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Pilgrimage FAQs

Applications

How do I apply?

Applications for the Diocesan Pilgrimage will open in the New Year once the situation regarding the Covid-19 pandemic is clearer.

Pilgrims requiring assistance should contact the pilgrimage office for a paper application form T: 01403 740110 or
E: office@ablourdes.org.

Each of our pilgrims  is given a Pilgrimage ID badge. Please send a photograph of yourself  to: office@ablourdes.org once you have made your application.

Please note that priority for places will be given to those who currently live within the Diocese of Arundel & Brighton.

How much does it cost to come on the Pilgrimage?
The cost of the pilgrimage is decided in December each year and is listed on the application form. Financial help is normally available to Assisted Pilgrims, Nurses and Helpers that need it. If in doubt, please email the pilgrimage office who will be happy to help you: office@ablourdes.org

How do I pay for my pilgrimage?
There are a number of ways to pay for the pilgrimage and payment options will be included with your invoice. Please note that we do not take payment by card over the telephone.

When do I have to pay my deposit?
A £100 deposit should be paid once you have received an invoice from us. You will receive information explaining the pilgrimage terms and conditions with this invoice.

Do you offer any discounts or financial assistance?
Discounts are given to children who are under the age of 12 by 31st August in the year of travel.

A £125 Subsidy is available for all Hospitalité (helpers, doctors, nurses, chaplains and leaders) who request it, reduced to £75 if you are travelling independently.

We recommend talking to your parish priest if you need help paying for the pilgrimage. There may be support available from your parish or from local charities such as the Knights of St Columba or the St Vincent de Paul Society (SVP). Those aged 16-25 may be able to apply to their local group of Catenians for financial support: www.catenianbursary.com/lourdes-awards/. You can download our Additional Subsidy application form here.

When do I need to pay for my pilgrimage?
The final balance must be paid by 31st May, unless a monthly payment plan has been agreed with our office and maintained. The final payment of an agreed monthly instalment plan must be made by 31 August.

I’ve been told I need a Medical Assessment; why is this?
It is important that our Clinical Leadership Team understand the medical needs of our pilgrims so that they can best assist them during the journey to Lourdes and throughout our pilgrimage. It may be necessary for one of our team to visit you and carry out an assessment; if this is the case our Pilgrimage Office will let you know who is going to visit and help you agree a suitable date and time. Our team member will bring pilgrimage identification (ID) with them when they visit; you are welcome to have a relative or friend with you during this meeting.

Can I join in with Pilgrimage events if I am in Lourdes but not booked on the pilgrimage?
Safeguarding is an important part of our risk management whilst in Lourdes, while everyone is welcome to our Masses and services, we are unable to welcome those who are not part of our pilgrimage to any other group event or activity. We strongly encourage you to book with us if you would like the complete pilgrimage experience.

Preparation

Will I receive training for my role in Lourdes?
It is mandatory for all new helpers and first-time nurses/doctors to attend the New Helpers Preparation Day to receive essential training and information.

All helpers, doctors and nurses must attend the Briefing Day prior to the pilgrimage.

Our Redshirts and Redshirt Leaders have a number of events in the UK that they are expected to attend.

New Prayer Pilgrims are warmly invited to an information session where they will have the opportunity to ask questions and meet other new pilgrims.

Please see our Events section for the date and time of this year's training.

Travel

Will I need my own travel insurance?
Pilgrims are included in our group travel insurance policy with the cost included in the price of the pilgrimage. A copy of the policy will be sent to you once you have paid your initial deposit. Pilgrims with pre-existing health conditions will need verbal confirmation of their fitness to fly from their doctor (GP). If you have any questions contact our clinical team.

Do I need a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)?
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), is valid up to 31st December 2020. When you apply for the Pilgrimage you will receive details of our insurance which covers healthcare in France.

When will I know how I am travelling?
We aim to let you know how you will be travelling to Lourdes by early May. Our Assisted Pilgrims receive priority for travel; we are able to assess the travel needs of our Assisted Pilgrims once applications have closed

What are my travel options?
Prayer Pilgrims and families who do not require any assistance are asked to make their own travel arrangements so that we can prioritise those who need help to travel. The details needed to assist you in booking can be found on our application form.

Travel arrangements are allocated by our Clinical Leadership Team and the Pilgrimage Office Team. If you are travelling as part of the full pilgrimage package you will be booked onto one of the following:

Overnight Coach: The Redshirts and Young Helpers travel to Lourdes by coach departing from a central collection point in the Diocese. Coaches leave on the Thursday, arriving home again the following Friday.

