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Carmelite Pilgrimage to Lourdes - August 2017

The British Province of Carmelites will be making its annual pilgrimage to Lourdes between 18th and 25th August 2017 with the Catholic Association, a charity that has over 100 years' experience of accompanying pilgrims to Our Lady's shrine in the French Pyrenees.

The Torchlight Marian Procession takes place every evening in Lourdes.

This Year's Pastoral Theme
Every year the Lourdes Sanctuaries nominate a "pastoral theme" to help pilgrimages focus on a particular aspect of the message of Lourdes. This year's theme is "The Almighty has done great things for me!", inspired by Mary's Magnificat.

A Carmelite friar celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation in Lourdes.

Carmelites and the Catholic Association
The Catholic Association (C.A.) acts as an umbrella organisation for a number of dioceses and groups who come on pilgrimage to Lourdes together, including the British Province of Carmelites. Typically we number about 50 in a pilgrimage of some 800 people.

The Carmelite group within the Catholic Association in 2015.

The whole Catholic Association pilgrimage in 2015.

The C.A. has over a hundred years' experience of bringing pilgrims to Lourdes, especially those who are sick and disabled. We accompany to Lourdes several Assisted Pilgrims (APs, sometimes known as "sick pilgrims"), thanks to teams of professional and volunteer carers (doctors, nurses, general helpers). You would be welcome to join us either as an Assisted Pilgrim, a helper, or simply as a regular pilgrim within our group.

Anyone is welcome to join the Carmelite pilgrimage group. Many of our participants are either members of the Carmelite Family (friars, women religious, or lay Carmelites), or are associated with a community or ministry of the Order (such as a Carmelite parish or shrine), but this is not essential; anyone who is happy to be part of our group is very welcome to journey with us.

Pilgrims wishing to travel under the Carmelite banner this year should first read the covering letter from the Pilgrimage Director which explains more about the week.

The Carmelite pilgrimage brings together friends old and new.

Processing through the Lourdes Sanctuary.

Publicising the pilgrimage
We are always looking to welcome new and returning pilgrims, and are grateful for your help in publicising our trip to Lourdes. You might like to download and display a poster  for this year's Carmelite pilgrimage. You can also download and circulate intentions forms for those wishing to send prayer petitions with us to Lourdes.

The Catholic Association Pilgrimage's Mass organised by Children.

Travel with Tangney Tours
Most pilgrims who come to Lourdes with the Catholic Association arrange travel and accommodation via the officially designated travel agent, Tangney Tours. This year's Tangney's brochure and booking form include full details of travel options and prices. Pilgrims who have not been to Lourdes before are strongly recommended to book a place on the Carmelite pilgrimage via Tangney Tours, who require all pilgrims to take out travel insurance, or provide evidence of their own cover. There is no Carmelite group hotel as such; you can choose to stay where you like, and we come together as a Carmelite group at various points in the week. Some of the group travel by train, whilst most travel by air. Most young helpers travel by coach from London.

Pilgrims who wish to register as an assisted (sick) pilgrim are asked initally to complete the Tangneys booking form. Tangneys may request further information from assisted pilgrims to be passed on to the pilgrimage's Chief Medical Officer. Pilgrims booking via Tangneys will also be sent an information letter/application form asking if they wish to volunteer as a helper; to download the letter/form please click here.

Independent travellers

Pilgrims who know Lourdes well, and are confident to travel on their own - making their own arrangements for travel to/from Lourdes and accommodation there - are welcome to join the Catholic Association as independent travellers. However, in order to officially register as a pilgrim with the Carmelite group and thus receive the pilgrimage programme, badge and handbook, independent travellers must register by contacting the Carmelite Pilgrimage Director (details below). Independent travellers who are coming as helpers must likewise register with the Chief Brancardier and Handmaid, having first read their letter to helpers and application form. Independent travellers are strongly advised to arrange their own comprehensive travel insurance.

The nurses' team briefing at the start of the pilgrimage.

Carmelite friars receiving and administering the Sacrament of the Sick in Lourdes.

Coming to Lourdes as an 'Assisted' (sick) Pilgrim
Since the days of the apparitions in 1858, Lourdes has enjoyed a reputation as a place of healing: physical, mental and spiritual. The Catholic Association accompanies approximately 150 "Assisted Pilgrims" (APs) to Lourdes who require varying degrees of physical care.

Approximately 100 of these are "Hotel APs"
who stay in hotels in the town of Lourdes. They are visited as often as needed by pilgrimage nurses, and they are provided with wheelchairs if necessary, and volunteer helpers to push them.

Some 50 or so APs are based in the Accueil Notre Dame, the 'house of welcome' within the Lourdes Sanctuary itself, that is a cross between a hotel and a hospice. It provides a friendly style of shared accommodation, whilst also affording additional medical equipment for those who need it. Accueil APs receive meals within the Accueil, where there is a full-time staff of helpers who accompany them to the liturgies and on excursions into the town and surrounding countryside.

