Parish Pilgrimage to Cofton Park
To see the Beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman
Sunday 19th September 2010
Some 24 of our parishioners (13 Adults and 11 children) rose in the very early hours (1.30am in my case) on Sunday morning to be at St Peter's church in time to commence their pilgrimage to Cofton Park.
It was very dark when we arrived in the car park where we regrouped into a six car convoy to St Gregory's RC Middle School, Biddenham where we joined with other pilgrims from other Parishes around the Bedford area to get on to the coaches to take us to Birmingham's Cofton Park. There was even a small traffic jam, at 3:00am, at the school car park. Soon after, there were well over a hundred Roman Catholics milling about the entrance to the school, on Biddenham Turn, awaiting the arrival of the coaches. I can't imagine what the residents must have thought was going on as a line of 8 coaches arrived at that time in the morning - just as the rain started to fall.
We were allotted a coach together with 25 parishioners from the Sacred Heart Church Flitwick and by 3:35am we were on our way. Roughly two hours later we arrived at the Bus Park where hundreds of coaches lined to enter the coach park. It was a logistical marvel how they managed to pack so many coaches into this huge coach park - we could hardly walk in a single line between the buses.
We alighted from the coach in darkness just after 5:30 am and began our mile long walk to Cofton Park in an orderly, well mannered crowd. I remember thinking how good humoured we all were considering the time in the morning - especially Maggie who had, the previous evening, attended the Vigil in Hyde Park.
We entered the park just as the sun was rising above the tree-line and I was quite astounded by the very smooth and efficient way that the crowds of people were ushered into place. The park is a natural amphitheatre and we could see as we walked across the upper part of the park at about 6:30am that tens of thousands of people had already taken their place in the park before we had arrived. We chose a spot that offered a good view of the proceedings, with plenty of room to accommodate our group comfortably, and we'd see at close hand the procession of priests that would flow down the hill to the impressively designed Alter. But we knew the Pope would be barely visible to the naked eye from where we were. That said, huge screens had been erected that meant we would all have a good view of what was taking place.
We settled down and got comfortable and tucked into our packed "lunch" boxes for our breakfast. The crowds continued to flow by as the sound system checks were taking place and the various choirs were bursting into song.
I took an opportunity to do a recce on the rest of the park before the official proceedings commenced. I was amazed at how many people were packed in around the lower part of the hill and everyone I met was in good spirits. I noticed one area that had a better vantage point than where we sat and I asked them light heartedly "at what time of day did you have to get here to secure such a vantage point?" their reply was just after 3:00am...!!!
At 7:30 just as the rain began the choir began to chirp up in preparation for the Radio 4 Sunday Worship broadcast, "This day was made by the Lord
" click here
to listen to it.
Soon after this there was a wave of expectation through the crowd as the Helicopters began to arrive and the procession of the Priests from the Seminary began to stroll past us down the hill.
Then we spotted Pope Benedict's Helicopter and the crowd began to cheer. There's no doubt in my mind that he would have been able to hear those cheers from up above. We watched as he landed and was presented to the dignitaries including Princess Michael of Kent and the Duke of Norfolk. Pope Benedict traversed the lower end of the park and soon after the Beatification service began. See BBC coverage for details
I've run out of time to say much more, however more comments will be added later. So for now I'll summarise by saying that notwithstanding the early rise, the long day, the cold & damp; wind and the driving rain we endured too, the whole day was a truly wonderful day; and everyone came back exhausted but very much uplifted from the experience. I think celebrating mass with so many other Christians, in full communion in the presence of the Pope, in the open seeing the fullness of God's beautiful creation just added another dimension to praising God and that feeling of joy will last with us always.
The following slide-show has a few photographs of the day to view (you can replay it as many times as you like):
Attending from ST Peter's Biggleswade:
Clare Neville; Loretta, Jack & Ben Faulkner; Paul, Matthew & Grace Flood;
Lin Graves; Adrian & Florence Hillman; Barry & Linda Huber; Alban Macdonald;
Apple Pagaran; Gillian Phillips; Nick Whitehead; Rosemary Williams; Maggie Pyrah;
Tessa Wallace; Chris, Maria, Alexander, Natasha & Jonathan Adams.