2,000 Dublin Pilgrims in Lourdes

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Demand for places to travel to Lourdes with the Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage increased significantly this year with a capacity number of sick pilgrims making the journey to the French Marian Shrine today (Thursday 7th).   Led every year by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, the Dublin pilgrimage is the largest of its kind in Ireland

Since early morning, over 2,000 people have been departing Dublin airport on board 10 different flights – the group includes 200 sick pilgrims, parishioners, students, priests, volunteers, musicians and medical teams.

The organisers of the Pilgrimages to Lourdes were taken aback at the level of demand for 2017, the highest for many years. Fr.  Martin Noone said they were disappointed not to be able to take everyone who wished to travel. Fr. Noone paid tribute to the extraordinary commitment and service of all those involved in organising the 2017 Pilgrimage. He highlighted the fact the pilgrims would be praying every day for the success of the forthcoming World Meeting of Families and possible visit of Pope Francis in August 2018.

The sick pilgrims will be staying at the Accueil Notre Dame which is ‘a place of welcome’ close to the Grotto in Lourdes, with many of the facilities of a modern hospital. An advance party of 70 volunteers are already in Lourdes to ensure that everything is in place for the arrival of the sick and the wider group of pilgrims and volunteer throughout the day.  Also among those taking part this year are members of the Deaf community who are accompanied by Chaplain Fr. Gerard Tyrell and 6 signing volunteers to assist with group’s needs.

This year 130 secondary students from schools throughout the Archdiocese are travelling – including for the first time students from Coláiste Chill Mhantáin and Maryfield College in Drumcondra.  300 young adults are joining the Youth Group, 45 nurses have volunteered, 8 doctors and 650 people who help out in a wide variety of roles – not just for the six day pilgrimage but throughout the year. Dr. Maeve O’Reilly is the current Chief Medical Officer and with Rosaleen O’Malley Director of Nursing and their teams, they look after the medical needs of the Sick Pilgrims on a round-the-clock rota basis. In the months prior to travelling to Lourdes this team is also involved in the selection of the sick pilgrims.

Crosscare, the social care agency of the Archdiocese of Dublin is represented again this year as well as the Diocesan Child Safeguarding and Protection office.

Archbishop Diarmuid Martin is leading the Pilgrimage for the 14th time as Archbishop of Dublin.  He said “The silence of Lourdes helps us to move beyond thinking about ourselves and begin to see others differently.  Illness and physical or mental frailty are not looked on as reducing the dignity of anyone.  Here in Lourdes it is the sick and the weak who have pride of place and who become central in our interaction.  This is the experience of our helpers, young and old, veterans of the pilgrimage and those who are here for the first time.  Prayer and silence help us to relate with others in a different way.  It is that experience which brings our helpers back to Lourdes year after year.”

The pilgrimage begins today and ends on Tuesday next, September 12th.  ENDS

About the Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage

In 1866, the Lourdes Ecclesiastical Authority declared that Our Blessed Lady had appeared to St. Bernadette at the Grotto in 1858. From this date until the end of the century, there are no records of any group from Dublin travelling to the Shrine, although clergy and laity of the Diocese were no strangers to Lourdes. The turn of the century saw a great increase in the numbers of Irish Pilgrims to the Shrine. Fr. William Ring OMI, Superior, Inchicore, was responsible for advancing the Devotion of Our Lady of Lourdes in Ireland and instrumental in organising the first Dublin Pilgrimage.

Early Pilgrimages: From 1902, Irish pilgrims travelled from Inchicore to Lourdes and Rome, in remarkable numerical strength, despite the cost of travel in those days. In 1913, the Irish Hierarchy organised a National Pilgrimage and many priests and laity from the Dublin Diocese helped in its organisation. Canon Lockhart of Glasthule was General Secretary of the 1913 Pilgrimage. 2,187 pilgrims travelled to Lourdes, of which, 363 were from Dublin. It was well into 1947, in the period after the war, before organised Pilgrimages began to arrive from Ireland to the shrine.

First Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage: In late 1948, Archbishop John Charles McQuaid initiated the idea of the first Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes and appointed Fr. Gerard Gough, who had a long association with Lourdes, as its first Director. The fare was £33 for five full days in Lourdes. On Monday morning August 8 1949, the first group of pilgrims, including 38 sick, gathered in St. Andrews Church, Westland Row for a special Mass at 9 am presided over by Archbishop McQuaid. All were fasting, for remember these were the days of the Eucharistic Fast from midnight. The Archbishop gave his blessing to the pilgrims before they left for special trains to Dun Laoghaire to embark on the Streamer SS Princess Maud for Holyhead. They continued on to London for an overnight stop. Continuing the next day for Folkestone and Boulogne and then by non-stop train to Bordeaux. Here, there was a short stop for Mass in the Cathedral and then on to Lourdes, arriving several hours later. The journey took almost two and a half days.