Lourdes Pilgrimage 2012 - Friday 31st August

After a wonderful week's pilgrimage in Lourdes, on Friday 31st August it was time for the Catholic Association and its partner groups, including the British Province of Carmelites, to pack-up and head for home. Assisted Pilgrims in the Accueil Notre Dame were woken by helpers at 5am in order to be ready for early flights.

The final morning in the Accueil Notre Dame.

The last morning of service in the dining room.

Tea and coffee - essential supplies, particularly at 5am! - are among
the last things to be packed away at the end of the pilgrimage.

Fr. Tony Lester, O.Carm., and young helpers
transporting Assisted Pilgrims' luggage.

Getting all the luggage and equipment out of the Accueil and on the right transport home can be a real logistical challenge, but one which the Carmelite and other helpers rose to!

Most pilgrims were on early flights or trains, but for those staying a little longer a final Mass was celebrated in the St. Bernadette Church, not far from the monastery of Carmelite nuns in Lourdes.

Two Lay Carmelites at the final Mass: Angela Bergström-Allen (York Carmelite Spirituality Group) and Dot Wade ('Carmel in the City' Spirituality Group in London)

Servers and clergy processing into the final Mass.

The presider at Mass was Monsignor William Saunders,
a Southwark priest and pilgrimage director of the Catholic Association.

Those at Mass prayed for those whose journey home had already begun.

Meanwhile, Assisted Pilgrims travelling home waited for a short time in the transit lounge on the top floor of the Accueil Notre Dame.

A last chance for APs and their carers to chat in the transit lounge.

Both Assisted Pilgrims and their helpers are changed by their experience of Lourdes.

Phyllis Kelly, one of the Assisted Pilgrims in the Carmelite group, who comes from the Carmelite-served parish of English Martyrs in Walworth, south London.

Rose Aqui, another Assisted Pilgrim in the Carmelite group from Walworth.

Helen Carroll, an Assisted Pilgrim in the Carmelite group
who comes from Sheffield.

Carmelite group handmaid (helper) Shell Roca with
Mike Elmore, an Assisted Pilgrim from Peterborough.

Waiting patiently for the transport to Lourdes airport.

Pilgrims to Lourdes can become friends for life.

Setting off home. The Assisted Pilgrims were transported to the airport
in specially adapted buses known as 'fourgons'.

Pilgrims on board the fourgon giving a fond wave goodbye to Lourdes.

Members of the Carmelite team waving off the APs in the first fourgon.

Just as Carmelite group volunteers had been the first to arrive and set-up in the Accueil, so they were the last to leave, having carried out various final tasks.

Tired but happy: Margaret Parry, Shell Roca and Angela Bergström-Allen
of the Carmelite group take a deep breath after the last APs leave the Accueil.

Members of the Young Helpers' Group had a few hours left in Lourdes
before their overnight coach journey back to Britain.

The Carmelite advance party made its journey home on Saturday 1st September. As the train pulled out of Lourdes and passed the Grotto, the Carmelites said a final 'Hail Mary' in thanksgiving for a wonderful week.

Already planning has begun for the 2013 Carmelite pilgrimage to Lourdes with the Catholic Association, which will take place between 23rd and 30th August.

To read about the previous day please click here.

Photography: Johan Bergström-Allen, T.O.C.