Carmelite Pilgrimage to Lourdes 2011 Updates

Between 19th and 26th August 2011 the British Province of Carmelites made its annual pilgrimage to Lourdes with the Catholic Association. By following the links below you will find daily reports - photos and write-ups - from the pilgrimage group. During the pilgrimage we offered daily prayers at the Grotto for our friends and benefactors. Live television footage from the Grotto and other parts of the Domaine can be viewed online by clicking here.

Lourdes Blogs

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.

The first morning of the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes is always a busy one as the Catholic Association (C.A.) and its constituent groups settle in. Always the first priority is the care of our Assisted (sick and disabled) Pilgrims in the Accueil Notre Dame, the 'House of Welcome' that is something between a hotel and a hospital.

The personal care of our Assisted Pilgrims is the responsibility of medical professionals and volunteers helpers. This year one of the 'Core Teams' of volunteers is led by a Carmelite friar, Fr. Antony Lester, and working on his team is fellow friar Bro. Gerard Walsh. Their team had an early start in the Accueil, helping Assisted Pilgrims to wash and dress.

Altogether some 300 volunteers make possible the care of more than 100 Assisted Pilgrims in the Accueil and in the hotels. The coordination of the volunteers is overseen by the 'Heads of Service', consisting of the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Nurse, the Chief Brancardier and Chief Handmaid (the last two coordinating general male and female volunteers). This year the pilgrimage has a new Chief Brancardier, Matthew Betts, and the Carmelites are very proud that he is a member of our group. He and the other Heads of Service welcomed volunteers at a mid-morning briefing.

The new 'Chief Branc'' Matt Betts (left) welcoming the volunteers.

The Chief Branc Matt Betts and Chief Handmaid Anna Jackson (centre) rely on
over 100 young helpers aged 17-25 who assist with pushing wheelchairs
and providing personal care for Assisted Pilgrims.

As well as providing brancardiers and handmaids, the Carmelite group includes a nurse. The nurses met on Saturday morning to discuss the week ahead. Nursing care is provided both in the Acceuil, and to Assisted Pilgrims staying in hotels.

The nursing team's first morning briefing.

After lunch the Carmelite group, which consists of approximately 40 pilgrims, met for some social and spiritual time. The pilgrims were welcomed by the group's Pilgrimage Director, Johan Bergström-Allen, a Lay Carmelite who has been coming to Lourdes for nearly twenty years. One of the friars in the group, Fr. Francis Kemsley, then offered a short reflection on the 'Our Father'. The pastoral theme of this year's pilgrimage is "With Bernadette, Praying the Our Father", and the Lord's Prayer will be an important focus for reflection during the week.

The Carmelite group then processed down to the St. Bernadette Church in the main Sanctuary area for the Catholic Association's Gathering Mass. This is the first occasion when the whole pilgrimage comes together as one group, and it is always a moment of excitement and anticipation as old friendships are renewed and new ones are formed.

Catholic Association pilgrims coming together for the Gathering Mass.

Because of its reputation as a place of healing and compassion,
Assisted Pilgrims are always given pride of place at celebrations in Lourdes.

The Catholic Association banner and pilgrimage candle
led the entrance procession at the Gathering Mass.

During the Mass signing for the deaf was provided by Shell Roca, a member of the Carmelite group. The logistics of all the Catholic Association's ceremonies are coordinated by the Carmelite Pilgrimage Director.

Shell Roca signing for the deaf and hard of hearing.

Shell Roca signing during the Mass.

The principal celebrant at the Mass was Rt. Rev. Paul Hendricks, an auxilliary bishop in Southwark Archdiocese. Bishop Paul is Chair of the Catholic Association. He was joined at the altar by Howard Tripp (auxilliary bishop emeritus of Southwark), and many priests and deacons from the various groups that come together under the Catholic Association banner: the British Province of Carmelites; the Glanfield Children's Group; Stonyhurst College in Lancashire; and the dioceses of Southwark, East Anglia, Northampton, Clifton and Portsmouth.

Members of the Glanfield Children's Group, which brings sick, disabled
and disadvantaged children to Lourdes.

Several bishops were not able to be with their diocesan groups at the Gathering Mass as they were attending World Youth Day in Madrid, but will be arriving in Lourdes on Monday. Sadly since our last pilgrimage Bishop Michael Evans of East Anglia has died, and he was among the deceased pilgrims remembered during the homily and bidding prayers.

