A Spiritual Journey to Lourdes for Rectory House Resident

A highlight of 2016 for one of Rectory House’s residents Eileen Stabler-Smith was her pilgrimage, at the age of 84, to Lourdes. Eileen moved to Rectory House in March from another local home which was closing.

Learning of Eileen’s very strong faith and life history, Home Manager Scarlett Macdonald invited her to join the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton annual pilgrimage. The diocese’s 2016 group numbered almost 900 people, including able and assisted pilgrims, volunteer helpers, nurses, doctors and chaplains, travelling by coach and plane.

The week-long spiritual journey to the world famous shrine of healing had enormous significance for Eileen as not only was she in poor health, she previously visited Lourdes in the 1970s as a Carmelite nun.

Ensuring Eileen was fit enough to make the trip was a significant responsibility, involving Rectory House nurses working with the GP and Arundel & Brighton’s medical team towards the departure date of 29th July.

Scarlett says:
“It was a huge undertaking, and just the day before Eileen was due to leave the doctor wasn’t going to let her fly. In the end she was considered well enough and flew with a nurse from the diocesan team.”

Scarlett herself had gone ahead to be in Lourdes to greet Eileen in France and support her during the week – just one of a vast support team to help people achieve their spiritual wishes. Eileen stayed in a hospital with many  other assisted pilgrims. On arrival, she was delighted to meet Bishop Richard Moth from the diocese who had stayed up to welcome the sickest pilgrims of the group whose flight was delayed to 2.30am.

Eileen and Scarlett spent most of the week as part of the Family Group, which joins the rest of the pilgrimage for the majority of the main events. A packed programme of gatherings, masses and processions was interspersed with visits to The Grotto where St Bernadette experienced visions of the Virgin Mary, The Baths of ‘miracle cure’ water, and Sanctuaries (churches) in the Pyrenean town.

“I believe Eileen benefited enormously spiritually from the pilgrimage,” explains Scarlett. “She went in the baths, and the icing on the cake was visiting the Monastery, where nuns live, which she had been to when a nun herself.”

Subsequently, Eileen left the order, married and had three children including Mary who visits her often at Rectory House. Other visitors include friends from the local Catholic Church which she was heavily involved with for many years.

“Eileen was also a nurse during her life, and likes to watch the care team and make witty remarks about our technique. She’s even helped them make beds ‘properly’!” smiles Scarlett. “She’s an amazing lady, often the life and soul, and a real matriarch.”

If you would like to find out more about life at Rectory House, please contact us on 0808 223 5530  or email Scarlett on manager.rectory@CaringHomes.org.

Rectory House Nursing Home

Home Manager

Fiona Wiederkehr


West Street,
West Sussex,
BN15 0DA

0808 223 5530
View care home

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