Since 2004, young people from the Diocese have been taking part in the diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes as ‘Redshirts’, and in 2022 we will make the Redshirt experience available to three year groups: Years 10, 11 and 12. Over the years this initiative has grown and developed so that now joining the Redshirts gives you more than the opportunity just to go to Lourdes. Of course, the Pilgrimage is a real highpoint in the year and it is the experience you will remember most. As with many things in life, the more you put in the more you get out. So, with the Redshirts, the more open you are to people, the prayer and the experiences on offer, the more you will receive.
Redshirt aims are:
Explore your faith
Develop skills and demonstrate attributes·
Value other people and be valued for who you are
Make new friends
We know from all our past pilgrimages, that you will have memorable experiences. We also know that you may face some challenges. However, the purpose of pilgrimage is to recognise that we never face our challenges alone; we have friends and others to help us, most importantly, we have God to guide us. Sometimes too, we are there to give to each other. God can use us in this way when we place ourselves at the service of others.
Among the many demands you face as a young person approaching adulthood today, is the demand that you show you have the sort of skills needed in all sorts of occupations and careers. These are not always learned in the classroom and we want, through your Redshirt years, to give you the opportunity to prove to yourself and to others that you have, and can develop, these skills. You will have the opportunity to take responsibility for different things, to lead others, to speak to groups, to offer assistance in various ways. In this way you will find value in others and in yourself.
The diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes consists of around 800 pilgrims. Some of the pilgrims, known as Assisted Pilgrims, require particular levels of help and care and will be looked after by members of the Hospitalite, i.e. volunteer helpers who are aged between 18-75. Other pilgrims include those who are able bodied, Priests, Group Leaders, Doctors, Nurses and Assistant Chaplains.
All Redshirts provide a much valued service of spiritual support and welcome; providing a ‘Red Carpet’ to meet and greet pilgrims attending services; music ministry; preparing locations for services; leading groups in prayer and engaging in ministry sessions; focused discussion time on faith, life and scripture topics and preparing a presentation which includes music, scripture and testimony to over 400 pilgrims. Some free time is scheduled each day.
In addition, Redshirts in year 12 will gain also experience of working in hotel groups alongside the Hospitalite, taking care of our Assisted Pilgrims, and spending time with them each day, assisting with all of the activities that they engage with throughout the day.
Why do Redshirts exist?
To nurture spiritual development of young people.
To experience a sense of community within the group and with the wider community of the diocesan pilgrimage, to be of service to each other and to other pilgrims and to have opportunities to experience prayer in various forms.
To provide opportunities to foster leadership skills amongst young people.
To provide a pathway to being a helper in Lourdes when you have left school and are embarking on the next chapter of your life.
In essence, we have an awesome opportunity to encounter Christ in a friendly, enjoyable and atmosphere of love and acceptance.
What is expected of me?
The main thing that is expected of you is that you should be yourself. You should be willing to participate in activities and to show tolerance and resilience when confronted with difficult situations. There is an old saying: ‘tourists demand, pilgrims give thanks!’. This captures well the attitude of the Redshirts.
Just as God does not choose us or love us because of our particular abilities, you will not be selected for the Redshirts just because you are good at something. However, you will have the chance to show what you are good at and even to try things you didn’t know you were good at!
Redshirts on the Arundel and Brighton Pilgrimage are expected to conduct themselves in a manner that reflects favourably on themselves, their families, parishes and schools. Redshirts are expected to project an image of Christian consideration, sensitivity and respect for themselves and for each other during the trip.
They are also expected to show respect to adult leaders, other participants and everyone with whom they come into contact. They are to cooperate in creating a healthy and appropriate atmosphere. The point of going on a pilgrimage is to discover that we are all pilgrims on our way. When we do this, we realise the value of others on that journey and we know there is an ultimate destination for each of us. We know too that God has every intention of ensuring we reach that place, if only we let Him!