Servers and Deacons at the Gathering Mass.

After the homily there was an opportunity for helpers to have their hands anointed with oil as a prayer for God's blessing on their work during the week ahead.

Fr. Francis Kemsley blessing the hands of helpers during the Gathering Mass.

Fr. Francis Kemsley blessing the hands of helpers during the Gathering Mass.

Bishop Paul Hendricks blessing helpers' hands.

The clergy gathered at the altar during the Gathering Mass.

At the end of Mass, helpers who have undertaken a commitment to return with the pilgrimage were admitted as ordinary or full members of the Catholic Association Hospitalité, the confraternity that coordinates the volunteers' activities and provides them with social and spiritual support. Congratulations to members of the Carmelite group who made their commitment as Hospitalité members, including Tracey Hemelge, and Hugh and Margaret Parry.

Carmelite group member and Secretary of the C.A. Hospitalité Nimal Hemelge
inviting new members of the Hospitalité to come forward and shake hands
with the Heads of Service behind him.

Tracey Hemelge receiving her Hospitalité insignia from the organisation's President

Hugh Parry being presented with his Hospitalité insignia, the sign of service.

On Saturday evening the Catholic Association took part in the Marian Torchlight Procession. A moving sight for the Carmelites present was Brother Ged Walsh who carried the cross at the head of the procession.

Click here to read about Friday 19th August
Click here to read about Sunday 21st August

Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen; Photo Lacaze; Photo Viron.

Sunday is one of the two days in the week when the Sanctuary authorities encourage all pilgrimages in Lourdes to take part in the International Mass in the Underground Basilica of St. Pius X. It is an impressive sight, some 20,000 pilgrims from around the world gathered together to celebrate the Eucharist. The celebrant, Cardinal Dias (until recently Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples), was able to offer the Eucharistic Prayer in several languages without the use of books!

Assisted Pilgrims being cared for during Mass.

For those Assisted Pilgrims who find the International Mass too crowded, a smaller celebration of the Eucharist was held in the Accueil Notre Dame. The Mass was celebrated by the Chaplain to the Sick, Fr. Simon Blakesley of East Anglia Diocese, and he was joined at the altar by two friars from the Carmelite group, Fr. Wilfrid McGreal and Fr. Francis Kemsley.

Fr. Wilfrid (left) celebrating Mass with Fr. Simon Blakesley

A few years ago the Catholic Association established the Helpers' Children's Programme (HCP) to provide crèche facilities for the children of volunteers on the pilgrimage. On Sunday morning the group gathered for an intimate and lively celebration of Mass during which the celebrant, group chaplain Fr. John Warrington of East Anglia Diocese encouraged the children to reflect on the words of the Lord's Prayer.

Mass for the Helpers' Children's Programme

Fr. John Warrington asking questions of the children at the HCP Mass

Children play a very important part in the Catholic Association pilgrimage, and the Glanfield Group was set up 25 years ago to welcome disabled, sick and disadvantaged children, and their families. Rather than staying in the 'Accueil' house of welcome in the Sanctuary, the Glanfield Group is based in a hotel in the town. Every evening the group has a session of Night Prayers, which members of the Carmelite group often enjoy attending. On Sunday night the group was visited by Bishop Paul Hendricks, the Chair of the Catholic Association.

Glanfield Night Prayers on the roof terrace of their hotel.

The evening cool during Night Prayer came as a welcome relief after an extremely hot day (over 40 degrees celcius). The weather was so hot that the Blessed Sacrament Procession which normally begins outdoors took place in the Underground Basilica. In order to arrive there as a group, Catholic Association pilgrims gathered for a short procession of our own.

Jean Saunders carries the banner for the Carmelite group,
which includes Carol Wilson (seated).

The banners of the various groups that make up the Catholic Association.

Processing into the Underground Basilica

The Blessed Sacrament Procession includes a colourful display of banners
from around the world.

Some of the Catholic Association's young helpers
taking a well-earned rest in the Underground Basilica.

Like the Torchlight Marian Procession, the Blessed Sacrament Procession is undertaken in response to Our Lady's request to Saint Bernadette that people come to the shrine in procession. The service includes exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, followed by the blessing of sick and disabled pilgrims.

The Blessed Sacrament being reverenced at the altar in the Underground Basilica.

Catholic Association pilgrims being blessed.

Lourdes is a world capital of prayer,
bringing together Christians from every corner of the globe.

Click here to read about the previous day
Click here to read about the following day

Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen.

