The Catholic Association has been in existence
for over a hundred years. The sole activity of the Catholic Association today
is the organisation of the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. These Frequently
Asked Questions have been put together to give all our visitors basic information
about our Pilgrimage. Each question includes links to further information
on the site.
Who are the Catholic Association?
The Catholic Association was founded in 1891 with the approval and
blessing of Cardinal Manning a contemporary of Blessed John Henry Newman.
England at that time had recently restored the hierarchy - restored in 1850
just eight years before the first apparition at Lourdes in 1858.
Since the 1970's, its main purpose is to mastermind the CA
Annual Pilgrimage to Lourdes, currently incorporating the diocesan pilgrimages
of Clifton, East Anglia, Northampton, Portsmouth, Southwark, the British Province
of Carmelites, and the Stonyhurst College Lourdes Pilgrimage. Each of these
groups is overseen by a Diocesan or Group Director. In addition, the Pilgrimage
includes the Glanfield Children's Group.
The entire Pilgrimage is coordinated by the Pilgrimage Director
(currently Mgr Bill Saunders from Southwark Archdiocese).
How does the Catholic Association
The CA is a Registered Charity (number 1071120), and has a number of Trustees.
The Trustees fulfil the usual role of Trustees, which is to guard the funds.
The Trustees appoint Pilgrimage Officers (the heads of the different service
sections including doctors, nurses, brancs, handmaids). They also appoint
the leader of the Young Helpers' Group. The Pilgrimage Officers, YHG Leader,
together with the Diocesan Directors, make up the Pilgrimage Management Committee
(PMC), and this manages itself.
In addition to the PMC, the CA Hospitalité of Our Lady
of Lourdes exists to bind together the volunteer pilgrims, known in French
as Hospitalier(e)s, who help in the service of all pilgrims – especially
assisted pilgrims – during the Pilgrimage; doctors, nurses, handmaids
(female helpers), brancardiers (male helpers), chaplains, and praying members.
The CA Hospitalité's main role is to look after all the assisted pilgrims
and helpers before and during the Pilgrimage. All helpers work for the CA
Hospitalité in Lourdes.
Which groups and dioceses
make up the Catholic Association Pilgrimage? The CA Pilgrimage is made up of the diocesan pilgrimages of Clifton,
East Anglia, Northampton, Portsmouth, Southwark, plus the British Province
of Carmelites Lourdes Pilgrimage, and the Stonyhurst College Lourdes Pilgrimage.
Each of these groups is overseen by a Diocesan or Group Director. In addition,
the Pilgrimage includes the Glanfield Children's Group.
Click on one your Diocesan/Group Pilgrimage Director to email
them directly (this will also provide further contact details).
What happened in Lourdes?
From the 11 February 1858, a 14-year old peasant girl called Bernadette Soubirous
experienced 18 apparitions of a girl dressed in white with a blue belt around
her waist, who eventually introduced herself as the Immaculate Conception,
a name by which the Virgin Mary was known.
On this first morning when Bernadette’s family awoke
in the damp and miserable Cachot there was no more firewood for the fire and
Bernadette pleaded with her mother to be allowed to find some new firewood.
Eventually her mother consented although she as always was concerned for her
Bernadette’s own account of the events follows (Taken from "Ecrits
de Saint Bernadette")
Then I turned my head towards the meadow. I saw the trees quite still: I went
on taking off my stockings. I heard the same sound again. As I raised my head
to look at the grotto, I saw a Lady dressed in white, wearing a white dress,
a blue girdle and a yellow rose on each foot, the same color as the chain
of her rosary; the beads of the rosary were white."
"The Lady made a sign for me to approach; but I was seized
with fear, and I did not dare, thinking that I was faced with an illusion.
I rubbed my eyes, but in vain. I looked again, and I could still see the same
Lady. Then I put my hand into my pocket, and took my rosary. I wanted to make
the sign of the cross, but in vain; I could not raise my hand to my forehead,
it kept on dropping. Then a violent impression took hold of me more strongly,
but I did not go."
"The Lady took the rosary that she held in her hands
and she made the sign of the cross. Then I commenced not to be afraid. I took
my rosary again; I was able to make the sign of the cross; from that moment
I felt perfectly undisturbed in mind. I knelt down and said my rosary, seeing
this Lady always before my eyes. The Vision slipped the beads of her rosary
between her fingers, but she did not move her lips. When I had said my rosary
the Lady made a sign for me to approach, but I did not dare. I stayed in the
same place. Then, all of a sudden, she disappeared. I started to remove the
other stocking to cross the shallow water near the grotto so as to join my
companions. And we went away. As we returned, I asked my companions if they
had seen anything. 'No,' they replied. 'And what about you? Did you see anything?'
'Oh, no, if you have seen nothing, neither have I.' "
"I thought I had been mistaken. But as we went, all the
way, they kept asking me what I had seen. I did not want to tell them. Seeing
that they kept on asking I decided to tell them, on condition that they would
tell nobody. They promised not to tell. They said that I must never go there
again, nor would they, thinking that it was someone who would harm us. I said
no. As soon as they arrived home they hastened to say that I had seen a Lady
dressed in white. That was the first time."
There were a further 17 apparitions where Our Lady asked Bernadette
to do a number of things. Among the instructions from Our Lady were "Go
and drink from the spring", "Go and tell the priests to build a
chapel here", and "Have the people come here in procession".
