Carmelite Pilgrimage to Lourdes 2013

Between 23rd and 30th August 2013 the British Province of Carmelites made its annual pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, with The Catholic Association (C.A.) Below follows a photo reportage of some of the highlights.

This year the Carmelite group from Britain numbered a record 50 pilgrims.
The group included Carmelite friars and laity, and friends of the Order.

The Carmelites joined 5 dioceses and a number of other groups under the umbrella of The Catholic Association, a charity that has over 100 years' experience of bringing pilgrims to Europe's foremost Marian shrine. This year the whole pilgrimage numbered about 750 pilgrims, including 150 sick and disabled people and 300 volunteer carers.

The first official event on the pilgrimage programme was a Gathering Mass in the St. Bernadette Church. The evidence of the June floods that devastated the town and sanctuary of Lourdes was still to be seen, but an amazing clear-up had taken place.

During the Gathering Mass the hands of all helpers are blessed with oil. Carmelite friar Gerard Walsh (right) had his hands blessed by the new Bishop of Porstmouth, Rt. Rev. Philip Egan, who comes from Ged's home diocese of Shrewsbury.

Among the 300 volunteer doctors, nurses, chaplains, child-carers and general helpers are a group of about 100 young people. The Carmelite group provided six young helpers this year, all students or graduates of the University of York where the Order has care of the Catholic Chaplaincy.

The helpers are organised by a group called the Catholic Association Hospitalité.
This confraternity offers spiritual input, a social network,
and practical training to its members.

The Carmelite group gathered for a word of welcome at the Hotel Solitude. The spiritual leader for the Carmelite group this year, Fr. Antony Lester, passed on greetings from the Prior Provincial, Fr. Wilfrid McGreal, who could not attend this year's pilgrimage because of the General Chapter of the Order in Rome.

On the Saturday evening The Catholic Association,
including Carmelite pilgrims Tegan Rawlinson (centre) & Brother Tony O'Donnell (right),
took part in the Marian Torchlight Process.

The Carmelite and other diocesan/group banners processing to International Mass on Sunday morning.

A new venture for the Carmelite group this year was the 'Carmel Link' programme, offering opportunities for people to come together for social time outside the main pilgrimage timetable. 'Carmel Link' began with a tour of the Accueil building where Assisted (sick) Pilgrims are accommodated.

Carmelite tertiary Charmaine Jayasuriya (right) enjoying a cup of tea during her tour of the Accueil building facilities.

On Sunday afternoon The Catholic Association pilgrims took part in the Blessed Sacrament Procession; Rt. Rev. John Hine (Auxilliary Bishop of Southwark), who was spiritual leader of the CA this year, carried the monstrance.

A meeting of the volunteers' team leaders.

Carmelite friar Fr. Antony Lester is the Catholic Association's Chaplain to the Sick and to the helpers. As such he organised a time of prayer for the young helpers at the lake in Lourdes on the Sunday evening.

Another priest who works as a volunteer on the pilgrimage, Fr. Nicholas King, S.J., preached powerfully on the Scriptures at the service for young helpers.

Fr. Tony Lester, O.Carm., with some of the Carmelite group young helpers.

On the Monday morning of the pilgrimage The Catholic Association celebrated Mass at the Grotto, the heart of the sanctuary in Lourdes.

The Grotto is the cave where the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady,
appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.

One of the Assisted (Sick) Pilgrims due to travel to Lourdes with the Carmelites was Rose Aqui. Sadly she was too unwell to be able to join us, and we received news whilst in Lourdes that she had died back in Britain. We remembered her specially at the Grotto during the Catholic Association Mass. A candle was also lit at the Grotto for Carmelite friar Tom Johnston who died in July.

Some of the young helpers who help our Assisted Pilgrims to get around Lourdes.

The Carmelite group includes a number of volunteer nurses
and 'handmaids' (general assistants).

On Monday afternoon a Penitential Service was held, during which pilgrims
had the opportunity for individual confession.
Bishop Paul Hendricks (right) is the Chair of The Catholic Association.

Fr. Tony Lester, O.Carm., celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation with a pilgrim.

After the Penitential Service the 'Carmel Link' group had the opportunity of visiting the Carmel (Carmelite monastery) built on the site of Our Lady's last Lourdes apparition.

On Monday evening the Catholic Association Hospitalité (Helpers' Association) held its service in the St. Joseph Chapel. The Hospitalité patron, Bishop Peter Doyle of Northampton, admitted to the Hospitalité new Prayer Members, that is, Assisted Pilgrims who have come to Lourdes with the CA a number of years and who support its work by their prayers. Among the new Prayer Members this year was Brenda Wright, (front left), who is a member of the Carmelite Third Order.

