History of the Catholic Association

The Catholic Association was founded in 1891 with the approval and blessing of Cardinal Manning a contemporary of Blessed John Henry Newman, and formerly an Anglican clergyman who became a Catholic priest following the death of his wife.

England at that time had recently restored the hierarchy – restored in 1850 just eight years before the first apparition at Lourdes in 1858. It is in this context that the Catholic Association had at its beginning two objects:

a-to provide unity and good fellowship amongst Catholics by organising concerts, lectures, dances and other gatherings of a social nature

b- to assist wherever possible in the Catholic organisations and in the protection and advancement of Catholic interests.

The prime movers were Edward Lucas (chairman) and Charles Munich (secretary), while the committee of management included among others Lord Archibald Douglas, Monsignor Nugent, Lord Godolphin Osborne, and James Britten.

In those days the CA had some political significance, and its main object was “to organize Catholics into a compact body for the protection and advancement of Catholic interests” with a view to securing the return of Catholics as poor law guardians, members of the then existing vestries, school boards, and other non-party local-governing bodies.

Over time, the CA’s work was modified as some of the former official bodies ceased to function, and by growth of various Catholic societies with more specialist targets.

By 1894, its principal object was to promote unity and good fellowship among Catholics by means of pilgrimages, social gatherings, and lectures. Lord Denbigh was elected president that year and continued until 1929.

In March 1896 the idea of organising a pilgrimage was put forward, but it was not until October 1898 that the Association’s first pilgrimage took place – to Rome with 100 pilgrims.

During the Holy Year, 1900, the association organised what was at that date the largest pilgrimage to leave England for Rome, with over 1000 pilgrims taking part. Since 1900 pilgrimages were organised in increasing numbers to Antwerp, Bruges, the Holy Land, Lourdes, Spain, Rome, and other places of special Catholic interest in Europe, as well as to many of the homeland shrines.

The first pilgrimage to Lourdes took place in September 1901 and became the forerunner of what nowadays is known as the CA Annual. In 1911 the Catholic Association formed the Society of Our Lady of Lourdes from whose members a company of helpers provided men and women to act as medical attendants, stretcher-bearers and nurses to look after the sick. Soon after the First World War the Society parted company with the Catholic Association to organise its own annual pilgrimage in May each year.

During the Jubilee year, 1925, seven different pilgrimages were conducted to Rome with 3,500 pilgrims travelling with the CA. As many as 5,000 pilgrims yearly were taken to Lourdes since the end of hostilities after the First World War. At that time, the Catholic Association was directed by an honorary board, and charges were kept as low as is consistent with efficiency. All their profits were distributed among Catholic charities. The CA published a monthly organ, “The Pilgrim’s Scrip.”

The Second World War brought the activities of the Association to a halt. However in 1947 the organisation of pilgrimage resumed with the first to Lourdes in that year. The Catholic Association was responsible for organising the HCPT pilgrimage at Easter until that pilgrimage separated to make its own arrangements. A similar situation arose when the pilgrimage of the burgeoning diocese of Arundel and Brighton was removed from the Catholic Association by the later Archbishop of Southwark, Michael Bowen who at that time was the bishop of the diocese. That Diocese now has a very successful pilgrimage to Lourdes in July each year.

The sole activity of the Catholic Association today is the organisation of the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes. In 1991 the Catholic Association celebrated its centenary. In 2001 the CA celebrated its centenary pilgrimage to Lourdes.

Past Officials

Pilgrimage Director
Fr H Gibney (1938)
No Pilgrimage: 1939 – 1946
Fr LB Johnson (1955)
Mgr W Raymond Lawrence: 1956? – 1997
Mgr Bill Saunders: 1998 – 2015
Fr Simon Blakesley: 2016 – present

Chief Brancardier
No Pilgrimage: 1939 – 1946
Peter Crane: 1950 – 1963
Mowbray Bessell: 1964 – 1968
Patrick Tombe: 1969 – 1976
David Lewis: 1977 – 1990
Anthony Martin: 1991 – 1995
Chris Atkin: 1996 – 2000
Michael Cleary: 2001– 2005
Rupert Bell: 2006 – 2010
Matthew Betts: 2010 – 2015
Richard Hargreaves: 2016 – present

