Around 800 pilgrims including more than 100 sick, disabled and elderly people joined Bishop Terry for our 66th annual pilgrimage to Lourdes.

The pilgrims included seven doctors, 13 nurses, a pharmacist, a record 126 handmaids, 71 brancardiers and 150 young people from all parts of the diocese for what was a very special week of prayer and camaraderie.

The main party flew in two specially chartered 189-seat Boeing 737-800s from Durham Tees Valley, with more making their way by coach, car, train and other flights.

Around half the supported pilgrims were looked after in the Accueil Notre Dame Hospital, with the others staying in the many hotels around the town.

The doctors include two who recently completed their training, Daniel Doherty, from Normanby, and Joseph Duffield, from Coulby Newham. Like all the volunteers, who include many non-Catholics, the doctors pay their own travel and accommodation costs.

Pilgrimage director Keith Tillotson praised Durham Tees Valley airport for once again working hard to ensure everything went smoothly.

“We worked with the same manager and groundstaff as we have for several years,” he said. “They are very good for us, allowing us to take our equipment down the night before the flights and doing everything they possibly can to help.  

“It always amazes us that we take people from all different walks of life and put them together in teams for an emotional, highly charged week and yet it works so well. Physical miracles are few and far between, but people experience their own personal miracles every day in Lourdes.” 

This year’s pilgrimage theme was taken from St Luke’s Gospel, “Blessed are the poor for the kingdom of God is theirs.”

We were delighted to welcome back Canon Dan Spaight, who has now retired to Ireland but was a key organiser of our pilgrimage and is a Canon of the Sanctuary in Lourdes. 

Canon Spaight, who spent much of his priesthood serving in Thornaby, celebrates the diamond jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood this year.

Next year’s pilgrimage takes place from Friday May 22 to Friday May 29 2020.