These three instructions in particular were to prove pivotal in the development
of Lourdes and its ceremonies.
How do we travel
The Catholic Association Pilgrimage have appointed Tangney Tours as the tour
operator. They organise the aircraft and hotel bookings and carry out other
tour operator duties whilst the Pilgrimage Management Committee, comprising
of various Catholic Association Trustees and members of the Catholic Association
Hospitalite, organise the day to day running of the Pilgrimage.
To join our Pilgrimage you can either apply
to Tangney Tours for a copy of their Pilgrimage brochure or download a copy
of the basic air or train travel forms below. Tangney Tours details are as
How do I become a volunteer helper?
At the heart of our Pilgrimage are the assisted pilgrims (or APs) who need
care or assistance.
Men and women of all ages and backgrounds come to Lourdes
as volunteer helpers to answer Mary’s request for people to ‘come
in procession’, but more importantly they come in response to the command
of her son Jesus to love God and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Gospel
of Mark 12:29-31). These volunteer helpers, who are pilgrims themselves, strive
to encounter Jesus in each pilgrim, caring for their physical, emotional and
spiritual well-being. The CA Hospitalité manages all the volunteer
helpers, which includes doctors, nurses, and non medical helpers: brancardiers
(male) and handmaids (female).
In addition, if you are aged 17-25, you can be a part of the
Young Helpers’ Group, (a supervised group staying in a separate hotel)
please let us know here
Although we are unable to include people under 17 as full
volunteers under the terms of our insurance, we welcome enthusiastic younger
people whose families are on the Pilgrimage and who are interested in coming
as volunteers when they reach 17 and wish to see what volunteer work is like.
Simply email us here.
If you are interested in volunteering for the CA, please email
Can I bring my children on Pilgrimage
and still be a helper?
If you have children, the CA organises the Helpers' Children's Programme (HCP),
which offers a programme of activities for the children (0 - 16) of helpers
working on the Pilgrimage. It is generally open from 8.30 - 12 and 2 - 6 each
day and your duties can be adjusted accordingly. For more information, please
email HCP here.
How do I come to Lourdes as an
If accompanied by a relative, spouse, friend or carer, you may choose to stay
in a hotel in Lourdes and receive basic support from volunteer helpers. This
usually takes the form of wheelchair assistance moving about the town and
to services. Otherwise, many of our APs stay in the Accueil, a residential
facility where APs receive full-time care from volunteer helpers who work
Who are the Glanfield Children's
The Glanfield Children's Group was set up in 1987 in memory of Father Frank
Glanfield, a priest who was involved with the care of children with special
needs both in Lourdes and in England. Since 1987 the group has taken to Lourdes
many children with learning difficulties as well as chronic and terminal illness
each August as part of the Catholic Association Pilgrimage.
I sing and/or play an instrument.
Can I help?
The CA music group welcomes all those that can sing and play an instrument
to join them. If you want to volunteer as a full-time singer/musician, please
contact the Director of Music: Mrs Judy Ball, 8 Farrow Road, Norwich, Norfolk,
What is stage?
During one of the Virgin Mary’s apparitions to Saint Bernadette in 1858,
she asked that people come in procession to the Grotto. Ever since then there
has been a ‘ministry of welcome’ in Lourdes, receiving and caring
for all the pilgrims who come to the apparition site, especially the sick
Bernadette described how Our Lady smiled at her ‘as
one person would to another,’ and this smile of welcome is today extended
to six million visitors a year by the volunteers who work in the sanctuaries
of Lourdes. Some of these volunteers work in the Forum-Information Centre
welcoming individual pilgrims and small groups. Other volunteers work in the
Youth service, or give of their time and talent in one of the pavilion tents
around the Domaine. However, the largest group of volunteers (16,000 of them)
is known as the Hospitalité Notre-Dame de Lourdes (Hospitality of Our
Lady of Lourdes). In the past a ‘Hospitality’ was a charitable
organisation whose aim was to gather, accommodate and feed the less fortunate
in a hostel or hospital. Today the Hospitalité Notre-Dame de Lourdes
(HNDL) builds on that tradition, welcoming pilgrims to Lourdes (especially,
but not only, the sick and disabled), and assisting at religious ceremonies.
It is an organisation of pilgrims at the service of other pilgrims and Our
What do Catholics believe?
Catholics are first and foremost, Christians. We believe that God revealed
Himself to us in His Son, Jesus Christ (which is where the name Christians
derives from). However God has also revealed Himself to be a Trinity of Persons:
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
What is the Mission Statement
for this website?
The Catholic Association website (www.catholicassociation.co.uk) is owned
and maintained by the Catholic Association and its Hospitalité. The
website is a tool to further the aims and objectives of those societies, namely
the promotion of pilgrimage to Lourdes, and the support of the societies’
members in their lives and commitments.
The website aims to be:
A source of up-to-date information (on
Lourdes, its history, the Catholic Association and its pilgrimages, how
to get to Lourdes, how to volunteer services, etc.)
A resource for communication (for those
wanting to know more about Lourdes, to spread news and information among
A support for spiritual growth (by providing
resources on prayer and the spirituality of Lourdes and its Gospel message)
An aid to building community (by fostering
discussion and debate, and by being a forum in which people can share experience