About The Hospitality
Throughout each year the Diocesan Hospitality is challenged to ensure that every member of the diocesan pilgrimage community is given the opportunity to fully experience Lourdes, and to be a part of the services and processions that make up the pilgrims’ day. The nature of Lourdes means that each pilgrimage has to fit in with a tight schedule of meals, processions and services that are strictly timetabled. There is little scope for deviation, even allowing for the vagaries of the Lourdes climate.
This task is made manageable by bringing together all the groups under the Hospitality leadership and allocating specific duties to teams on a rota basis. Hopefully this ensures that enough helpers are available when needed, and that the workload is distributed evenly. Helpers in Lourdes are often referred to as Brancardiers and the senior helper for the pilgrimage is referred to as the Chief Brancardier. After serving three diocesan pilgrimages, volunteers can be admitted to membership of the Diocesan Hospitality. The Admission form can be downloaded here.
The Chief Brancardier is assisted in the day-to-day running of the duties by a team of deputies, and by the Duty Team Leaders. The medical care of pilgrims is undertaken by a team of doctors and nurses, overseen by the Pilgrimage Matron, who also meet throughout the year to plan for the pilgrimage. In a similar manner to the teams of helpers, the nurses work on a shift rota, with different teams taking different duties, and it is the senior nurse on duty who is responsible for supervising the provision of care on the wards in the Accueil.
The pilgrimage rota is drawn up to ensure that we have enough helpers available when they are
required, and to hopefully maximise opportunities for helpers to gain the most from their Lourdes experience. Within the rota there are a number of different duties, and each of these brings with it different responsibilities and requirements.
Put simply, this is working on the wards, alongside the Nursing team, giving assistance with meals, cleaning and general domestic tasks. A large part of this duty is also talking to the pilgrims. However, you should take care not to be isolated with pilgrims, or to give preference to one pilgrim. Normally there is very little requirement for any personal care, and you should always check with the team leaders or nursing team if you have any concerns. Only 20 helpers are allocated to the wards at any time, and it is preferred if they are from across the groups within the team, so that as many as possible can share in this valuable part of Lourdes. There will also be some “mature” helpers who will also be working on the wards, assisting with the kitchen, cleaning and signing in routines.
Service and Hospitality Duty
The main part of this duty is to allow the pilgrims staying in the Accueil to enjoy as great a Lourdes experience as possible. Therefore, a large part of this duty is assisting those pilgrims to partake in the ceremonies and processions that make up the pilgrimage schedule. However, an equally important part is giving the pilgrims the opportunity to experience elements of Lourdes at their own pace, and to sample the town outside the gates and socialise. Whilst pilgrims are thus encouraged to visit the cafes and shops, you should stay close to the domain area, and avoid venturing up the hill, also be wary of taking money etc from pilgrims, and always stay in groups.
The evening (20:00 – 22:00) shift of this duty has an additional element. As well as allowing pilgrims some time out, the helpers on this shift may also be asked to assist with the marshalling and co-ordination of the Torchlight procession, working in conjunction with the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes.
To Be A Pilgrim / Volunteer In Lourdes
Being a pilgrim in Lourdes is a unique experience, and we all share in that experience. As a volunteer, or helper, you are first and foremost an “active” pilgrim at the service of other pilgrims. Just as Bernadette was accompanied and welcomed at all times, we in turn should know how to welcome and accompany pilgrims, especially those who are sick or disabled.
is to seek to meet the person you are receiving. It also demonstrates a wish to communicate, to connect, to develop the shared experience of Lourdes.
To be welcoming, we must
overcome our timidity and reticence, go beyond our fear, our mental blocks, leave behind our pride, our preconceived ideas about someone else, our fear of ridicule.
In order to communicate with someone else
, we must sometimes take risks while being aware of the limits to our risk-taking: don’t force any barriers: listen to the other person and take in what he or she wishes to say without interrupting (know how to be patient.) Watch how you say things, certain words can cause hurt. Be sensitive to certain situations: family, marital, physical. Avoid condescension or over-familiarity (because, with the best will in the world you can make mistakes.)
Remember that it is not just your spoken words that will be received by other pilgrims, your actions and manners are just as important in developing a sense of respect and trust, indeed to some pilgrims they may be more important.
As helpers, our work is with all pilgrims, to make their time in Lourdes as easy as possible. We do not "own" them and we cannot share others' sufferings unless we have also suffered. All pilgrims are human beings, whatever their physical or mental state. However able-bodied a person seems, there may be considerable hidden disability or severe illness.
On first contact,
instil a welcoming confidence. On arrival, away from home, many, especially the sick and disabled, may be anxious. Make a friendly gesture and look welcoming. Fr. Huchet said "What they remember is your first glance…. and the last look you give them may be the only lasting impression they take away."
St. Vincent de Paul said on his death-bed "It is because of your smile that the poor will forgive you for offering them only a small piece of bread."
Our Lady was always courteous to Bernadette. Do not be over familiar; wait for a sign from the pilgrim. Always be considerate.
