Each year a large group of people from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Shrewsbury travel to the Shrine of Our Lady in Lourdes, France, on pilgrimage. A significant part of this group is made up of a number of sick and elderly pilgrims who are only able to travel to Lourdes with the assistance of the pilgrimage volunteers.
Some of the volunteers assist the sick by travelling with them on the plane, coach and train, and work alongside them in Lourdes providing help and assistance. These volunteers are directed by the Senior Helpers and Medical and Nursing Team. The assistance that the pilgrimage volunteers give to our sick and elderly pilgrims means that they are given every opportunity to take a full and active part in everything that takes place during the week in Lourdes. Much of the time as a pilgrimage volunteer will be spent helping the sick pilgrims in various ways.
For those volunteers who are participating as part of the Medical and Nursing Team this will mean assisting the pilgrims according to their special medical and care needs, as directed by the senior medical personnel.
The duties for the other pilgrimage volunteers will be to assist pilgrims, either those who stay in the Accueil Notre Dame or hotels, in a variety of ways. You will be supervised and supported by your team leader, the co-ordinator of the Accueil or by a member of the Medical and Nursing Team. Primary duties will include; assisting the pilgrims to move around Lourdes, by taking them in a wheelchair or a special chair known as a voiture, so they can attend Mass or visit the shrine of Our Lady; helping to serve meals in the dining room of the Accueil; helping with general housekeeping or cleaning duties in the Accueil; making cups of tea or coffee or assisting with drinks while the pilgrimage is taking part in any of its planned activities.
As a result a lot of your time during the pilgrimage will be spent in the company of sick and elderly pilgrims, and thus one of the essential roles of a pilgrimage volunteer will be to talk with and listen to the pilgrims as you share time with them each day.
Volunteers with the Diocesan pilgrimage must be willing to participate in the program of the pilgrimage, be enthusiastic about the opportunity of working with sick or infirm pilgrims, and be sympathetic to the Roman Catholic ethos of the Shrine.
In general volunteers should be reasonably fit and healthy in order to complete in many of the tasks in this role. The pilgrimage committee will make suitable arrangements for any volunteer who may have a disability or other special needs in order that they can fully participate.
Because of the nature of what we do in Lourdes volunteers will be privileged, at times, to come to know personal medical information about a pilgrim. This will require volunteers to maintain this information in a private and confidential way.
Working alongside other team members is an important part of this role and the ability to work as part of a team, under the supervision of a team leader, is essential.
Some volunteers will be under the age of 18 and this requires adult volunteers to be sensitive to them and their needs. Adult volunteers will need to maintain appropriate working boundaries and be an example of good conduct to those younger than themselves.