Having spent the last four years at the University of Exeter as an undergraduate and latterly postgraduate student – Walsingham has often felt a very long way away. To this end it was a delight to welcome the Image of Our Lady to the South West.
The Priest Administrator knew that I was in Exeter and free for the weekend so before I knew it I was roped in to help with various tasks. I greeted the van – loaded with the Image, familiar Shrine vestments, Guardians’ blue mantles and much else besides – and was soon helping ferry, unbox, set up – you name it! This gave
me something of an ‘inside view’ and a result I can confidently declare what a success the Festival was!
Although the Image was conveyed for most of the Shrine-Exeter Cathedral journey via white van, the last leg of Our Lady’s Journey was nothing short of triumphant. From the Guildhall, Our Lady was carried in procession – led by the Lord Mayor and Civil Dignitaries, surrounded by the Guardians, and followed by Cathedral and local clergy. Along the High Street and through the Cathedral Green we went, and onto the West Doors of the Cathedral to Solemn Greeting, Organ Fanfare, and those rousing and familiar words to so many: All glory to God in His mercy and grace, Who hath established His Home in this wonderful place. Ave…
There followed the celebration of Mass, Healing Ministries, and Procession of the Blessed Sacrament through the Cathedral Green, followed by Benediction over the city, and then Benediction inside the Cathedral. For the many pilgrims from across the South West and South Wales who gathered – this was a special day – to have the Image of Our Lady and some of the liturgies and spiritual graces we associate with Walsingham encountered and received on our doorstep.
I will not forget this Festival in a hurry. From my personal perspective, it was a joy to greet Our Lady in the city where I study, and to have the honour of being an image bearer. But most of all, I will not forget this day because we took Our Lady out into the streets, and later that day we bore witness to Our Eucharistic Lord in procession too. All the while – people stopped and heads turned. Our Lady and Our Lord made themselves known not only to the pilgrims that day, but to the people of Exeter.
Thanks be to God.
Joe is postgraduate theology student at the University of Exeter where he graduated with a BA Theology and Religion degree in 2021. The son of an Army Chaplain – he has lived and studied all around the country, but been glad of Our Lady and the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham as a constant throughout all this.