At 1.30pm the beautiful cloudless sky of the morning became overcast and a torrential downpour occurred sending pilgrims rushing to St Winefride`s Church, the Parish Centre and their vehicles for shelter. The rain continued until 2.10pm when it just as suddenly stopped. In nearby towns it continued with much flooding for some 2 to 3 hours.
As soon as the rain stopped, clergy, religious and other pilgrims assembled in Well Street at St Winefride`s Church. The procession moved off promptly at 2.30pm led by the Crucifer and acolytes followed by altar servers; children and their teachers; the processional statue of St Winefride carried by four members of the Knights of St Columba; members of the U.C.M. with their banner; the clergy; Archbishop Smith of Cardiff, Bishop Jabal ê of Menevia, with Bishop Regan of Wrexham and the Cardinal carrying the relic of St Winefride; escorted by the Wrexham Diocese Knights of St Gregory, Jim Kelly and David Schwarz, together with Bernard Tansey of Westminster all in uniform; Mr Jim Kelly KSG, The Grand President of The Catenians and Mr John Doran, Deputy Supreme Knight of St Columba.
The great throng of pilgrims including religious followed numbering some 2,400 in total. The road down the Well Hill had been closed to all traffic and the procession arrived to fill the Well Gardens by 3.00pm.
The Cardinal and Bishops in Choir Dress for the procession vested for Mass at the altar in the Well gardens. The vestments on the feast day of the martyrdom of St Winefride were of course red. The Cardinal wore the beautiful Mostyn Mitre depicting St Winefride. Mass commenced at 3.10pm with the Cardinal as principal concelebrant. St Winefride`s parish choir together with representatives of the Diocesan choir sang the Mass under the choirmaster Simon Hughes.
The Cardinal`s homily is included in full in the present directory, but his telling comment is worthy testimony of the continued devotion of pilgrims here at St Winefride`s Shrine:
I am very conscious that Holywell is still a living Shrine, not just a focus of ancient memo, every part of Wales - and indeed from England and abroad - to join in the celebration of Mass, to give thanks for the gift of Faith and to pray for physical and spiritual healing. As Catholics we need places of pilgrimage such as this to focus our faith and to give expression to the presence of God in our world.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor offers the relic of St Winefride for a pilgrim to venerate.
Some 1600 pilgrims received the Blessed Sacrament during Mass.
Following the final blessing the Cardinal carrying the Relic of St Winefride led the Archbishop and Bishops of the Welsh Province, clergy, children and handicapped followed by the multitude of pilgrims to the Well Crypt Shrine for the veneration of the relic. It took an hour for the great number to pass through the Crypt for the veneration and conclude the pilgrimage.
The Cardinal left by car to catch the train for Westminster saying that he prayed to be able to come again on pilgrimage to St Winefride`s Well.
It had been a very successful day, when the rain ceased during the pilgrimage procession, Mass and veneration of the relic.
We thank Flintshire County Highways Department and the North Wales Police for ensuring that everyone had a safe and trouble free enjoyable day.
The new initiative of the `park & ride` shuttle service from the Well back up the Well Hill to the town centre car parks and the parish centre was used by just over 750 pilgrims and clearly this practical facility must be a permanent service on the Annual Pilgrimage day in the future. During the day the parish UCM provided refreshments for over 800 pilgrims in the Parish Centre.
Mr Kevin Carney the procession Marshall and his Assistants with their distinctive armbands enabled the celebrations throughout the day to proceed smoothly and without fuss contributing to a successful pilgrimage to be long remembered by all present.
Finally it was with great delight that since the formation of the new Welsh Province, with three Dioceses, in 1987 we celebrated our National Annual pilgrimage to St Winefride`s Shrine with both the Cardinal and our three Bishops being able to be present.