The 2023 Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle Lourdes Pilgrimage took place between Friday 28 July – Friday 4 August. The pilgrims were accompanied to Lourdes by Bishop Stephen Wright, the Diocesan Pilgrimage Director, Fr Michael Humble and a team of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers.

Lourdes, a town steeped in spirituality and pilgrimage, has come alive with jubilant celebrations as the journey of faith and unity unfolds for pilgrims from all corners of the globe. The opening day of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle’s Lourdes pilgrimage was a mosaic of emotions as pilgrims embarked on their transformative journey, encompassing leaving home, the pilgrimage itself, arrival in the hallowed town, and the pinnacle – the Pilgrimage Opening Mass.

Under the azure skies of Lourdes, the journey commenced at the Church of St. Bernadette – Carmel side, as the clock struck 10.30am. Hearts brimming with devotion and hope, pilgrims gathered for the soul-stirring Pilgrimage opening Mass, marking the beginning of their spiritual odyssey.

As the sun rose on the second day, the town witnessed another wave of euphoria. Sunday dawned with a Mass in the left part of the Church of St. Bernadette, offering a poignant contrast to the awe-inspiring grotto and basilica. Mixed showers and sun rays embraced the pilgrims, the weather reminiscent of home, but with a touch of warmth. The outdoor Stations of the Cross gracefully shifted to the Underground Basilica due to gentle showers. Vivid images emerged of the illuminated Stations adorning the subterranean passages, reminding all of the profound journey they were on.

But it was the evening of the second day that etched memories in the hearts of all who were present. A torchlight procession, a reverent and exhilarating event, witnessed Hexham and Newcastle volunteers cradling and escorting Our Lady through the procession. This year’s procession was unique, with over 4,500 youths from across the world, bound to meet the Pope in Lisbon for World Youth Day, adding their exuberance to the already bustling event. Colours, songs, chants, and dances merged into a harmonious tribute to Our Lady, making the evening truly unforgettable.

Monday arrived, enveloping the pilgrims in a sense of blessed serenity. Mass in the grotto resonated with a profound spiritual connection, followed by a group photo on the steps of the main Basilica. Later, a blessed sacrament procession from the meadow opposite the grotto to the underground Basilica engaged the hearts and souls of all. The canopy bearers, privileged helpers, carried their symbolic burden with reverence and devotion.

Tuesday brought the main altar of the underground Basilica to life as the focal point of a celebratory Mass for the pilgrims. The choir’s harmonious voices filled the sacred space, lifting spirits and strengthening connections. An afternoon garden party awaited the pilgrims, complete with unexpected entertainment by two members of ABBA, the timeless Frank Sinatra, and a delightful “bunch of geordies.”

Midway through the pilgrimage, Wednesday morning greeted the pilgrims with the tranquil beauty of the Esplanade Altar. Amid the splendor of the Basilica entrance, a choir group photo immortalized the shared journey of music and faith.

As the pilgrimage approached its closing, the final day painted a tableau of devotion and gratitude. The closing Mass in the rosary Basilica reverberated with blessings, encompassing the pilgrimage candle and honouring Dr Margaret McGee, a dedicated pilgrimage doctor. The poignant candle procession through the grotto marked the pilgrims’ final steps of this remarkable journey, a continuation of prayers and hopes nurtured by the luminous spirit of Lourdes.

In this tapestry of faith, unity, and joy, Lourdes proved yet again to be a place of profound transformation and shared devotion. The town’s cobblestone streets echoed with the footprints of pilgrims who came seeking solace, leaving with hearts illuminated by the spirit of Lourdes.

You can view our photos from the pilgrimage below.

Lourdes Pilgrimage 2023

All images have been re-produced with the kind permission of Mike March (Pilgrim Photography).