The Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes departed Dublin Airport on five chartered aircraft today, Thursday, with more than 100 sick pilgrims from parishes all over the Archdiocese travelling to Our Lady’s shrine in Lourdes.
Archbishop Dermot Farrell is leading the five-day pilgrimage – his first time to do so since becoming Archbishop of Dublin in 2020.
The pilgrimage group includes 110 sick pilgrims, 10 doctors, 30 nurses, 500 helpers, 30 priests and two deacons.
The 500 helpers include 250 young people, with 135 of those being sixth year students from 25 secondary schools around the Archdiocese.
In total, 1,200 pilgrims are travelling. Those who travelled on the five chartered aircraft are joined by others making their own way via Biarritz, Bordeaux and other nearby airports.
Archbishop Dermot Farrell said: “I am looking forward to leading the annual Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes for the first time since my appointment. I thank all those who are joining in the pilgrimage who will devote themselves to the care of the sick and all those who are united with us in prayer throughout the Archdiocese. I also welcome all the parish groups who have travelled to Lourdes at this time.”
Many of the sick pilgrims who are travelling would not have the opportunity to visit Lourdes if it were not for the fantastic medical backup, care and assistance that the many volunteers offer.
Organising flights to the south of France this September was somewhat of a challenge and more costly than usual due to the Rugby World Cup beginning at the same time, pilgrimage director Fr Martin Noone said.
The diocesan pilgrimage has travelled to Lourdes almost every year since 1949. In 1953, a rail strike in France saw the pilgrimage cancelled. And in 2020 and 2021, the Covid-19 restrictions prevented the Dublin group from travelling.
During the Covid years, however, a virtual pilgrimage was organised, with ceremonies held in churches in the Archdiocese of Dublin dedicated to Our Lady and to St Bernadette.
The pilgrimage family were linked by webcam to these churches when travel to the shrine in Lourdes was not permissible.
A smaller pilgrimage travelled in September 2022, but with no assisted sick pilgrims.
The opening Mass of the pilgrimage will be celebrated by Archbishop Farrell tomorrow, Friday, September 8, at the Grotto in Lourdes.
Appropriately, tomorrow is the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
This will be followed by a full programme of liturgies and other events over the five days of the pilgrimage.