Jumbulance: A small group of Assisted Prayer Pilgrims, Helpers and Clinicians will travel to Lourdes in specially adapted coaches called Jumbulances, departing from a central collection point in the Diocese. This method of travel is for those who are unable to travel by air directly to and from Lourdes.

Air: Assisted Prayer Pilgrims and their families or carers travel alongside helpers, doctors and nurses on a number of different flights from Heathrow and Gatwick, with coach transfer between the non-UK airport and their accommodation in Lourdes.

We charter a flight especially for our Pilgrimage that flies direct to Lourdes airport with coach transfer to and from the accommodation in Lourdes. A coach is provided from a central collection point in the Diocese for this flight only.

Can I choose how I travel?
We try to take people’s travel preferences into consideration. We have to consider all pilgrims however and allocate appropriately to their needs and their distance for travel.

Will I sit with my family on the flight?
We do our best! We notify airlines in advance if there are family members with different surnames though the final allocation lies with the airline. You will be advised of your seat number(s) when you check in.

How do I get to the airport?
Only those travelling on the charter flight will be provided transport from a central location in the Diocese to the airport.
Pilgrims travelling on alternative flights need to make their own travel arrangements to and from the airport. We recommend people investigate the possibility of car sharing with others from their parish. If you are unsure please contact the Pilgrimage Office who will try and put you in touch with someone traveling to the same airport from your area.

Do I need to book Special Assistance at the Airport?
We know that travelling can be a concern for some people. If you have indicated on your application form that you need help getting through the airport the Pilgrimage Office will make a booking with the airport’s Special Assistance Service for you. In addition to the airport’s Special Assistance Service a pilgrimage volunteer will act as 'flight leader' and will be available near the check-in desk to make sure that you have the help you need. Where possible one of our helpers will accompany you through the airport.  

Can I bring food/drink for the journey?

Coaches/Jumbulance: Food and non-alcoholic drinks are permitted.
Flights: You can carry snacks in your hand luggage. If you are carrying liquid, please ensure that the size of container does not exceed 100ml, regardless of the amount contained inside. Please check the airports’ guidance for specific items such as baby milk or food.

Full details of the requirements for your travel will be sent to you as part of your final information pack.

How much luggage can I bring with me to Lourdes?
Full details will be included in your final travel instructions. Most of our Pilgrims travel by scheduled airlines; a rough guide would be one small carry-on bag plus one checked bag of less than 24kg. People wishing to bring other items such as push chairs should review the airline’s policy before travel.

Can I bring back Lourdes water?

Liquids over 100ml cannot be taken into the cabin of an aircraft. Anything else can be checked in as part of your baggage allowance.

Can I bring my own manual wheelchair?

We can provide a manual wheelchair for anyone who needs one in Lourdes. It is possible to bring your own manual wheelchair if it is specially adapted for your needs. Please include details of your chair on your application form and we will contact you directly.

Can I bring my own electric wheelchair/scooter?

It may be possible to transport your electric wheelchair to Lourdes if it is essential or has been specially adapted for your needs. Please include the make and model on your application form so that we can discuss this option with you. It is possible to hire an electric scooter in Lourdes if you regularly use one at home; our Clinical Team can explore the available options with you.

Can I bring specialist equipment/bulky items?
Items such as raised toilet seats and shower matts can be provided in Lourdes; we may be able to transport larger items though space is limited. Please let us know your requirements in advance by contacting the Pilgrimage Office.

Accommodation

Where will I be staying?
We stay in a number of hotels which are close to one another and within 5–15 minutes walking distance of the Grotto, the heart of the Lourdes Sanctuary.

People who need additional care such as hoisting, or require significant help with personal care stay in the Accueil Notre Dame where specially adapted accommodation is available in the heart of the Sanctuary. This type of accommodation has clinicians and helpers available 24 hours a day on a waking rota.

If you are travelling as part of a family with young children, you will stay in the same hotel as other families. Your programme for the week will be family-orientated and vary slightly from the main pilgrimage. It’s great fun for children!

When will I know which hotel and group I will be in?
An information pack is sent to each of our pilgrims during the first week of July; it includes details of your travel and accommodation with joining instructions and luggage labels.

Can I choose where I stay and who I am in a group with?
While we do try to take people’s preferences into consideration, we must consider all our pilgrims and allocate appropriately to their needs.

