Altar boy from Forest Gate helps Catholic pilgrimage in Lourdes, France

10:34 01 August 2014

Sean Jacobs (right) with Father John Moloney at St Anthony

Sean Jacobs (right) with Father John Moloney at St Anthony's Church


A disabled altar boy from a parish church in Forest Gate flew to France this week to accompany a Catholic pilgrimage to the holy site of Lourdes.

Sean Jacobs, 56, has been helping out at St Anthony’s Church for around 15 years, and is making his second trip in recent months to Lourdes, scene of miraculous healings and holy apparitions.

Father John Moloney, parish priest for St Anthony’s, said Sean is loved by the congregation he serves.

“Sean goes two or three times a year to Lourdes and he accompanies the pilgrimage there,” he said.

“He has a disability but he’s very autonomous and he helps the mass service everyday at 7.45am.

“His parents have lived here all their lives. He retired about ten years ago and since then he has been serving in the church.

“People love him. He brings a lot of joy to people.”

Lourdes has become a major destination for Roman Catholics, with thousands attending mass a century and a half after reports of the first holy “sighting”.

“Lourdes is one of the biggest pilgrimages,” said Father Moloney. “It’s where Mary appeared to a little girl called Bernadette 150 years ago.

“She revealed herself as the immaculate conception.

“There are many healings there and people flock there in huge numbers.

“There’s a long tradition in the UK for people to go.”

St Anthony’s neo-Gothic design church in St Anthony’s Road was built for the Franciscan order - the followers of St Francis of Assisi, from whom the current Pope took his name - around 1892, mainly for Irish immigrants and European Catholics.

The church now serves more than 100 nationalities, and holds special mass services for Tamil, Spanish South American and Afro-Caribbean communities.

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