Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimages to Lourdes

Easter and September

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The Dublin Diocese takes two pilgrimages to Lourdes each year. The pilgrimage in September is one of the biggest events in the Diocese calendar and is lead by the Basilica ViewArchbishop. About 2,000 pilgrims travel from all over the Diocese. Of these, 180 are sick pilgrims staying at the Accueil Notre Dame which is ‘a place of welcome’ close to the Grotto and with many of the facilities of a modern hospital. Another 550 of the pilgrims are voluntary helpers, made up of nurses and doctors, male and female helpers, known as handmaids and brancardiers, and a team of chaplains. A further 200 young people assist as well in the care of the sick pilgrims and many of these are from secondary schools and colleges from around the Diocese. The balance of the pilgrimage is made up of Parish Groups and individuals from every corner of the Diocese.

The Children’s Pilgrimage is a much smaller group, but a very important one, as it joins with thousands of other child pilgrims from all over the world each Easter Week. About forty children travel from Dublin assisted by the same number of helpers and a team of chaplains, doctors and nurses.

On this website you will be able to find out more about Lourdes and how you may be able to get more information on any section of our Diocesan Pilgrimage.

No other diocesan event brings more people together each year and is a reflection of the great Irish tradition of devotion to our Blessed Lady. In fact, the Irish have the largest presence in Lourdes, per head of population compared to any other nation.

If you need any further information we can be contacted using the details on the Contact Us page above.

Latest News

2017 Blessing of Hands

The Blessing of Hands for our 2017 Pilgrimage will take place on Sunday 27th August in the Church of St Therese, Mount Merrion. Helper meetings start from 2pm, with Mass at 3:30pm.

September Pilgrimage

badgeAbout 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 first French National Pilgrimage to Lourdes took place in 1872 in which 25,000 pilgrims were present.

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 to Lourdes.

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. A total of 2,187 pilgrims travelled to Lourdes, of which, 363 were from Dublin. One pilgrim, Grace Maloney from Co. Clare was cured of a tubercular femur during this Pilgrimage. Subsequently, Canon Lockhart and Canon Turley of Dolphin’s Barn were prominent in promoting devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. Canon Turley was also an important member of the 1933 National Pilgrimage. However, it was well into 1947, in the period after the war, before organised Pilgrimages began to arrive from Ireland to the shrine.

Archbishop MartinFirst Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage:

In late 1948, His Grace, 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 it’s first Director. His Grace outlined his proposal in a meeting with Fr. Gough and Mr. John Bolger regarding the route, numbers and air transport for the sick. He advised them that the Lourdes Authorities had been contacted and were ready to receive the pilgrims. He appointed Thomas Cook as travel agents. 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 together 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.

The second group left in the evening after Benediction in St. Andrews Church Westland Row, for Dun Laoghaire and Holyhead. They had a stopover at Crewe, to collect containers of boiling water to make tea and collect sandwiches. It was then non-stop from Crewe to Paris, where the pilgrims stayed overnight.

They attended Benediction at the Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Rue de Bac, Paris, in the evening and they continued on the ten-hour journey to Lourdes the next day.

On Tuesday August 9, a specially equipped Sabena Skymaster carrying 44 passengers, most of whom were stretcher cases, left Dublin Airport at 6.15 a.m. for the recently opened Tarbes Airport near Lourdes. Fr. Gough accompanied His Grace the Archbishop on this, the first Diocesan flight to Lourdes, which took four hours. The plane returned to Dublin to fly the remaining pilgrims and sick to Lourdes. Each flight had a priest, doctor and nurses in attendance for the journey.

On arrival in Tarbes, they were taken by motor coach to the Accueil to join up later with the 900 other pilgrims, who had taken the overland route. It was the largest Pilgrimage to leave Ireland since 1939.

Ever since, except for 1953 when "the General Workers Strike" in France prevented the pilgrims from reaching Lourdes, the Diocesan Pilgrimage has continued to travel to Lourdes.

Sixty-seven years on, the Dublin Diocesan Pilgrimage to Lourdes continues under the leadership of our Archbishop, Most Reverend Diarmuid Martin.


To contact the Pilgrimage, please see our Contacts page in the menu bar above.


