Gillian Alborough entered the Catholic Church at Easter Vigil 2010. I was blessed to share in her journey as her email/penpal through the Coming Home Network Int'l program of converts helping converts.
Here is a portion of the email, reprinted with her permission:
We had a good trip down to Birmingham (although a very early start – we had to be at St Mary’s at 4.10am.) We prayed the Rosary in the coach together. It was a long walk from the coachpark to the park - and it was raining) but we talked and chatted as we walked along.
When we got to the park we found ourselves places on the hillside.
There was a second stage where there was singing and reading whilst we waited. There was such a sense of anticipation. Gradually the rain cleared.
When the Holy Father arrived, there was quiet and reverence - there was such a peace over the whole place. We were outside - I thought it would be like a picnic - but it was as if we were in a cathedral. Everyone fully participating in the Mass.
I felt that although there were 65000 people there - he was there for me. An individual thing. He is our shepherd and he cares about each of us – from the little baby he opened the window for and kissed - to the eldest person there.
The Mass was beautiful and I just felt I belonged. I felt I received Holy Communion from his hand - well from the hand of a Priest in his place. I am so very glad I am a Catholic.
The Diocese of Birmingham put on a magnificent Mass (I hope you managed to see some of it on EWTN) and everything was very well organised. The altar and the backdrops were beautiful. The chair that the Holy Father sat on had the insignia of Henry John Newman. They also made sure our basic needs were met with sufficient toilets and food outlets.
The walk back to the coach was tiring - it seemed even longer than the one going - mainly because by that time my feet were sore. That is what a pilgrimage is all about - going - attending and receiving and then returning home - to share the blessing with everyone.