Chief Handmaid
No Pilgrimage: 1939 – 1946
Pat Collins: 1950 – 1969
Sue Balfour: 1970 – 1979
Anne Whitehead: 1980 – 1992
Colette Sharrock: 1993 – 1999
Sadie Vile: 2000 – 2008
Anna Jackson: 2009 – 2013
Ciara Jackson: 2014 – present

Chief Medical Officer
F Joyce and Helen Ingleby (1938)
No Pilgrimage: 1939 – 1946
G. Morgan Evans: 1950 -1966
Otto Belam: 1966
Tom Tangney: 1967 – 1975
St John Dowling: 1975
Tom Tangney: 1975 – 1977
St John Dowling: 1977 – 1991
Professor David Morrell: 1992 – 1995
Trevor Fernandes: 1996 – 2000
Chris Parry: 2001 – 2005
Trevor Fernandes: 2006 – 2008
Adam Farmer: 2009 – 2012
Nuala Mellows: 2013 – present

Chief Nurse
No Pilgrimage: 1939 – 1946
Sister/Mother Bernadette: 1950 – 1979
James Browne: 1980 – 1995
Chris Collins: 1996 – 1999
Margaret Fielding: 2000 – 2003
Frances Presgraves: 2004 – 2008
Sue Woodford: 2009 – 2011
Rachel Easton: 2012
Theresa Mahon: 2013 – present

Hospitalité Patron
Bishop Leo Parker, Northampton: ? – 1967
Bishop Charles Grant, Northampton: 1967 – 1983
Bishop Mervyn Alexander, Clifton: 1983 – 1999
Bishop Crispian Hollis, Portsmouth: 2000 – 2011
Bishop Peter Doyle, Northampton: 2012 –

Hospitalité* Chairman/President
No Pilgrimage: 1939 – 1946
Sue Balfour: 1978
Fr Bob Hall: 1978 – 1980
David Lewis: 1981 – 1990
Ann Whitehead: 1991 – 1992
David Lewis: 1993 – 1996
Nell Atkin: 1997 – 2001
Michael Cleary: 2001 – 2006
Colette Sharrock: 2006 – 2010
Chris Buller: 2011 – 2015
Anne Hoskins: 2015 –

Hospitalité Secretary
No Pilgrimage: 1939 – 1946
Mgr M Wilson: 1950 – 1966?
Mowbray Bessell: 1966 – 1969
Jack Collins: 1970 – 1972
Fr Bob Hall: 1973– 1978
Louis King: 1978 – 1981
Richard Martin: 1981 – 1986
Dominic Nixon: 1986 – 1989
Gerard Eaton: 1990 – 1996
Chris Thorpe: 1996 – 2001
Mark Smith: 2002 – 2003
Matthew Betts: 2004 – 2009
Nimal Hemelge: 2009 – 2012
Dail Maudsley: 2012- 2015
Chris Talbot: 2015 –

Hospitalité Treasurer
Fr Bob Hall: ? – 1978
Louis King: 1978 -1980
David Lewis: 1980 – 2001
Chris Buller: 2001 – 2006
Richard Long-Fox: 2006 – 2012
Hugh Parry: 2013 – 2016
John Hirwe: 2016 –

Hospitalité Chaplain/Chaplain of the Sick
Fr GJ MacGillivray (1938)
No Pilgrimage: 1939 – 1946
Fr Brian Murphy-O’Connor: ??
Fr Paul Townsend: ?? – 1997
Fr John Warrington: 1997 – 2002
Fr Michael Scanlon: 2002 – 2005
Fr Simon Blakesley: 2006 – 2011
Fr Antony Lester, O.Carm: 2012 – 2014
Fr Nicholas King, SJ: 2015 –

Young Helpers Group Leader
Fr Tony Rogers, Flick Ellis and Sister Amadeus Bulger: 1992? – 1994
Colin Ball: 1994 – 1997
Tony O’Rourke: 1998 – 2002
Tina Walker: 2003 – 2011
David & Judy Ball: 2012 – 2015
John Toryusen: 2016 –

* Please note that the Hospitalité started as a Confraternity which had an annual reunion first at the KSC Club and then sometimes at the Challenar Club in London.David Lewis has advised that: “In July 1984 Newsletter we suggested the change of name from “Confraternity of Lourdes Helpers (C.A.P.T.)”, which we thought a bit of a mouthful, to the present name, also bringing it more into line with HNDL. We also, for the same reason, rechristened the Chairman and President as President and Patron respectively. The first newsletter with the new name was in December 1985.