Each year around 700 pilgrims journey to Lourdes with the Arundel & Brighton Diocesan Pilgrimage. Here are some simple notes on the different aspects of our pilgrimage to illustrate what it is we do;
How do we get there?
The Pilgrimage organise a charter flight for the Assisted Pilgrims and their helpers and some scheduled flights from Heathrow and Gatwick to Toulouse, Bordeaux and Bilbao and we the coach transfers to Lourdes. Pilgrims who do not require assistance are encouraged to travel to Lourdes independently by plane to Toulouse where coaches will meet them to take them to Lourdes.
Where do we stay when we get there?
The pilgrimage is normally made up of 700 pilgrims, but when we get to Lourdes, we split up into groups of 60 or so, each group staying in one of the hotels we use around the town. Each hotel group is made up helpers, nurses, a chaplain, an assistant chaplain, a doctor, people who require assistance, and independent pilgrims who don't normally require assistance. Some of the pilgrims require more specialist care or assistance than is possible in a hotel, and these people stay in a building called the Accueil Notre Dame, which is purpose built for enabling the nurses and doctors, assisted by the helpers, to care for their particular needs 24 hours a day.
What do we do once we're there?
Each day is different, but a typical day might be;
7:00 - Breakfast in your hotel
10:00 - Mass with the whole Pilgrimage in one of the many churches
11:00 - Coffee in a café with other members of your group
12:00 - Lunch in your hotel
14:00 - Visit to the baths or trip to the town for Shopping
17:00 - Blessed Sacrament Procession (we participate as a Pilgrimage on one day)
19:00 - Dinner in your hotel
20:00 - Relax in hotel lobby /bar or trip out to a café in the town
21:00 - Torchlight Processions (we participate as a Pilgrimage on one night)
The days are full but satisfying and the group leaders of your hotel will ensure that you are able to participate as much as you want.
When I get home will I be able to keep in contact?
Often many lasting friendships are formed during the week, and when we get home the group leaders of your hotel will try to organise a hotel/accueil group reunion. The Pilgrimage organises a full reunion in September at St Wilfrid's school in Crawley which is a great opportunity to catch up and share memories of the week.