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Society celebrates 100 years

The Society of Our Lady of Lourdes, a national pilgrimage charity, is celebrating a milestone in its history this year

By on Thursday, 12 January 2012

Schoolchildren from Yorkshire help out on last year’s pilgrimage     Photo:Victoria Taylor

Schoolchildren from Yorkshire help out on last year’s pilgrimage Photo:Victoria Taylor

The Society of Our Lady of Lourdes, a national pilgrimage charity, is celebrating a milestone in its history in 2012.

This year marks the centenary of the Society which works to give honour to Our Lady and enable and encourage pilgrims to visit Lourdes by minimising the barriers of cost and disability.

Although originally the principal annual pilgrimage from England to Lourdes, over time, as individual diocesan pilgrimages have formed, the Society’s role has evolved to specialise in the very sick, working to care for those who require the most support to travel. The Society’s annual Lourdes pilgrimage takes place in early summer with the help of experienced helpers who are supported by a professional team of medical staff, who alongside their auxiliaries, provide the pilgrims with 24-hour care.

Despite its age, the Society also works hard to engage with the youth of today and is accompanied every year by over 150 students from three Catholic high schools based in Yorkshire and Watford who offer their enthusiastic help and companionship to the pilgrims. The Society also has its own Twitter and Facebook accounts, blog and YouTube channel, enabling it to keep in touch with the times as well as reach its 1,248 members who live throughout the country and internationally.

Fundraising initiatives have already begun to mark the 100th birthday including the formation of a Centenary Club whose members enter a monthly lottery-style prize draw. Plans for the coming months include an integrated quiz night via video conference for members throughout the country, a sponsored cycle ride and a “Sponsored Push” wheelchair fundraising event. An exhibition documenting the history of the Society will also open in Lourdes in May.

Catherine Casey, a council member of the Society, hopes that the centennial celebrations will help raise awareness of the Society’s work.
She said: “Lourdes is a very sacred and unforgettable experience which provides our pilgrims physical and spiritual nourishment as well as lifelong friendships. From pushing wheelchairs to feeding and cleaning, our helpers are there to assist from the time we meet at the departure airport to the time we bid farewell on our return.”

  • Marita

    As an  Australian tourist, visiting my sister in London, I found myself almost “press ganged” by this sister( Trish), into travelling to Lourdes with the Society on the English National Pilgrimage in 1980. As a “handmaid”, I had no idea what to expect. It was such a fantastic experience that I joined the helpers on seven journeys over nine years coming from Sydney to travel from London to Lourdes and back. My mother and two brothers, a couple of cousins and friends were also “press ganged”at different times.
    I loved the way we cared for the patients and was overwhelmed by the care they gave to us.Lourdes is a place of great reflection and the wisdom received from those who were gravely ill as well as the older helpers was of enormous help in my life.I had the privilege to work in the Baths and join in the most earnest of prayers as we helped pilgrims into the water.
    We made lifelong friendships through working long hours together and then gathering with helpers after work to share stories and sing songs. The Grotto at midnight was breathtaking..

    So …..young and old, pack your bags….All you need is a pair of hands, a smile and the tiniest sliver of faith. Join the travellers on a journey that will fill you with warmth for the rest of your life….
    To the Society….Best Wishes on your Anniversary and Happy travelling to all my old friends…

    Marita Devaney ( nee Lennon)
    Sydney, Australa