Every Easter, the beautiful French town of Lourdes -- where our Blessed Mother appeared 18 times to a young peasant girl named Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 -- opens its hearts and hotels to some 2,000 children and young adults with special needs, and about 3,000 adult and teenage volunteers who care for them. ASCPG is the American contingent; we were founded in 1995, and brought our first group of special pilgrims in 1998. We've never looked back.
This trip is unique for many reasons, the most significant being that the special PILGRIMS (preteen through young adult) do not travel with their parents. Dedicated and trained volunteer HELPERS from all walks of life, including medical staff, travel with and care for them in a family-like atmosphere. This affords the young person a chance to experience a sense of independence; more importantly, it affords his or her parents well-deserved respite. And the volunteer helpers, without a doubt, get more from the week than they every could give. Everyone truly experiences a life-changing week.
The trip is really a "pilgrimage vacation" designed to be the best of both worlds. The Masses, meals, tours and activities are fully inclusive and incredibly joyful, and the small group structure allows for deep bonds of friendship to form. There are opportunities to meet others on the HCPT pilgrimage from England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the West Indies, Romania, Croatia, Belgium, Spain & Italy -- the highlight of the week is Thursday's Trust Mass, where we ALL gather in the Underground Basilica for an powerful morning of praise and worship.
Our volunteer helpers work throughout the year to raise funds for the pilgrims to travel free-of-charge, as well as half of their own trip (paying $1000-$1300 out of pocket). The group leaders and medical staff screen and choose the pilgrims, meet with parents and pilgrims, train the helpers and oversee their group throughout the year and in Lourdes. Parents and pilgrims meet their helpers well before the trip and get to know one another. High school volunteers from our YOUTH GROUP also travel as same-age companions for the pilgrims, and extra hands for the helpers.
Our journey begins from a New York area airport on Holy Saturday, and we arrive in Lourdes on Easter Sunday. Among the activities we participate in are: daily Mass and trips to the Grotto, the Candlelight Procession, day trip to Gavarnie, a town-wide scavenger hunt, a tour of Bernadette's life, a Thursday night party, family-style meals and lots of social time. We return home -- changed for the better -- the Saturday after Easter.
Contact us if you're a parent of a young person with special needs... an adult interested in volunteering... a high school student looking for the best spring break ever... or anyone else!
A taste of Lourdes, compiled by one of our volunteer helpers.
HCPT 60th anniversary clip
Learn more from our interview on EWTN in May 2013
ASCPG was founded in 1995 in Bergenfield, NJ, by Gerry & Rosemarie Flood and a group of very dedicated individuals. It continues because of the incredible generosity of so many volunteers, individual donors, community organizations, parishes, local businesses... and most of all, Our Lady and her Son. While Lourdes is a passionately Catholic place of pilgrimage, our journey is open to people of all faiths, or none.