Pilgrimage and Summer Camp for girls in County Kerry, (Ireland), from August 2nd – 18th of 2016.
Once more we have had the joy of returning to Ireland for a pilgrimage and summer camp for girls. We could not resist putting as the theme for our trip “I prefer Paradise” in honor of our Sisters who have recently passed away in the earthquake, giving their lives for the Lord. They died singing to the Lord and so we decided that our trip had to be the same; a cry of praise to God.
We left Spain on August 4th and headed towards Dublin. We passed the day there sightseeing and buying the typical Irish souvenirs. The next morning we left for Drogheda to visit the Shrine of Saint Oliver Plunket, but our hearts were already set on Derry where we would be arriving that very night. As soon as we got to Derry we went to visit Sr. Clare’s tomb. We stayed there praying for a while and then we dropped by her mom’s house for a surprise visit. We had a lovely time with her mom and sisters. We spent the night in Derry and before we left for Sligo the next morning we stopped by Sr. Clare’s tomb once again and stayed there for an hour and a half praying and singing songs.
In Sligo the Bishop of Elphin, His Excellency Kevin Doran, celebrated Mass for us. We had Mass outside and it turned out to be a beautiful day, the sun even came out! After Mass the Bishop took us to a forest that was beside a lake where we were able to eat lunch. That afternoon we went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock where we met up with 11 Irish girls who would be joining us for the rest of the pilgrimage and summer camp. The girls were so excited to see each other because many of them had met in past pilgrimages and summer camps. We spent two nights in Knock and both nights we were able to go and visit our most beautiful neighbor; Our Lady. The image of Our Lady in Knock is beautiful and Our Lady has a gaze that managed to lift our hearts up to heaven. There in that shrine our Lady taught us all how to live out our motto “I Prefer Paradise”.
On August 7th we climbed Croagh Patrick amidst strong winds and scattered rains. It seemed like it was going to be impossible to do, but we thought that God wanted us to give it a try and He helped us all reach the top. When we got back down we got some hot chocolate to warm us up. When we got back to Knock we went to Castlebar where a priest friend of ours, Fr. Shane, celebrated Mass for us. The homily was wonderful and it really helped the girls.
On August 8th we said goodbye to Knock and headed to County Clare to visit Heritage Park. We had a nice day there and in the afternoon we arrived at the house in County Kerry where we were going to have the summer camp. The next day we had to prepare the house for all the girls that were about to arrive. On the 10th the group was finally complete. The new girls jumped right into the rhythm of things and there was a good atmosphere among all the girls. Before dinner Fr. Shane celebrated Mass for us once again. We are very grateful to him because he drove 4 hours just to celebrate Mass for us. Many girls were also able to go to confession with him and start off the summer camp on the right foot.
During camp we dedicated each day to talk about one of the sisters who passed away in the earthquake. The first day, August 11th, was dedicated to Sr. Clare and it just so happened to be the same day that she entered as a candidate! We also challenged the girls to work on a virtue each day, a virtue that was characteristic of each of the sisters that we were talking about. The examples of their lives did so much good to the girls.
On August 15th, the feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother, we had a surprise party for Our Lady! When we brought the statue of Our Lady into the room where all the girls were hiding and waiting to surprise her, it seemed like she was really there present among us. It was such a beautiful night that we spent with Our Lady. She really was the center of this summer camp because the girls had opened their hearts and let her in. The same day we had the joy of having Mass with Bishop Ray Brown.
But the camp was still not over; Our Lady had even more in store for us and even more graces to shed upon us. The last day of the camp was August 17th, the feast day of Our Lady of Knock and in the morning we had prayer time and Mass. When Mass was over we had the great joy of witnessing the entrance of 13 girls into the Home of the Mother. They were filled with joy that they were able to form part of this gift that our Lord wishes to make to His mother. Just seeing how they looked with so much love upon our Blessed Mother was worth all the effort made during these days. Thanks be to God!
This camp was very special and there was such a good environment among the girls the whole time. One day I asked an eleven year old girl if she was happy. She said, “I am happy here. I have been to other camps and it’s true that there’s a lot of noise in every camp. But here, even though there’s a lot of noise, I have peace inside of me.” And that was the experience that so many girls had. They were so happy because they had given of themselves and they let our Blessed Mother be the queen of the camp.
Here are some of their testimonies:
I loved the summer camp. I learned how to concentrate better in prayer and I also learned how to offer up the difficult things to God, even thought that wasn't always easy. I made lots of new friends. I loved meeting girls who share the same faith as me and actually take their faith seriously! -Mary Boras. Ireland, 13 years old.
This was a really cool experience. I want to come back next year. My favorite part of the trip was visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Knock. The statue there is beautiful. I have made so many friends and have had so many good experiences. See you next year !- Nuria Leal Leal. Spain, 11 years old.
This has been an awesome summer camp. I loved not only the different activities that we did, but also the people there, the group leaders, the new friends I made. I learned a ton of English. The Irish people were so nice and I made a new friend whose name is Chantelle. On a spiritual level it has been the best camp that I’ve ever attended. I learned so much about my faith and the Sisters helped me to clear up a lot of doubts that I had. I feel like I have been renewed and I am now able to take on what is to come with new strength. I would recommend to everyone that they come to this camp. I love the Home of the Mother! - Rebeca Maestro. Spain 15 years old.
We have been so lucky to be able to go to Ireland and see so many things and meet so many people. I tried to take advantage of each moment and get the most out of everything. I learned about the importance of using and having a strong will and also how to overcome myself. - Paula Luque. Spain, 14 years old.
I loved the time I spent in Ireland. I made so many friends. Everyone was so nice and fun! I was sad that it had to end. I would have stayed a lot longer. Sometimes people count down the days until they get to go home. Not me. I loved everything that we did; the points that we earned for working on the virtues, the parties we had at night, the movies we saw, the songs that we sang without end during the camp, everything! It was a good experience that I hope to be able to repeat. - Inmaculada Sánchez Gómez. Spain, 13 years old.
The summer camp was awesome and I loved the pilgrimage. There was a really good environment between all of us. We went from church to church visiting Jesus, praying the rosary, seeing movies, campfire activities, skits, etc. I would recommend to anyone who is going down the wrong path in life and who wants to have a personal encounter with Jesus and Mary that they come to this camp. It has been a wonderful experience with the Home of the Mothers and the Sisters. It has been a grace to be here.- Sara García. Spain, 14 years old.
This has been an experience unlike any other I’ve ever had. It has helped me have a closer relationship with God. There was a very familiar environment between the sisters and the girls.- Lorena Gazpio. Spain, 14 years old.
I had a really good experience both in the pilgrimage and in the summer camp. I loved being able to be with girls who are my same age and who share the same faith, it has helped me to see that I am not alone. Also, I realized that if you have never suffered before, then you haven’t really lived. If we follow Jesus we have to suffer for Him here on earth in order to gain heaven. This is my second time here and I hope to come back next year.- María de Cea. Spain, 15 years old.