St Paul’s Primary, Paulsgrove Pilgrimage to Portsmouth Cathedral

Holy Door at Portsmouth Cathedral

Holy Door at Portsmouth Cathedral

As part of their Year of Mercy celebrations the pupils from St Paul’s Catholic Primary, Paulsgrove undertook a pilgrimage to Portsmouth Cathedral. Patrick , our CAFOD Education Volunteer then sent us this account of the pilgrimage:

“Children from St Paul’s School, Paulsgrove, have continued to celebrate their Jubilee Year of Mercy with a pilgrimage to St John’s Cathedral in Portsmouth where they thought about mercy and what it is to be ‘Merciful as our Heavenly Father is merciful’.

“Twenty-four children from across the year groups were met by Rev Fr John-Paul Lyttle, Assistant Priest at the Cathedral. Fr. J-P, as he introduced himself, welcomed everyone to “The Mother-Church of the Diocese” and explained the role of the Bishop and the significance of his official chair, The Cathedra.

Bishop's chair

Bishop’s chair in Portsmouth Cathedral

“He explained, too, the role of Deacons, whose chairs are positioned either side of the Cathedra. Father J-P drew attention to Bishop Philip’s personal coat of arms with the inscription “In Corde Jesu” (In the Heart of Jesus). The coat of arms includes the image of a deer quenching his thirst. This reminds us of the last words of Jesus from the cross, “I Thirst”, as he died for our sins. Jesus gave up his life to show us his mercy.

“We then looked at the altar where the sacrifice of the Mass is celebrated. We were reminded that Jesus sat at a large table with his apostles on that first Holy Thursday when he broke the bread and said, “This is my body” and then over the chalice he said “This is my blood”. Next Father J-P told us about the beautiful ambo, from where the epistles are read and where the Deacon announces the Gospel of the Lord.

Ambo in Portsmouth Cathedral

Ambo in Portsmouth Cathedral

“We moved then to the Sacred Heart Altar, above which the tabernacle is situated. We genuflected to the Blessed Sacrament, ‘The Bread of Life’, which is ‘reserved’ in the tabernacle for two reasons. First, it is for distribution to the sick and housebound who cannot get to Mass. The second reason is for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus is there always and we are free to visit Him and to spend time in prayer as well as in silence.


“Our silence allows Jesus to speak to us as we are all his children and he knows each of us by name. At the Baptismal Font, Fr J-P reminded us that we become “Christ-Like” at our baptism and that we are all equal in the eyes of God and we should respect and love all people as Christ does. He pointed out to us the holy oils of chrism, catechumens and the sick, which were blessed at the chrism Mass by Bishop Philip during Holy Week.

“At Our Lady’s Altar we were reminded that Mary is the mother of Jesus and our mother too, since Jesus committed us to her maternal care from the cross. As Mary is our mother, she loves and cares for us all and she will listen to our prayers. That is why people light candles as they offer their prayers and requests to Our Lady. “Our Lady, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Pray for us.” The children were given the opportunity to explore the Cathedral before gathering in St John’s Chapel, beneath the impressive East Windows.


“The children sat in prayerful silence as Father J-P lead the prayers. We were then treated to a beautiful enactment of the story of “The Prodigal Son” which was read by a number of the children. This parable was chosen because of the mercy shown by the Father at the return of his son who was lost.

The children then wrote messages on “How we can be merciful”. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, has given us this Jubilee Year of Mercy. God is merciful and he invites us to be merciful too. These messages were placed on the altar. Messages of Hope for refugees have been written too and these will be sent to CAFOD for distribution to refugees. In the Year of Mercy, we are invited to make a pilgrimage, a sacred journey, to a special place and to pass through the Holy Door in merciful prayer.


We proceeded to the Cathedral’s Holy Door and said prayers outside in preparation for our passage through the Holy Door, leaving our old ways behind and moving into our new lives, being merciful as our Father is merciful.”

This was a deeply thought provoking and prayerful pilgrimage in which the children were fully engaged and totally responsive to the call to be merciful and to care for the outsider in this Year of Mercy.

Thank you so much to everyone at St Paul’s Catholic primary for your continued support and our special thanks to Father John-Paul Lyttlefor all his encouragement and help. Thank you too to our great volunteers Patrick and Isobel for organising this and sending us these great photos.  We really appreciate all you do.

Send a message of hope for refugees and explore our pilgrimage on the refugee crisis.

Find out how CAFOD is responding to the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East.

Explore our Year of Mercy resources for primary schools.

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