Can I book a single room?
The number of single rooms is limited with an additional charge for these rooms. Priority for these rooms is given to the clergy and our assisted pilgrims. If we are unable to book a single room for you we will contact you and refund any single room payment made.

Who will I share a room with?
You can indicate who you would prefer to share a room with, on your application form. Married couples or families with young children will be given rooms together. Everyone else will be allocated a shared room with someone of the same sex and of a similar age.

What is a Hotel Group?
A Hotel Group is a ‘small community’ of fellow pilgrims. Each Hotel Group takes part in ‘whole pilgrimage’ events as well as activities involving just their group.

Every group is supported by a hotel Leadership Team made up of two leaders (one male, one female) a deputy leader, nurses, a doctor and chaplain. This team guides their group through the various events of the week, assisting pilgrims if they have any concerns or difficulties.

Food/Drink

Do I need to buy food/drinks in Lourdes?
All accommodation is full board which means that breakfast with tea and coffee, lunch and dinner are all included. You can purchase additional drinks from your hotels or the many cafés and shops in Lourdes. Personal water bottles can be refilled in hotels or directly from taps in the Sanctuary, free of charge.

I have special dietary requirements: do I need to bring my own food?
The hotels we use cater for special dietary requirements. If you have indicated this on your application form or medical assessment we will notify the hotel in advance for you.  You can bring additional snacks or food for your journey if required and there are a number of supermarkets in Lourdes that you can also visit.

In Lourdes

What is the weather like in Lourdes?
While we hope the weather will be warm and dry we know that it can be very changeable. Please pack a lightweight raincoat and a warm jumper, just in case.

How will I know what is going on during the week?
Your Leadership Team will let you know the programme for the week.

On your arrival in Lourdes you will be given a Pilgrimage Handbook which sets out our programme for the week and includes details of events you may wish to take part in.  You should bring your Handbook to every Mass and refer to it for information on:
- The story of Bernadette
- The Marian Torchlight Procession
- The Blessed Sacrament Procession
- Mass with anointing of the Sick
- The Baths
- The Sacrament of Reconciliation

A copy of the handbook is uploaded to this website each year.

It is very important to remember that you don’t have to do everything on our pilgrimage programme, particularly if you have a medical condition or are elderly or frail. Be sensible and don’t become exhausted!

What other ways can I get involved in Lourdes?
Music: Our choir and musicians are very active during our week in Lourdes. We hold a music rehearsal in the UK before the pilgrimage. Please make sure you have appropriate insurance if you are bringing a musical instrument with you as this will not be covered by our travel insurance.

Technical Support for our music group: our technician is always grateful to those who help with our sound equipment and loop services. You need to be fit enough to help lift equipment and work at a safe but fast pace.

Serving at Mass: if you are an altar server in your parish and would like to serve in Lourdes please include this on your application form - you will need to bring your own alb.

Reading at Mass: please include a wish to read on your application form. There are a finite number of opportunities to read so please do not be disappointed if you are not able to read this year.

Sign language: a number of pilgrims volunteer to sign Mass in Lourdes for those who are deaf or hard of hearing; they are not usually professional signers but provide service to each other. If you can sign and would like to help, please let us know in the skills and abilities section of our application form.

Questions or Concerns

What should I do if I am worried about someone on the pilgrimage?
The Diocese of Arundel and Brighton is committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults. There is a clear expectation that all those travelling on the pilgrimage share this commitment. All pilgrims will receive information and contact details on how to raise their concerns during our week in Lourdes. If you are unsure please speak to a member of your Hotel Group’s Leadership Team or the Pilgrimage Core Team who will be able to advise you of our escalation procedures.

What do I do if I am unwell in Lourdes?
Our doctors and nurses will support you with existing UK treatment plans; if you fall ill outside of any plan or diagnosis they will help you to contact local healthcare providers. If necessary, you can contact the emergency services directly.

What to take with you?

Passport
– please check that your passport is valid. From 1st January 2021, on your day of travel you will need your passport to:

• have at least 6 months left on it.
• be less than 10 years old (even if it has 6 months or more left on it).

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
– the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), is valid up to 31st December 2020. When you apply for the Pilgrimage you will receive details of our insurance which covers healthcare in France.

Medication
– if you are on any medication make sure you take at least 2 weeks' supply.

Sun Protection
– please pack sun cream and a hat.