Brenda Wright, a member of the Carmelite Third Order, deep in prayer at the Grotto.

An early rise was necessary on Monday in order to attend Mass at the Grotto at 8.30am. The Grotto where Our Lady appeared to Saint Bernadette in 1858 is very much the heart of Lourdes, and celebrating the Eucharist there reminds us of Our Lady's call for us to live fully the Gospel.

The Catholic Association pilgrims gathered at the Crowned Virgin statue and processed together to the Grotto.

Processing to the Grotto.

Assisted Pilgrims being 'rolled' to the Grotto by hundreds of volunteer helpers.

Having gathered at the Grotto pilgrims were called to prayer by the talented music group, made up of volunteers on the Catholic Association pilgrimage.

The C.A. music group.

Carmelite friars Fr. Wilfrid McGreal and Fr. Francis Kemsley (front)
processing with other clergy to the Grotto.

Fr. Francis Kemsley, O.Carm. (right) arriving at the Grotto for the Eucharist.

In solidarity with the people of East Anglia, one of the groups that makes up the Catholic Association pilgrimage, the Diocese - whose Bishop Michael Evans died recently - was invited to lead the Mass. The celebrant, Monsignor Anthony Rogers, preached powerfully about the need for us to find time for prayer and stillness amid the hustle and bustle of modern life.

During the offertory members of the Helpers' Children's Programme
presented their artwork on the Pastoral Theme for 2011
"With Bernadette, Praying the Our Father".

Fr. Tony Rogers celebrating Mass at the Grotto.

Fr. Tony Lester, O.Carm., among the concelebrants

"The peace of the Lord be with you always."

Carmelite Pilgrimage Director Johan Bergström-Allen sharing the sign of peace.

Carmelite group member Shell Roca signing for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

Fr. Tony Lester, O.Carm., distributing communion during the Grotto Mass.

Fr. Wilfrid McGreal, O.Carm., processing from the Grotto Mass.

Immediately after the Grotto Mass pilgrims gathered in front of the Rosary Basilica for the Catholic Association group photograph which many like to take home as a souvenir of their week in Lourdes.

Fr. Francis and other Carmelite pilgrims lining up for the pilgrimage photograph.

The pilgrimage photograph captures something of
the scale of the Catholic Association.

The pilgrimage would not be possible without the voluntary services of some 300 helpers, including approximately 100 young people aged 17 to 25.

The Catholic Association's Young Helpers Group.

Among the Young Helpers are two members from the Carmelite group. Karisha George and David Monteith are both students at the University of York where the Carmelite friars have the care of the Catholic Chaplaincy.

(right-left) Karisha and David with their University Chaplain
and fellow Lourdes volunteer Fr. Tony Lester, O.Carm.

Lay Carmelite Angela Bergström-Allen and her son Johan both work
as volunteer helpers during the Catholic Association's week in Lourdes.

On Monday afternoon a Penitential Service was held in the St. Bernadette Church, offering pilgrims the opportunity for individual confession.

This was followed by a Tea Party in the Accueil Notre Dame, organised by the Helpers' Children's Programme.

Carmelite group pilgrims Helen Carroll (seated) and Matthew Betts,
with former Catholic Association Hospitalité President Nell Atkin,
enjoying themselves at the HCP Tea Party.

On Monday evening there was a prayer service for members of the Catholic Association Hospitalité, the organisation that organises helpers on the pilgrimage and offers them spiritual and social support. At the end of the service it was announced that the current Chaplain to the Sick, Fr. Simon Blakesley of East Anglia Diocese, is stepping down, and the role will be taken on by Carmelite friar Fr. Tony Lester. As Chaplain to the Sick Fr. Tony will be responsible for the pastoral care of all Assisted Pilgrims in the Accueil Notre Dame, and their helpers. He will be de facto Chaplain of the Catholic Association Hospitalité.

On Monday evening Fr. Tony was invited to give the blessing at the Glanfield Group's celebration of Night Prayers.

Fr. Tony giving the blessing at Glanfield Night Prayers
(with a little help from group member Errol Bracken!)

Click here to read about the previous day
Click here to read about the following day

Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen; Photo Lacaze; Photo Viron.

On Tuesday morning the Carmelite group within the Catholic Association gathered in St. Patrick's Chapel to celebrate a Votive Mass of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This was an opportunity to pray in a particular way for the Carmelite Family in the British Province and beyond. The Eucharist was celebrated by the Prior Provincial, Fr. Wilfrid McGreal, who was accompanied at the altar by Frs. Francis Kemsley and Tony Lester. During the bidding prayers members of the British Province - friars, sisters and laity - who have died in the last year were remembered.

