My Catholic faith is something that has always been important to me. As any religious person will tell you it is the thing that, whilst not necessarily defining you as a person, is at the heart of the way you live your life and the decisions you make.

One of my lifelong aspirations has been to go on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. This is a town in France where it is said in Catholic writings that Our Lady of Lourdes (believed to be the Virgin Mary) appeared to a local girl called Bernadette Soubiros several times. Since then it has become a holy place and one that sees upwards of 5 million visitors a year.

I’m so happy to say that in 2012 I realised my ambition and went on a pilgrimage of my own to this wonderful place. Some friends from my parish church were there with me, which made the experience all the more special and means I can share memories and reminisce with them in the future.

Whilst there I went to the famous Grotto of Massabielle  - where the visions were said to have happened, and I also attended lots of services, some of which were at night and were candle lit.

It was a magical journey and one which has made me many new friends, but most importantly has enhanced my own faith and given me an amazing religious experience which will remain with me forever.