Lourdes Pilgrimage 2011 - Friday 19th August

Today the British Province of Carmelites began its annual pilgrimage to Our Lady's shrine in Lourdes, as part of the Catholic Association. This is the fourth year in which the Carmelites have taken part in the pilgrimage organised by the Association, which first began bringing pilgrims to the Pyrenean shrine in 1901.

For two of our younger pilgrims, Karisha George and David Monteith, the pilgrimage began a day earlier, as they travelled with the rest of the Young Helpers Group by coach from Southwark's Catholic Cathedral. After a 20-hour journey they arrived tired but excited to be in Lourdes for the first time.

The rest of the pilgrimage travelled by air from London Stansted or Manchester, or by rail from London via Paris.

This year the pilgrimage numbers in total about 800 people, including a large number of Assisted Pilgrims who are sick or disabled. They stay either in hotels, or in the Accueil Notre Dame which roughly translates as Our Lady's House of Welcome. Some 40 Assisted Pilgrims are staying in the Accueil this week. To enable their welcome the Catholic Association has a team of some 300 helpers, including doctors, nurses, and other volunteers (the women known as 'handmaids' and the men as 'brancardiers').

The first helpers arrived some hours ahead of the first Assisted Pilgrims and began to set up the Accueil, breaking briefly for a celebration of the Eucharist to pray for those en route.

The advance party of pilgrims at prayer in the Accueil Notre Dame.

Members of the Carmelite group are among those who are helping to provide
meals for Assisted Pilgrims in the Accueil Notre Dame.

When the Assisted Pilgrims arrived on Friday evening they were offered food and many were ready to rest after a day of travel. We have arrived safely at Our Lady's shrine, and there is much anticipation about the days ahead...

Click here to read about Saturday 21st August.

Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen.