The Catholic Association Hospitalité of Our Lady of Lourdes
The CA Hospitalité exists to bind together the volunteer pilgrims, known in French as Hospitalier(e)s, who help in the service of all pilgrims, especially our assisted pilgrims (the sick), during the Pilgrimage. Our helpers comprise doctors, nurses, handmaids (female helpers), brancardiers (male helpers), chaplains, and praying members. The Hospitalité is a religious sodality in the Catholic Church, with a strong social and spiritual element and is affiliated to the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes (the central Hospitalité coordinating most volunteers in Lourdes throughout the year).
Scope & Purpose
The Catholic Association Hospitalité of Our Lady of Lourdes is the organisation responsible for coordinating the welcome and care of pilgrims, especially sick pilgrims, who come to Lourdes.
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 members of the CA Hospitalité are volunteers who have made a commitment to serve fellow pilgrims in Lourdes on a regular basis; one week each year when possible. They help in the smooth running of religious and other activities on the Catholic Association Pilgrimage, so that everyone can benefit from the spiritual and social benefits of a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
The Hospitalité provides its members with a social and spiritual community; cooperation and mutual support is essential to our work. We work hard, play hard and pray hard!
The Hospitalité consists of professionals (such as medical teams) and volunteers with no special skills. The Hospitalité provides some training for certain tasks and tries to ensure the safety of all pilgrims on the Catholic Association Pilgrimage. It also looks after all areas associated with the CA’s assisted pilgrims.
Almost every major pilgrimage to Lourdes has a Hospitalité organisation of some sort and most – like the Catholic Association – consists of the following types of volunteer helpers:
Health-care professionals (physiotherapists etc.)
Handmaids (female non-medical helpers)
Brancardiers, or ‘Brancs’ (male non-medical helpers)
The name Hospitalité comes from the French term for charitable organisations that originally welcomed and sheltered travellers, the sick and the needy.
All Hospitalités that come to Lourdes on pilgrimage are known as ‘accompanying’ Hospitalités, because they accompany pilgrims from a specific place. They are mostly affiliated to the Hospitalité Notre-Dame de Lourdes (HNDL), the central coordinating Hospitalité that coordinates much of the ‘infrastructure’ of Lourdes: the baths, the processions, the reception of pilgrims, crowd-control, etc.
The Hospitalité Notre-Dame de Lourdes consists of approximately 16,000 members from around the world. It encourages pilgrimage Hospitalités to send volunteers to join it for one week a year. Volunteering for the HNDL is known as doing a ‘Stage’ (meaning work-experience).
As well as the HNDL, the Sanctuaries in Lourdes are kept running throughout the year by a team of permanent and seasonal staff, responsible for coordinating the liturgies, maintaining the candles, cleaning, building maintenance, personnel, translations, gardening, etc. There are also teams of permanent chaplains, youth-workers, caterers, and those in the Welcome-Information Service.
All these teams work together to make the pilgrimage experience as happy and fulfilling as possible for all pilgrims to Lourdes.
There are also religious orders permanently in Lourdes who run pilgrim shelters for assisted pilgrims, known as ‘Accueils’, or ‘houses of welcome’. These buildings are something between a hospital and a hotel. There are three main Accueil in Lourdes:
The Accueil Notre-Dame: Run by an order of nuns and their staff, this Accueil is in the heart of the domaine, and used by the Catholic Association. The Catholic Association Hospitalité works closely with the staff of the Accueil Notre Dame.
The Accueil Marie Saint Frai: Run by a different order, and located just outside the domaine in a recently refurbished nineteenth-century building
The Salus Infirmorum: An Accueil owned by an Italian Hospitalité organisation for Italian pilgrims.
The CA Hospitalité it is a recognised as a ‘sodality’ in the Catholic Church, that is a religious gathering with a unifying purpose of doing charitable works.
The principal aims and objects of the CA Hospitalité are set out in the Constitution (and summarised above the application for membership) as follows:
(i) To serve the assisted pilgrims going to Lourdes on the Catholic Association Pilgrimage and to help in the smooth running of religious and other activities involving assisted pilgrims on that Pilgrimage under the direction of and in collaboration with the Pilgrimage Directors and Heads of Service.
This service consists especially of looking after the material needs of the assisted pilgrims although the obligation of a member of the Hospitalité is not limited to material work. Members will be expected to help all pilgrims to benefit fully from the religious and social benefits of a pilgrimage to Lourdes. All this to be undertaken in a spirit of friendship, charity and solidarity which are parts of the ministry of the Church and which must compliment the work done while away from Lourdes, especially in their own Diocese and Parishes in co-ordination with other members of the Hospitalité.
(ii) To strengthen the bonds of fraternal life between its members and to help them maintain their obligations as Christians, their responsibilities in the Church and their devotion to Our Lady. This service consists especially of looking after the material needs of the sick pilgrims although the obligation of a member of the Hospitalité is not limited to material work. Members will be expected to help all pilgrims to benefit fully from the religious and social benefits of a pilgrimage to Lourdes.
1. Members will be expected to help all pilgrims to Lourdes especially the sick and handicapped.
2. They are encouraged to assist at Mass (especially on the Feasts of Our Lady), to receive Holy Communion and to recite the Rosary, as often as possible.
3. Members will be expected to uphold in their lives, and to encourage in the lives of others, the objects of the Hospitalité.
Volunteer pilgrims may apply for membership of the Hospitalité on conclusion of their first pilgrimage. The Hospitalité Council may admit to the membership any class of person or individual who, in their opinion, renders suitable services to the sick. Following approval by the Hospitalité Council, applicants will be admitted to ordinary membership during their next pilgrimage to Lourdes, having made an Act of Consecration before the Patron or Chaplain. After working with the Pilgrimage for a further two years as members, helpers may apply for admission to full membership of the Hospitalité the following year. The Hospitalité Council may also invite ‘Sick Pilgrims’ to become full members of the Hospitalité who support the organization through their prayers.
It is worth remembering that members are encouraged to take the Spirit of Lourdes home with them and to promote the pilgrimage, in particular by recruiting other volunteers and by making known the facilities provided for Sick Pilgrims, both those who need to stay in an Accueil (house of welcome for the sick) and others who would be better served in a hotel.
Hospitalité membership is free, though this is always being reviewed by the Council.
The CA Hospitalité is governed by a Council consisting of some ex-officio members who are Pilgrimage Officers (on the Pilgrimage Management Committee), and three members elected each for three years on a ‘rolling’ programme. The Council elects its own Officers, the President has a seat on the PMC, and the Council has power to co-opt members for a specific purpose. The Council is the driving force of the Hospitalité and will constantly seek to improve the way in which the Assisted Pilgrims are cared for.
Types of Membership
There are two levels of membership within the Hospitalité: ‘ordinary’ and ‘full’. This is not to encourage a hierarchy within the organisation, but to allow experienced helpers to make a deeper commitment to serving pilgrims in Lourdes. In addition, the Council will invite certain people to become prayer members.
All helpers on the Catholic Association Pilgrimage to Lourdes may apply for admission to ‘ordinary’ membership of the CA Hospitalité on conclusion of their first pilgrimage with the Catholic Association.
After working with the Catholic Association Pilgrimage for a further two years as ordinary members, pilgrim-helpers may apply for admission to ‘full’ membership of the Hospitalité.
Application forms for both ordinary and full membership can be requested from the Secretary of the Hospitalité or here and must be submitted to him or her by 1st January of the following year, having first been signed by a Head of Service (there are four services: brancardier, handmaid, nurse or doctor). Heads of Service are defined as the Chief Brancardier, Chief Handmaid, Chief Medical Officer, Chief Nurse. Other helpers on the pilgrimage not directly in these services (such as Glanfield Children’s Group, clergy and music group) should have their forms signed by the President of the Hospitalité, or their leader.
Applications are submitted to the Hospitalité Council for approval in the February meeting. Following approval by the Council, applicants will be admitted to the appropriate level of membership during their next pilgrimage to Lourdes by making an Act of Consecration before the Patron, Chaplain and President of the Hospitalité.
The CA Hospitalité Council may, at its discretion, invite Assisted Pilgrims who have frequently participated in the Catholic Association Pilgrimage to become full members of the Hospitalité. These pilgrims are also required to undertake the responsibilities of membership, spiritually if not physically. These ‘Prayer members’ shall usually be admitted to the Hospitalité by making the usual Act of Consecration before the Patron, Chaplain and President at the annual Hospitalité service in Lourdes (rather than at the opening mass).
Membership of the CA Hospitalité is outwardly exhibited by the wearing of insignia. These insignia are not decorations, but dedications; a sign of the member’s commitment to service. The full members’ insignia is included above.
We are always looking for new members willing to offer their time and energies.
Our newsletter is produced twice a year: Autumn/Winter and Spring. It is edited by the Hospitalité Secretary.
Archive of newsletters to 1997 and beyond – coming soon!
For lists of our past officials, click on the button below!
CA & HNDL Consecration
Holy Mary Mother of God, Virgin Immaculate, you appeared eighteen times to Bernadette at the grotto in Lourdes, to remind Christians of what the truths in the Gospel require of them. You called them to prayer, penance, the Eucharist and life in the Church.
To answer your call more fully, I consecrate myself through you to your Son Jesus.
Make me willing to accept what he said. By the fervour of my faith, by the conduct of my life in all its aspects, by my devotion to the sick, let me work with you in the comforting of those who suffer and in the reconciliation of people, that the Church may be One, and there be peace in the world.
All this I ask, confident that you, Our Lady, will fully answer my prayer.
Blessed be the holy and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God
Our Lady of Lourdes, pray for us.
Saint Bernadette, pray for us.
Saint Benedict Joseph Labre, pray for us.
For more Prayers, make sure to visit our Spirituality section!