The Carmelite group Mass.

Karisha George, a Carmelite young helper, proclaiming the Word of God.

After the Carmelite Mass the group members (at least those who were not on duty as helpers!) posed for a photograph.

The Carmelite group photo by Photo Durand.

One of the special features of coming to Lourdes with the Catholic Association is that, because of the C.A.'s size, it is possible to bring severely sick and disabled pilgrims because a large number of helpers are on hand. About half of the Carmelite group act as volunteers in one form or another.

(left-right) Mary Okeke, Joan Agba and Terri Betts are all Carmelite helpers.
Mary and Joan are parishioners from the Carmelite-served parish of English Martyrs
in Walworth, south London.

Brother Ged Walsh (left) and David Monteith are among the Carmelite helpers
caring for Assisted Pilgrims in the Accueil Notre Dame.

Carmelite group member Matthew Betts became the Catholic Association's
Chief Brancardier (coordinator of male helpers) this year.

On Tuesday afternoon pilgrims were offered a choice of excursions into the Pyrenean mountains. Assisted Pilgrims were transported to the beautiful resort of Gavarnie in a coach specially-modified for wheelchair users.

The 'Cirque de Gavarnie' is a beautiful expanse of the Pyrenees bordering on Spain.

Lay Carmelite Suzanne Phillips (left) accompanied her good friend
Rosemary Calvert on an excursion to the mountains.

Suzanne and Rosemary at Gavarnie.

It's thirsty work going on pilgrimage! Carmelite group member Jean Saunders
takes a break from carrying our banner to carry some ice-creams instead.

Click here to read about the previous day
Click here to read about the following day

Photographs courtesy of: Angela Bergström-Allen; Johan Bergström-Allen; Photo Durand.

There are no photographs to share from Wednesday morning because that it when the pilgrimage went down to the Baths in Lourdes for prayer, an area where cameras are frowned upon to ensure privacy! The Baths are fed by the spring of water which St. Bernadette uncovered during Our Lady's apparitions in 1858. During the course of the apparitions a woman plunged her paralysed hand into the water and found it cured by God's grace. Since then pilgrims have come to bathe in the water as a sign of their trust in God during sickness, and as a reminder of their baptismal promise to follow Jesus Christ. Those Assisted Pilgrims who wished to bathe in the waters were accompanied to the Baths, and prayers were led by Bishop Paul Hendricks. Carmelite friar Fr. Francis Kemsley was among those helping to animate the prayers and nurture a spirit of reflection. Assisted Pilgrims have priority at the Baths, but the more able-bodied had to endure extremely long queues. They did so with a spirit of generous patience however, because those wanting to bathe were young people passing through Lourdes after World Youth Day.

Water was the theme of the day, with the blistering heat of earlier in the week being replaced by persistent rain. A hardy group of pilgrims climbed the hill beside the basilicas to trace the Stations of the Cross, led by Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton Diocese. Assisted Pilgrims, who normally pray the Stations on the flat terrain of the Prairie opposite the Grotto, crammed into one of the Accueil Chapels for a beautiful Stations reflection led by Fr. Nicholas King, S.J., and Fr. Simon Blakesley.

Fr. Nick King leading the Stations of the Cross in a packed Accueil Chapel

Happily the rain stopped in time for the Mass organised by children, which meant that the face-paint and fancy-dress costumes of the children and their helpers remained intact! The Mass was a lively and moving liturgy, profound in its simplicity, involving children from the Glanfield Children's Group and the Helpers' Children's Programme.

Balloons, party outfits and face-paint were the order of the day
at the Mass organised by children.

Earlier in the week six children in the Glanfield Group had received the sacraments of baptism, holy communion, and confirmation. The Group's Chaplain, Monsignor Anthony Rogers, preached about God's gift to the Church through the sacraments, and the children held up posters they had decorated naming each of them.

The children with their posters

The posters were paricularly poignant for those children who had received
the sacraments of initiation during the pilgrimage.

Part of the joy of the Mass organised by children is its slightly unpredictable nature! No one was phased by some of the children with specific needs who came up to them during the liturgy asking for a hug!

Fr. Tony Rogers receiving an unexpected hug from one of the children during Mass!

