three people emerged from the train, Fr Hibbs and two elderly ladies, not to be outdone by this, he went to the local people and got them to turn out to take the place of the pilgrims. This was so successful with the locals experiencing the full might of a Pilgrimage to Walsingham, and they gave Fr Patten their complete support in future years with Pilgrimages, with many local people providing accommodation for them for a token payment. In future years the pilgrims came to Walsingham; the flood of people grew and grew to what it is today.
Then on 6th July 1997 S. Mary’s celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the Setting up of the Image of O.L.W. in the Guild’s Chapel in S. Mary’s, and now 22 years later we were following in these traditions.
So, on this Saturday in July, we were treading in the footsteps of those first local people who attended the very first pilgrimage!
Some hardy people started the barefoot walk to the Slipper Chapel for Prayers and the Holy Walk, and others began at the Priory for the Opening Pilgrimage Prayers in the Chapel of Our Lady and the first Visit to the Holy House. In the Holy House; as it was raining outside, we could hear the prayers of many other groups, having come in from the rain; who had come to Walsingham exactly for what we were doing ourselves. It was very moving, to be one among many more, so alone and so together with others! All prayers so very personal, and yet so very much together with all, and all with one purpose to give praise to our Lord.
We then gathered in the Shrine church for the 12noon Mass, again with other groups, all one and all everyone.
After this was lunch in the Refectory, all very good, served by the ever helpful Shrine staff. After fellowship together and thoroughly fed and watered we had some time to ourselves before Sprinkling at 2.30pm. Again, after this we had time to reflect over the day and wonder what that first group had thought as they had given up their time to make that very first Pilgrimage a success and so lead the way for others to follow.
I, for one am very glad they had made that possible as Walsingham would NOT be the Walsingham we know and love today without them, and of course for Fr Hope Patten who we should always remember with love and thanksgiving for making his dreams come to fruition!
This article first appeared in the Walsingham parish newsletter.