Press Release Friday September 7th 2018
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin leads Ireland’s largest Pilgrimage to Lourdes
Less than two weeks since the Archdiocese hosted the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis, almost 2,000 Dublin parishioners and pilgrims are beginning the annual Diocesan pilgrimage to Lourdes.
The Dublin Pilgrimage is the largest of its kind in Ireland. Throughout today (Friday 7th), seven aircraft will depart Dublin for Lourdes with a full complement of sick pilgrims, helpers, medical staff and students.
Twenty five secondary schools from all over the Diocese are represented this year, with 133 teenagers taking part for the first time with their school groups.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin said, “We join with the renewed generosity of all our helpers. We recognise the idealism of our young people who learn in Lourdes the rewards of caring. It is not easy for young people today to grow in faith and generosity. We pray for them as they grow the human and spiritual renewal in a complex world.”
Fr. Martin Noone, Pilgrimage director, said that extraordinary planning and selfless dedication went into ensuring the safety and comfort for the sick during the pilgrimage. Fr. Noone added, “We are particularly blessed to be travelling to Lourdes this moment as the Diocese and all of Ireland are coming out of those memorable days of the World Meeting of Families and the short but very significant visit by Pope Francis.”
177 sick people are travelling to the French Marian shrine, many with complex medical needs. Volunteering for 2018 are 45 nurses and 8 doctors, assisted by 300 young people and pilgrims from parishes all over the Diocese of Dublin. The Chief Medical Officer for the Pilgrimage is Dr. Maeve O Reilly and the Director of Nursing is Rosaleen O’ Malley. 35 priests and four deacons will travel with 20 parish groups. Volunteers from local secondary schools are among those in place at Dublin airport today to ensure the pilgrims have an easy and comfortable start to the trip to Lourdes. Meanwhile, an advance party of 70 volunteers is already in Lourdes to ensure that everything is in place for the arrival of the sick, and the wider group of pilgrims and volunteers, throughout the day. 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.
The pastoral theme for this year’s pilgrimage is inspired by the Gospel reading on the Marriage Feast of Cana – “Do whatever he tells you”. Pilgrimage spiritual director Fr. John Gilligan said “Lourdes is a special place where we learn so much from the sick. Our young people learn so much about life through the work with the sick. It is one of the reasons they come back year after year. Every aspect of our pilgrimage is prayer-filled. We ask ourselves: what choices are available to me? What path should I follow in my life and working environment, in my Church and in the world in which I live?” 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 Mc Quaid 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 Mc Quaid. 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.
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