Children from the Glanfield and HCP groups said the bidding prayers.

It is a long-standing tradition that the Mass organised by children concludes with a rendition of the song "Rise and Shine". This was led by the children and helpers and enthusiastically copied by clergy and congregation.

Members of the Glanfield Group leading "Rise and Shine"

Pilgrims young and old joining in the rendition of "Rise and Shine"

On Wednesday evening the Young Helpers' Group welcomed the leader and director of the Carmelite pilgrimage, Fr. Wilfrid McGreal and Mr. Johan Bergström-Allen, to dinner at their hotel. This was an opportunity to meet with the young people and encourage them in their service of the sick and disabled, both in Lourdes and back at home.

To round off the day the Carmelites hosted a drinks reception at the Grand Hotel Gallia & Londres. This is an opportunity for the members of the Carmelite group to socialise, as well as to thank those organisers who make the pilgrimage possible. There was an excellent turn-out, with Archbishop Peter Smith, Bishop Paul Hendricks and Bishop Peter Doyle among those in attendance.

The Carmelite social is a moment for relaxation towards the end of the week.

Brother Ged Walsh (centre) giving an encouraging thumbs-up
to one of the Carmelite group's younger friends.

Four of the Carmelite group's helpers enjoying an evening off from duty.

Fr. Francis Kemsley with Joan Agba (left) and Mary Okeke
from the parish of English Martyrs in Walworth, served by the Carmelite friars.

Click here to read about the previous day
Click here to read about the following day

Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen.

The penultimate day of the pilgrimage began with a celebration of Mass with the Anointing of the Sick. For many this was the most powerful liturgy celebrated during the week. The strong symbolism and sense of dependency on God's grace made the Mass an emotional celebration of God's tenderness and compassion. The presider at the Mass was Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark Archdiocese. He used to take part in the Catholic Association pilgrimage when he was Bishop of East Anglia, and it was good to have him back with us.

Archbishop Peter preaching at the Mass with Anointing of the Sick.

After Archbishop Peter's homily prayers were offered for the sick, and the Holy Spirit was invoked as priests laid their hands upon those to be anointed. The Bible speaks of oil being used for the comfort and healing of those who are suffering, and jars of blessed oil were carried by helpers who accompanied the bishops and priests of the various groups that make up the Catholic Association.

The Carmelite Provincial, Fr. Wilfrid McGreal, anointing an Assisted Pilgrim
who came on pilgrimage as part of the Carmelite group.

The oils were carried for Fr. Wilfrid by Carmelite group young helpers
Karisha George and David Monteith.

The Mass took place in the Underground Basilica of St. Pius X. Around the walls of the basilica were translations and adaptations of the Lord's Prayer, written by different pilgrimages as their response to the pastoral theme of the year proposed by the Lourdes Sanctuary, "With Bernadette, Praying the Our Father". The Catholic Association's adaptation of the Our Father was written by Fr. Nicholas King, S.J., a brancardier (helper) on the pilgrimage who is Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Oxford. After Mass pilgrims stopped to read the text that Fr. Nick had offered on behalf of the pilgrimage.

The adapted text of the Our Father was mounted on the wall of the basilica
and will remain there throughout the rest of this pastoral year.

After the Mass with Anointing, pilgrims had a little spare time to do as they wished. Some attended the talk on the medical aspects of Lourdes given by the pilgrimage's Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Adam Farmer. A small group of Carmelite pilgrims working in the Accueil Notre Dame took the opportunity to visit the Carmel, that is the monastery of Carmelite nuns that overlooks the Grotto from the spot where St. Bernadette saw the Blessed Virgin for the last time, on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (16th July 1858).

The Grotto as seen from the Carmel.

Carmelite group young helpers David Monteith and Karisha George
were given a tour of the Carmel by Lay Carmelite Angela Bergström-Allen (centre).

Whilst at the Carmel the visitors were able to purchase some of the chocolates and other gifts that the nuns produce to support their enclosed way of life. The support of the sisters' prayers is greatly appreciated by the volunteers working in the service of Assisted Pilgrims in the Accueil Notre Dame (Our Lady's House of Welcome) that adjoins the Carmel.

The sisters were delighted to welcome fellow members of the Carmelite Family.

