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Lourdes and the BLMA
Lourdes is a Marian shrine and, for those with a devotion to Our Lady, it has been a special place ever since St Bernadette first set eyes on 'The Lady' when she was out gathering firewood back in 1858. With a reputation as a place where miraculous cures had occurred it became a place of pilgrimage, not just for the devout, but also for the sick.
But that is not the whole story. Lourdes has a special place in many hearts, not just of the devout, nor of only catholics, nor indeed of the sick, but of those too who feel a vocation for looking after the sick and less able among us. Lourdes offers an opportunity to spend time in a special place where people are not stigmatised by what ails them but are embraced for who they are. Many healthcare workers who accompany the sick to Lourdes get as much, if not more, from the experience than those they care for and return to their everyday jobs with a renewed sense of that vocation which called them into their chosen profession in the first place. Equally remarkable, many people from all walks of life unconnected with healthcare give up their own time to assist in the task of providing care and assistance for the assisted pilgrims. The quality of care they deliver, and the joy they bring to the assisted pilgrims, is truely inspiring.
Lourdes is also a place of great spirituality and this, too, contributes to the sense of wellbeing which envelops people, even when they are not seeking it. Indeed, it is often those who come with the least expectations who find something that leads them to return again and again.
Organised diocesan pilgrimages from the UK have been going to Lourdes for over 50 years and HCPT for much the same time. With increasing numbers of doctors appearing in Lourdes an idea was formed and the Lourdes Medical Association was founded in 1974 with the approval of the Bishops of England, Wales and Scotland. Its aim was to enable doctors who accompany sick pilgrims to Lourdes to meet together for their own benefit and that of their patients to discuss medical, spiritual and logistic matters related to Lourdes. In 2016 the LMA formally amalgamated with the British Lourdes Nurses Association to form the British Lourdes Medical Association.
The members of the BLMA meet annually in the New Year for the AGM and Conference.