Additionally some 30 or so children and adults with learning difficulties come to Lourdes under the Catholic Association umbrella as members of The Glanfield Children's Group. The Glanfield Group welcomes children and young people who have a wide range of illnesses and disabilities, or who are socially deprived. The Group stays in one of the hotels in Lourdes, and runs a programme in parallel with the main pilgrimage.

Carmelites and fellow pilgrims at the Grotto.

Coming to Lourdes as a helper
One of the common experiences of pilgrims to Lourdes is that we all help each other in a variety of ways, physically or spirituality. Coming to Lourdes explicitly as a helper is enormously rewarding for many pilgrims. In order to accompany Assisted Pilgrims (APs, sometimes known as "sick pilgrims"), the Catholic Association relies on professionals and amateurs who volunteer as helpers. The pilgrimage is always keen to welcome doctors, nurses, and general helpers (male 'brancardiers' and female 'handmaids') over the age of 16. Young helpers (aged 16-25) are organised as a specific group within the pilgrimage, and along with other helpers are organised into teams for different roles. The helpers are coordinated by a social and spiritual organisation known as the Catholic Association Hospitalité.

As well as requiring carers to see to the physical needs of APs, the Catholic Association welcomes clergy and religious in chaplaincy roles, working with the Chaplain to the Sick. Volunteers for the Music Group are also appreciated for their work in supporting prayer and liturgy during the pilgrimage. Those with specific skills, such as physiotherapy and aromatherapy, are also welcomed in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer.

In addition to carers for adults, the pilgrimage welcomes childminders as part of the Helpers' Children's Programme (HCP group), which operates a crèche so that parents can volunteer as helpers.

All helpers who are to be in regular contact with children or vulnerable adults must comply with the Catholic Association's Safeguarding Procedures and Code of Conduct, which includes completing a DBS (Disclosure & Barring Service) check prior to the pilgrimage.

Deciding what 'category' of pilgrim you belong to
As the description above states, our pilgrimage is open to a wide variety of different pilgrims; please check the list below to see which information/booking forms are relevant to you. You can download documentation in PDF format by clicking on the blue hyperlinks.

Able-bodied pilgrims wishing to spend time in Europe’s best-known Marian shrine, staying in a hotel and taking part in the C.A.’s full spiritual programme, either as a regular pilgrim or as a volunteer helper ... Having read the CA brochure and letter from the Carmelite Director you need to register with the pilgrimage, either by completing a booking form from Tangney Tours, or by registering with the Heads of Service as an independent traveller (responsible for your own travel and accommodation). Independent travellers who wish to be helpers must complete the helper application form. Pilgrims booking through Tangneys will be sent a copy of the letter asking if they are willing to volunteer as a helper, or it can be downloaded by clicking here. All Assisted (Sick) Pilgrims, and helpers with medical conditions, must complete the medical information section on the Tangneys booking form; Tangneys may then send you a second form asking for further details. Young adults or nurses wishing to help, please see below.

'Assisted’ (sick) Pilgrims who need full or occasional medical support either in hotels or in the Accueil Notre Dame (house of welcome) within the Sanctuary ... Assisted pilgrims staying in the Accueil cannot travel independently; they must travel with Tangney Tours. The first stage of the application process is to complete the booking form from Tangney Tours. Upon booking, Tangneys may request further information, and will send a more detailed medical form or you may download it here to be returned to the pilgrimage's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nuala Mellows (address on the form) by the deadline of 30 June 2017. If the pilgrim is accepted by the Medical Officer, he/she will be contacted regarding other booking arrangements and payments. The cost of staying in the Accueil this year is £767.00. Assisted pilgrims requiring less care who wish to stay in hotels should complete the Tangneys booking form. For information about the Glanfield Group for sick and disabled children and young adults, please contact the Carmelite Pilgrimage Director (details below).

Young helpers (aged 16 - 25) who are willing to assist on the pilgrimage ... There is a subsidised rate for young helpers of £525.00. The Young Helpers booking form must be returned to the Youth Group leaders in Whitstable,  by 1st June 2017. An information sheet is available here.

Qualified Nurses and Doctors or other medical professionals (pharmacists, physiotherapists, etc.) who are willing to assist on the pilgrimage ... Nurses please complete the nurses' application form. Some special accommodation and/or funding may be available for nurses. Doctors and other medical professionals should contact the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Nuala Mellows; to email her click here.

Hard copies of all the paperwork mentioned above can be obtained from the Pilgrimage Director of the British Province of Carmelites, Mr. Johan Bergström-Allen (pictured), who is also happy to answer any questions you might have:
Carmelite Communications & Outreach Office
More House, Heslington, York, YO10 5DX

Tel: 01904 411521
Click here to email Johan