Bring a small personal first aid kit
– unless you are in the Redshirt group our medical team cannot supply: plasters, paracetamol, etc. Redshirts should follow the guidance agreed with their parents or carers before to the trip.

A lightweight raincoat
.

Something warm
- such as a jumper or cardigan.

Money
– our hotels provide three meals a day, money is only needed for visits to cafés, items you might want to buy or excursions you might like to make. There is a collection to support the upkeep and work of the Sanctuary during one of the Masses so you may wish to budget a little money for this also.

What should I wear?

Helpers, Redshirts & Nurses – a uniform dress code will be sent to you.

Shoes – there is quite a lot of walking and standing around during our time in Lourdes.  Comfortable footwear is essential, Lourdes is not the place to break in new shoes!

Clothing - Lourdes can be very hot during the day though it is often much cooler in the early mornings and in the evenings. Comfortable, light-weight clothing which can be layered is ideal.
 
Pilgrims are asked to dress and behave respectfully within the Sanctuary at all times. Shoulders and midriffs should be completely covered with shorts or skirts at least knee-length.

Wet weather – when it rains in Lourdes it can be anything from a light drizzle to a torrential downpour; a waterproof jacket is essential.

Sales

How can I buy copies of the CDs produced by the Pilgrimage Choir?
CDs can be purchased from one of our team in Lourdes. If you wish to purchase a CD before or after our trip please contact the Pilgrimage Office.

After Lourdes

How can I stay involved with the pilgrimage once we return to the UK?
There are lots of ways you can remain involved with our pilgrimage in the UK. We hold a pilgrimage Reunion Mass each year. Details of the date and venue can be found in your handbook or in the Events section of this website. We also host a Hotel Group Reunion organised after the pilgrimage by our leadership team.

Our Prayer Network is great way to connect with members of our pilgrimage family, allowing pilgrims to continue praying for one another throughout the year. If you would like to join us please email: prayer-network@ablourdes.org. We also have an annual parish collection organised by parish representatives to raise funds which enable people to travel to Lourdes. If you would like to become a parish rep, please contact our Pilgrimage Office who will be happy to help.

A glossary of frequently used terms

A Prayer Pilgrim is a pilgrim whose service on the pilgrimage is through prayer, rather than being a Helper or a Redshirt.

An Assisted Prayer Pilgrim is a prayer pilgrim who needs some degree of assistance – this might be someone to push their wheelchair through to someone requiring 24 hour care.

A Helper is someone aged between 17 and 75 who is registered and DBS checked for their role in Lourdes.

Orangeshirts are primary-aged children who have made their First Holy Communion.

Greenshirts
are young people in Years 7, 8 or 9 of secondary school.

Redshirts
are students in school years 10 or 11.

Yellowshirts
are prayer pilgrims who are unable to be official helpers but have skills to offer. They work with our support services.

Support Services
– A variety of roles to support the activities of the Pilgrimage while in Lourdes, e.g. Outside Events, Music Team, Catering Team.

Chaplain
- a Priest or Deacon.

Our Assistant Chaplains are female, they have experience of chaplaincy, often in a school, hospital, hospice or prison setting.

The Accueil is our accommodation within the Sanctuary where pilgrims with higher physical and/or 24 hour care needs stay.

The Domaine or Sanctuary is the main area around the Grotto in Lourdes where the churches, chapels, baths, candle banks and the Accueil are located.

High Stations are the Stations of the Cross which wind up the hill behind the Domaine.  Completed in 1912 and located on the Hill of Espélugues. The hill is steep with pilgrims requiring a level of fitness to walk up it, this way of the cross is 1,500 metres long with 115 figures made of cast iron and painted gold. Each morning one of the pilgrimage chaplains will lead a group round these stations beginning at 6.15am.
 
The Virgin Mary asked Bernadette Soubirous to ‘Go and drink at the Spring and wash yourself there’ on 25th February 1858. Lourdes Water is not holy water, it is normal water, it has no thermal virtue or specific property. Bernadette herself said: ‘This water is being taken as medicine… One must have faith, one must pray: this water would have no virtue without faith!’ There are water stations in the Sanctuary where you can fill your water bottle or run your hands through the water at Lourdes.

The baths are a unique place where pilgrims can be immersed in the waters of the spring that flows in the Grotto of the apparitions.  Our Pilgrimage has a special time reserved for those who wish to go to the baths. Helpers may volunteer to provide service by working in the baths to support pilgrims, these helpers must be over the age of 18, have experienced the baths themselves and hold a valid Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check with the Pilgrimage.