Avoid noise and impatient gestures, e.g. signal, rather than shout, if you need help. This is true for working in the Sanctuaries with crowds as well as in the sick rooms of the Accueil at night. The sick and disabled need their sleep, often more than the able-bodied. Above all don't fuss! Distinguish illness (temporary) from disability (permanent). Patients who are ill may not mind a bit of fuss! Disability may disrupt an entire life: in facing their disability, many wish to stay as independent as possible, and fuss can upset or humiliate them. So before you try to help, ask "Would you like…. how should this be done…. can I do this?" etc. If they say No, do not insist.
Do not rush. When you visit a sick room, sit unhurriedly by the bed; show that you have come especially for him/her. Sit where your eye levels are the same, to avoid superiority. Take your time and you will make better progress. In other areas of work, rushing can lead to accidents.
Many people coming to Lourdes, especially for the first time, need or want to talk. Make time to listen, it is a vital service. But you do not have to give advice: it may not be necessary. Remember as a listener, people may entrust you with confidences, or reveal them accidentally. Keep them to yourself! You are morally obliged to respect confidences. It is also not right to discuss the day's work in earshot of pilgrims who may not be involved in the many aspects of the work of the pilgrimage.
Don't pick favourites
It is easy to talk to cheerful and pleasant people, hard if they are sad, bitter or dirty. It was said of Bernadette's work in the Hospice "She made herself care for some very disagreeable old people; but by applying herself with great charity she found that she wanted to carry on this work."
The visually impaired
On meeting, introduce yourself and any companions, mentioning their position relative to yours. Face the person, and preferably the source of light - the partially sighted can be very sensitive to bright light. Smile – they know your expression from your tone of voice. Let him/her take your arm: guide and don't lead or propel. Advise about steps or obstacles ahead. To help someone to sit, place his/her hand on the back of the chair, saying what you are doing. Don't be over-sensitive about expressions like "see you later."
The hearing impaired
Attract attention by a soft tap on the shoulder or a wave. Some of this group can lip-read and all can follow gestures and facial expressions. When speaking, face them and make sure your face and mouth are easily visible - they ''listen" with their eyes. Don't stand with your back to strong light. Don't shout, which distorts your voice, but do give full value to every consonant.
Some people with hearing difficulties also have speaking difficulties. Be patient. Reassure them by
your expression that you understand: don't pretend you understand if you don't. Try to ask only such questions that allow brief answers.
People and Prayer
Bernadette said of Our Lady's attitude to her "She looked at me as a person looks at a person." We are not helping to move wheelchairs, but people, and we are here to care for the people who come to Lourdes, consciously or unconsciously, in answer to Our Lady's request, and to pray. Why not invite someone you are looking after to say a prayer with you - a prayer of his/her choice, for an intention of his/her choice?
Pilgrimage Codes of Conduct
There are two levels of dress code to be borne in mind in Lourdes, the requirements of the Sanctuaries and the requirements of The Diocese. At all times within the Domain, pilgrims are required to dress and behave respectfully. In particular, they are asked to ensure that shoulders and mid-riffs are covered at all times, and that shorts/skirts are at least “knee-length”.
In addition the Diocese, at the request of the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes, has a uniform dress code for helpers. Therefore whenever you are working with the pilgrimage in Lourdes you are required to wear the white diocesan T-shirt, as well as your own officially issued diocesan name badge. For your own safety, and for the safety of other pilgrims, you are also required to wear, sensible, flat soled, secured footwear with an element of heel protection. In particular, “flip-flops” must not be worn on duty.
On occasion during the pilgrimage you may be asked to wear smart dress, this should be appropriate to Lourdes and to the nature of duties, as well as conforming to the requirements of the Sanctuaries. It is suggested that this consist of a plain shirt and tie, with dark trousers for males, and a suitable skirt/top or mid-length dress for females.
If at any point you are considered to be inappropriately dressed, either by pilgrimage leaders or Sanctuaries staff, you may be asked to return to your hotel and change.
Off Duty Time
Whilst the pilgrimage respects the need for everybody to have an opportunity to relax and unwind, it is also important to remember the essence and nature of the pilgrimage, and of Lourdes. Therefore, whilst you are encouraged to take the opportunities to sample, and explore, the Lourdes experience, you are reminded that you are representative of the pilgrimage and diocese, and asked to act accordingly.
As with any town Lourdes can have its problems, and the maze of narrow streets can be confusing, so you should avoid going anywhere alone, and always make sure that others know where you are going. This is especially important after dark. Even if you are returning to your own hotel it is best to go with others.
Of course the weather in Lourdes can be significantly different to home, it can be a lot hotter and drier, and you need to remember that you are also at a significant altitude. Consequently off-duty time should also be seen as an opportunity to make sure you sleep, eat and drink properly. Whilst the hotel food is not to everyone’s liking there are plenty of alternatives and it is important that you keep your strength up, or by the end of the week everybody finds the voitures getting heavier and the hills steeper.