Pilgrimage Personnel - 2017 Pilgrimage

Pilgrimage Director: Fr. Martin Noone.
Pilgrimage Secretary: Fr. Gerard Tyrrell
Pilgrimage Spiritual Director: Fr. John Gilligan.
Chaplains to the Sick: Canon John Flaherty, Msgr. Dan O'Connor, Fr. Liam Rigney, Sr. Anna Kennedy, Fr. Paul Glennon.
Apostolate to the Sick: Fr. Pat Carroll.
Musical Director: (Dublin Lourdes Choir) Dr. Sharon Lyons.
Choir Chaplain: Fr. Paddy Boyle.
Master of ceremonies: Fr. Damian McNeice.
Schools Chaplain: Fr. Paul Thornton.
Schools Officers: Ms. Michelle Stedman, Mr. Eoin Kilkenny
Youth Chaplain: Fr. Sean Donohoe, O.F.M. Cap.
Youth Officers: Mr Brian Ensor, Ms Sonya O'Dolan
Safeguarding & Child Protection Officer: Mr. Andrew Fagan.
Chief Medical Officer: Dr. Maeve O’Reilly.
Asst. Chief Medical Officer: Dr. Mathew Lynch
Director of Nursing: Ms. Rosaleen O'Malley
Asst. Director of Nursing: Ms. Vivienne Vize.
Chief Handmaid: Ms. Ciara Murray.
Asst. Chief Handmaids: Ms. Claudine Frame, Ms. Margaret Beausang.
Chief Brancardier: Mr. David Carrigy.
Asst. Chief Brancardiers: Mr. John Darby, Mr. Stephen Murphy.
Secretaries to Helpers Council: Ms. Laura Corrigan, Mr. Jim Gallagher.
Administrative Secretary: Ms. Geraldine Hanley

Easter Childrens Pilgrimage

Each Easter for almost 30 years children from the Dublin Diocese with "special needs" travel to Lourdes where they are joined by thousands of children from around the world for "Children’s week in Lourdes".

About 40 children travel and they are cared for on a one-to-one basis by a team of helpers, chaplains, doctors and nurses.

Over the years hundreds of children have travelled with the Children’s Pilgrimage and a family atmosphere has been created. Along with fundraising events special occasions are an integral part of this special group, events such as birthday parties, engagements, weddings and even baptisms have all been celebrated.


Accueil Notre Dame

A Volunteer Helper – Why not you? After all the pilgrimage would not be possible except for the wonderful helpers who give their time and dedication to the pilgrimage. The volunteers are collectively known as the Dublin Hospitalite and comprise of the following:

  • Handmaids – the name given to female volunteers
  • Brancardier – translates to stretcher-bearer and is the name given to male volunteers
  • Nurses
  • Doctors

The Chief Handmaid is currently Ciara Murray. The role of the Handmaid is multifunctional and covers many areas both practical and spiritual. To volunteer as a Handmaid you do not need any special skills or knowledge. All duties are based around assisting the Sick Pilgrims, such as helping them at meal times, assisting them to and from Ceremonies and Processions, tending to their rooms and talking and listening to them. They also assist and accompany the sick to the Baths, visits to the Grotto, on shopping trips and to the picnic. Working with the Pilgrimage brings a two-fold reward – the joy of seeing the sick pilgrims experience Lourdes and the joy of being privileged to help. Lourdes is a wonderful place, full of love, sharing and caring. Here friendships are made in a moment and last a lifetime.


David Carrigy is currently the Chief Brancardier. The work of the Brancardiers is exactly the same as that of the Handmaids – to make the Sick Pilgrim’s stay in Lourdes as comfortable, meaningful and as enjoyable as possible. Duties may include working in the baths, assisting at the Airport, stewarding at ceremonies and processions, assisting Sick Pilgrims to and from ambulances. Their work begins at Dublin Airport, where they assist all pilgrims onto the planes. On arrival in Lourdes, the brancardier assist the sick onto the forgons (the buses for the sick pilgrims). They then travel to the Accueil, where they meet the sick and accompany them to their rooms. It can be hard but rewarding work.


Rosaleen O'Malley is the current Director of Nursing and travels to Lourdes with a team of approx 50 Registered General Nurses drawn from the live register. The role of the nurse is underpinned by a philosophy of care that places the Sick Pilgrim at the core of care giving and maintains a sensitive approach to meeting individual needs in a holistic and respectful manner.

The work of the Nurse starts long before the trip to Lourdes. From February onwards they visit potential Sick Pilgrims in their place of residence to assess their needs and plan for their nursing care while in Lourdes. These are extremely important visits as they provide the first point of face-to-face contact with the Sick Pilgrim. It is an opportunity to clarify the specific needs of each Sick Pilgrim and allay any concerns they may have in relation to travelling to Lourdes.


Dr. Maeve O'Reilly is the current Chief Medical Officer and she brings along with her a team of qualified doctors. During the 5 day trip to Lourdes, 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.

Working as a volunteer is a very rewarding and memorable experience and once you have travelled as a volunteer you would probably say, “this is the only way to travel to Lourdes”. Having travelled as a volunteer there are few who do not repeat the experience time and time again.

If you are interested in volunteering please contact the Pilgrimage Office for further information via the Contacts below.