Pilgrimage to Lourdes: One student’s unique start to a semester abroad

Author: Joanna Byrne

Ricardo Cathedral Of TreesBoschetti with the Newman House group

The beginning of Ricardo Boschetti’s semester abroad was not like his fellow students’. A week before his classmates arrived, he was staying in a hospital in the heart of Lourdes, taking part in Westminster Archdiocese’s annual pilgrimage. As a youth volunteer, his role was to assist a sick pilgrim, enabling them to undertake an otherwise impossible journey. When Boschetti decided to give his time to such a charitable cause, he never imagined he would gain so much in return.

The trip was humbling for Boschetti, shedding a whole new light on the work of caregivers and the demanding nature of what they do.  

It was a wonderful, beautiful, but exhausting experience," he says. "It breaks your boundaries, barriers, it challenges you."

Having had several relatives suffer with Alzheimer’s disease, the trip enlightened Boschetti on the twenty-four hour care his grandmother gave his grandfather over the years. This experience left him with a gratefulness for the work of caregivers, and a deeper appreciation of the human spirit.

As well as supporting a pilgrim, Boschetti also got a chance to socialize with other youth workers on the trip. The majority of them were from chaplaincy Newman House, which serves universities in London. The connections he built with Londoners on this trip have been lasting, and Boschetti still spends time with them now that he's back in the city. Forging friendships with locals can often be a challenge when studying abroad, and Boschetti is grateful for the head start he got during his time in Lourdes.

Ricardo And Newman HouseBoschetti with volunteers at St Savin

It’s a great opportunity to get to know people and make sure you’re not stuck in the Notre Dame bubble,he says.

Boschetti speaks highly of the warm, open environment in Lourdes, and tells his friends that the experience would be valuable to anyone, not just those that identify as Catholic. Describing his own spiritual journey as a rollercoaster, he is open about sometimes questioning and losing track of his faith. The spiritual setting of Lourdes helped him to reinvigorate this faith, particularly through watching the devotion of others.

There are many events in our lives that help us reinforce the faith we have and I can certainly tell you Lourdes was one of those,” he learned.

The spiritual connection between Lourdes and Notre Dame is strong, something Boschetti picked up on immediately. Notre Dame’s grotto is a replica of the grotto in Lourdes, and even boasts a stone from the original Lourdes grotto. Boschetti was awe-struck by the similarity and size of the grotto in Lourdes, and could fully appreciate the significance the place holds for Notre Dame, both historically and in the present day.

Lourdes is in Notre Dame," he reflects.

Boschetti has now started his semester in London, and is making the most of what the city has to offer.

If you are interested in finding out more about this pilgrimage, please contact Judy Hutchinson.