The Carmelite group celebrated its own Mass at the Accueil Marie Saint-Frai on Tuesday morning. The presider was Fr. Antony Lester, O.Carm.

Prayer petitions gathered by the British Province of Carmelites were brought up
during the Offertory Procession.

At the end of Mass three lay people were enrolled in
the Carmelite Brown Scapular Confraternity.

Among the Carmelite group were 9 pilgrims from the parish of English Martyrs Catholic Church in Walworth, London, served by the Carmelite Order.

After the Carmelite Mass, prayer petitions gathered by the British Province were taken to the Grotto. Ahead of the pilgrimage petitions were sent to the Pilgrimage Director via the post and the internet, and the Carmelite-served parish of English Martyrs, Walworth, alone sent over 50 envelopes containing people's prayer requests.

On Tuesday evening members of the Carmelite group took part in two sessions of Night Prayer. The first was organised by The Glanfield Children's Group, which takes to Lourdes sick, disabled, and disadvantaged children and adults with learning difficulties.

The second Night Prayer service took place opposite the Grotto and was organised by the Carmelites. Some 250 pilgrims took part in a short service of Scripture, song, silence and symbol (burning incense, as shown above).

On Wednesday morning the C.A. pilgrims went to the famous Lourdes Baths for prayer led by Bishop Philip Egan.

Carmelite tertiary and long-serving Lourdes volunteer Dot Wade (centre)
accompanying pilgrims to the Baths.

On Wednesday afternoon Fr. Tony Lester presided at a celebration of Mass for a member of the Carmelite group, Sister Maureen McNally. Sister Maureen, a nurse on the pilgrimage, was celebrating her Golden Jubilee (50 years) of religious profession as a Daughter of the Cross.

Later that afternoon the Mass organised by children, held in the Rosary Basilica,
was a lively celebration of faith, during the Year of Faith.

Face-painting, singing and dancing are much-loved aspects of the Children's Mass.

As a deacon, Carmelite friar Brother Gerard Walsh proclaimed the Gospel.

Fr. Tony with Glanfox, the Glanfield Children's Group mascot.

The spirit of joyful celebration continued into Wednesday night, at the Carmelite group's party. Group member Sue Woodford was congratulated on making her 'Engagement' (commitment) as a volunteer with the Lourdes Hospitalité (HNDL).

Vessels of oil being held aloft during the Service of Anointing of the Sick
held on Thursday morning.

Carmelite group volunteer Shell Roca signed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

Carmelite group volunteer Jordan Walters offering a word of comfort and hope
during the Anointing of the Sick.

Brother Tony O'Donnell receiving the Sacrament of the Sick.

Later in the week Fr. Tony was asked to take part in the anointing of
members of The Glanfield Children's Group.

On Thursday afternoon the C.A.'s Assisted Pilgrims had the opportunity to go through the Grotto and spend time in prayer. The banners of the C.A.'s constituent groups formed a guard of honour.

At the Thanksgiving Mass on Thursday afternoon the patron of the C.A. Hospitalité, Bishop Peter Doyle, blessed and distributed insignia to its new members. Among those making their commitment to come back to Lourdes with the C.A. Hospitalité was Carmelite group member Nina Kelly.

The banners of the Catholic Association and its partner dioceses/groups
at the formal close of the pilgrimage in the underground basilica of St. Pius X.

The last night of the pilgrimage is always celebrated with a party in the Accueil building. Volunteers and Assisted Pilgrims entertain each other with songs and skits.

Carmelite group volunteer Matt Sanderson helping to pack up the
large amount of luggage and equipment that the C.A. requires.

Young helpers in conversation with Carmelite tertiary Teresa Lennon (seated)
from the Birmingham Lay Carmelite Community.

Teresa Lennon with fellow Lay Carmelite and Carmelite Pilgrimage Director
Johan Bergström-Allen.

After the pilgrimage is over, the Catholic Association's candle continues to burn
at the Grotto as a sign of the hopes and prayers of all those who took part,
in person or in spirit. The Carmelites are grateful to all those who enabled this year's pilgrimage, especially those who donated funds to allow us to take young helpers and Assisted Pilgrims to Lourdes for a life-changing experience.


The 2014 Carmelite pilgrimage to Lourdes will take place between 22nd and 29th August. To register your interest, please email the Pilgrimage Director by clicking here.

Photography: Johan Bergström-Allen; Photo Durand; Photo Lacaze; Photo Viron.