RC Diocese of Aberdeen

Annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Pluscarden Abbey

Annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to Pluscarden Abbey

It was a bright sunny day for the Feast of St John the Baptist and the annual Aberdeen Diocesan Pilgrimage to Pluscarden, on the last Sunday of June. With a focus upon the theme of education, it was timely in the wake of the statement by Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who recently said the government was an ‘unequivocal supporter’ of Catholic schools and committed a further £100,000 of funding to the Catholic Teacher Education programme.

Bishop Hugh Gilbert said:

“This year’s diocesan pilgrimage was an occasion for the diocese to see itself in its rich diversity: of age, ethnic background, parishes, groups and schools, and spiritual gifts. It was an occasion too, in the Centenary of the Education Act, to reflect more widely on our responsibilities towards our children. It was a joyful event, blessed by sunshine and grace.”

With so many children in attendance, John Horton, (who was appointed last year to the role of Diocesan Choral Director for Catholic Schools), made a special contribution with pupils from many Catholic Primary Schools, (as well as other youngsters), combining their efforts to sing the parts of the Mass and more, reminding us of the joyous sound of young voices singing so beautifully, including from Latin texts. This extraordinary celebration allowed the packed Abbey to reflect on one hundred years of Scottish Catholic education, working in partnership with the State.

The young people had the opportunity to join in harmony with the monks of Pluscarden Abbey and the Cathedral organist, and included the Aberdeen Diocesan Choir, the African Choir and ‘Kids 4 Jesus’, all singing to great effect while venerating Our Blessed Lady on the Feast of St John the Baptist. All were very appreciative of the hard work which made it such a memorable event.

At the close of the pilgrimage,  there was a commemorative cake which the Bishop cut, assisted by some of the children!

Bishop Hugh’s homily reflected the Feast of St John the Baptist along with the context of the joyful occasion.

He said:

“There’s something else remarkable in today’s Gospel. It doesn’t just mention John’s birth. The story goes on: ‘The child grew and his spirit matured.’ It’s a further stage. Here we are surrounded by children and young people. Here six of our seven Primary Schools are represented. Here are the Kids for Jesus, children from Aberdeen’s Polish St Stanislaus school. Here are youth groups from Aberdeen and Elgin and elsewhere, led by the St Andrew Community and the Dominican Sisters. And, together in Christ, the one, holy catholic and apostolic Church gathered in this place, we recall the centenary year of the Education Act (Scotland), a hundred years of partnership between the Catholic community and local government. How good to be here! How right and just to thank all those who keep our schools afloat and make them the bright communities of faith and learning and good values that they are! And how good too to hear the value of that 1918 Act and of the 350+ Schools we enjoy as a result recently so ringingly reaffirmed by the First Minister. Let’s not forget that until the Catholic Relief Act of 1778 to open a Catholic School in England, Wales or Scotland was a crime, and the punishment life imprisonment. Yes, praise the Lord. And to us, like a shooting star and a guiding star, comes this simple word of the Lord: ‘The child grew and his spirit matured.’ On one occasion, Jesus took a child and set him in the middle of his disciples. That’s what’s happening today.”


Photograph’s Courtesy of Michal Wachucik