After lunch the Catholic Association gathered in the St. Bernadette Church below the Carmel for a Thanksgiving Service. This was led by Rt. Rev. Crispian Hollis who is retiring as Bishop of Portsmouth later this year. Bishop Crispian spoke movingly of his long involvement with the Catholic Association, and how his recent diagnosis of cancer has changed his experience of Lourdes. He spoke movingly and very personally about being given "the gift of sickness" by God, and said that he would very simply place himself in God's hands in the months ahead. Having always come to Lourdes as a helper or pastoral leader, he said he now felt blessed that in future he would come as someone in need of help himself, which would give him a new perspective on life and hopefully a deeper understanding of God's love and compassion. He spoke about having received the Sacrament of the Sick for the first time that morning at the Anointing Mass, and of the great support he had received from many friends and fellow pilgrims.

Bishop Crispian's powerful and deeply personal reflection at the
Thanksgiving Service received a prolonged round of applause from the congregation.

As well as giving thanks to God for the graces received during the pilgrimage, the Thanksgiving Service is an opportunity to express gratitude to those organisers who are stepping down from office. Deep thanks were expressed to Tina Walker who has led the Young Helpers' Group for nine years, and to Fr. Simon Blakesley who is handing over the role of Chaplain to the Sick to Carmelite friar Fr. Tony Lester.

Tina Walker (centre) being thanked for her long service by Bishop Paul Hendricks.

Bishop Crispian was thanked for his many years of service as Patron of the Catholic Association Hospitalité (helpers' organisation), and a gift was presented to him by the Hospitalité President Chris Buller.

Chris Buller presenting a gift of thanks to Bishop Crispian.

After the Thanksgiving Service, Assisted Pilgrims processed directly over the bridge for a passage through the Grotto. They were led by the pilgrimage banners and Catholic Association candle which had been decorated during the week by the Helpers' Children's Programme.

Children of the helpers decorated the pilgrimage candle and carried it to the Grotto.

The candle and banner bearers formed a "guard of honour" as Assisted Pilgrims and their helpers passed through the Grotto, taking a moment for prayer and to leave their intention slips; the Carmelite pilgrimage director deposited at the Grotto a large number of petitions that had been sent from different Carmelite individuals and communities in Britain.

The Catholic Association banners and candle at the Grotto.

Carmelites and friends at prayer in front of the Grotto.

Carmelite Assisted Pilgrim Madge Bedwell being taken through the Grotto.

Once all had passed through the Grotto, the pilgrimage candle was taken down to the large stands nearby. The Lord's Prayer was said, and then the candle - which bears the names of all the groups that participate in the Catholic Association - was placed in the stands where it will burn in the weeks to come as a symbol of our prayer.

Gathering at the candle stand for the placing of the pilgrimage candle.

The C.A. candle was decorated by children with the words "Our Father"
and the names of the dioceses and groups which participate in the pilgrimage.

After supper on Thursday evening a last night party was held in the Accueil Notre Dame, Assisted Pilgrims and their helpers performing songs and sketches.

Click here to read about the previous day
Click here to read about the following day

Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen.

The final morning of the Catholic Association pilgrimage is always tinged with sadness at having to leave Our Lady's shrine, and the rain which fell made it seem as though Lourdes itself was weeping to see us leave!

Those pilgrims not already in transit gathered in the St. Bernadette Church for the Sending-Forth Mass, presided at by Crispian Hollis, his last liturgy in Lourdes before retiring as Bishop of Portsmouth.

Bishop Crispian leading pilgrims in prayer at the end of the pilgrimage.

Assisted Pilgrims at the Sending-Forth Mass, seated in the distinctive
"voitures" used to transport some sick and disabled people in Lourdes.

During his homily Bishop Crispian encouraged pilgrims
to allow God's will to be done in their lives, whatever that may entail.

After Mass began the logistical challenge of getting more than 800 pilgrims home to different parts of Britain by aeroplane, train, coach and car.

Carmelite group member and nurse Andy Joyce at Lourdes Airport.

Carmelite friars from York undertook the care of a seriously ill pilgrim
on the flight back to Manchester.

Thankfully the journey home was a smooth one for the great majority of pilgrims. They will have many happy memories to reflect back on in the days and weeks ahead.

Already planning has begun for the 2012 Carmelite pilgrimage to Lourdes with the Catholic Association, which will take place between 24th and 31st August. Details will become available in January 2012, and we hope that as many people as possible will join us on our pilgrimage to this remarkable place.

Click here to read about the previous day

Photographs courtesy of: Johan Bergström-Allen. A wide selection of Johan's photos from the pilgrimage can be viewed on the Province's Flickr webpages.