Friday, 16 March 2012

How Did the Handicapped Children's Pilgrimage Trust Come About?

Dr Michael Strode (now a Cistercian Monk) with Cardinal O'Brien
Peter Strode writes:
How did HCPT happen?
The story of the Handicapped Children’s Pilgrimage Trust began in 1954. At that time Dr Michael Strode was working at Chailey Heritage Craft School in Sussex, an establishment which was both a hospital and school for children with long term disabilities. Seeing that the Anglican Chaplain had organised a holiday for some of the children Dr Michael wondered whether something similar might be done for the Roman Catholic children. So, in the spirit of ‘not wishing to be outdone,’ he decided to take a group of four boys to Lourdes, aided by his friend Peter Keevney, another member of staff.

The 1954 experiment was a great success, but in 1955 it was decided that the party should join the National School’s Pilgrimage, rather than the diocesan pilgrimage with which they had travelled previously. The little group was noticed by the Bishop leading the pilgrimage, and the following year, 1956, he asked Michael and Peter to extend the scope of their work. This meant taking children from places other than Chailey, appealing for funds, seeking extra helpers and the formation of a Charitable Trust, HCPT.

The Trustees of the newly formed charity were nothing if not adventurous, appealing for funds to take as many as 50 children to Lourdes! Their boldness was rewarded, and in 1957, the year of HCPT’s first official pilgrimage, 43 children accompanied by 28 helpers joined the National School’s Pilgrimage. Today the HCPT Easter pilgrimage numbers around 5000, but through the system of ‘family groups’ it maintains the quality of care and love with which it began.

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