The Irish Pilgrimage Trust - bringing deserving young people to Lourdes

The Irish Pilgrimage Trust is a registered charity with the primary objective of offering a unique opportunity to young people with physical and intellectual disabilities to travel to Lourdes.

The Irish Pilgrimage Trust is a registered charity with the primary objective of offering a unique opportunity to young people with physical and intellectual disabilities to travel to Lourdes.

Each year around five hundred young people from all over Ireland are offered the opportunity to travel without their parents, and embark on this very rewarding adventure with a dedicated team of adult volunteers/carers (including a group leader, nurse and chaplin). The opportunity for young people to travel without their parents helps to foster a huge sense of independence and achievement in the young person, whilst also providing much needed respite for their parents. It is a great opportunity for the young person to make many new friends, to increase their social skills, independence and confidence.

The Donegal group takes eleven young people from all over the north west on this pilgrimage each year. Each candidate is assigned a key worker, who they will get to know before leaving for the trip. Prior to heading off on Easter Sunday, the selected candidates will be visited a number of times in their home environment. These home visits are a valuable and important way for the group leader, the key worker and the group nurse to become acquainted with the young person in their care. All medical, physical, social and emotional needs of the young person are discussed during these visits to ensure that all of their needs are met while they are away from home.

The Pilgrimage Trust is unlike other organisations in that the young people do not stay in any of the Lourdes hospitals or hospices during their week away. Instead, they stay in hotels which allows for an active and exciting holiday complete with maximum integration. The week is packed full of activities, with time for sightseeing, parties, fun and, of course, prayer! Groups from all over the world travel to Lourdes on this week with the Pilgrimage Trust. It is a wonderful and distinctive experience, bringing people together in an atmosphere of celebration, honouring the remarkable young people that have brought us all together.

What young people say…..

I travelled to Lourdes in April this year with the Irish Pilgrimage Trust. Every day we travelled to different places. The staff took great care of everyone and they were great fun to be with. Food was great, made new friends, came home feeling happier about myself. Siobhan. Age 17.

What parents say….

My daughter Roisin travelled to Lourdes twice with the Irish Pilgrimage Trust, first at age 13 and again this year at almost 18 years old. 
Naturally we were nervous at the thought of Roisin going away without her family for a week but once we met the group leader, nurse and all the carers travelling with the group, our fears soon vanished and Roisin seemed to develop the confidence to be able to go without us for the first time. She had a brilliant time on both trips and was so well cared for. She met so many new friends and really enjoyed her time. She had so much fun but, most importantly, Roisin’s confidence grew, she was so happy and felt a sense of achievement in that she coped without us!. None of this would be possible without the hard work, care and dedication of all the carers in the Irish Pilgrimage Trust.  Anne

How is the trip funded?

Each group actively raise the money throughout the year to cover all the costs of taking our successful applicants to Lourdes. This means we can offer our participants a free week’s holiday, with full care, at no cost. All volunteers and carers who travel with the pilgrimage trust pay for their own trip.

The Donegal Group (Group 173) have to raise 13,000 euro each year in order to cover the costs of our young people travelling to Lourdes. Fundraising comes in all shapes and forms. In May our group received a kind donation of 1,330 euro from Patsy McGranaghan, Castlefin, which she collected on the night of her 70th birthday party celebrations. We also had a very successful fundraising night in June, when a dance and draw was held in Foxhall, Glenswilly. This event raised 6,583 euro, and we have to say a huge thank you to all our ticket sellers for this event, with a special acknowledgement to Brendan Breen, Noreen McShane and Mary McGinley for all their hard work and commitment in organising this event and making it a huge success.

All donations are greatly received and appreciated, and the thanks of the group and the trust are with all who have contributed down through the years.

If you have any fundraising suggestions, or if you would like to make a donation to the Donegal Branch, you can use the contact details provided at the end of this article.

How to apply

The application process for the Pilgrimage Trust begins at this time of the year. People wishing to be considered are asked to fill in an application form, which includes a section which is to be completed by the individual’s family doctor. Each application is considered and places are offered to those in accordance of need. The Irish Pilgrimage Trust welcomes applications from young people of any religious denomination with: a physical disability or illness (aged 9-18); a learning disability (aged 11-21); a physical disability or illness (aged 19-30); a learning disability (aged 22-30); a serious illness up to age 11 accompanied by a parent or guardian.

If there is a young person that you feel would be eligible and would benefit from this valuable trip to Lourdes please refer to the contact details at the end of this article. The closing date for applications is Oct. 31st. Further information can also be found on the website:

For further information please contact Mary on 086 400 8026 or