Saturday 19th June dawned in the north east bringing leaden skies, a very strong wind, and the threat of rain (a brief reality later on). Not the sort of day hoped and prayed for, but, safe in the knowledge that coaches and cars carrying pilgrims would shortly be en route to the Holy Island, the seventh annual pilgrimage of prayer for AOS workers, and supporters was underway.
When the causeway opened at midday and pilgrims began arriving undeterred, they steadfastly made their way down to where all was set for the much loved ‘Celtic Prayer on the Beach’, the traditional start of our pilgrimage. The pilgrims included parishioners from St Clare’s, Brookfield, St Francis, Acklam, St Gabriel’s, Ormesby, St Peter’s, South Bank, St Bede’s, Marske, St Patrick’s and Christ the King, Thornaby, St Joseph’s, Middlesbrough and Our Lady of Lourdes, Saltburn.
By one o’clock there was perhaps 200 pilgrims assembled; Mgr Ronnie Brown welcomed them all and the prayers, hymns and readings commenced. Throughout the half hour service, the strong wind prevailed, but this did not seem to effect the pilgrims who were engrossed in the venue, the occasion and the atmosphere.
There was some concern about the outdoor Mass to be held later in the afternoon in the church grounds. However our prayers were answered as, rather unexpectedly, the sun broke through the clouds and, with the wind less of a problem in this more sheltered spot, Mass was subsequently held in beautiful conditions. A much larger congregation of around 350 pilgrims came together for Mass led by Bishop Peter Moran of Aberdeen (AOS Bishop Promoter for Scotland) as the main celebrant. Mgr Ronnie Brown (AOS Trustee), Fr Tony Owens (Seahouses and Holy Island) and Fr Philip O’Brien (Immaculate Heart of Mary, Sunderland) concelebrated in what was a fitting climax to what had turned out to be a wonderful day in this most special of settings.
At the end of Mass, Bishop Peter formally blessed the AOS Standard carried by Frank Barrett, before Martin Foley, AOS National Director addressed the congregation, thanking them for all their practical, financial and prayerful support. Pilgrims were able to view material and literature about the work of the AOS which was displayed in St Aidan’s Catholic Church.
Many thanks to all who made the trip to Holy Island, bearing in mind the uncertainty of the conditions on the Saturday morning. We are delighted that you were rewarded with such a fitting end to the day in glorious sunshine.
Tony McAvoy, AOS North East Regional Co-ordinator