To the Membership of the Western Association of the Order of Malta:
We have been blessed with remarkably strong interest in our 2024 Lourdes Spring Pilgrimage. We would like to update the Membership by providing clarification regarding some of the unique challenges - and opportunities – we are facing this year. In particular, we would like you to know where we now stand with Confirmed Registrations and the Wait List, and how we are working to provide a satisfactory outcome for as many of you as we can. Of course, our Malades are the focus of everything we do, and our numbers must ultimately be predicated on what works best to provide a safe and meaningful experience for them.
Our Registrant Pool: To date we have 270 Confirmed Registrants (97 of these traveling Land-Only), plus another 74 on the Wait List. (33 of those waitlisted are KMs/DMs.) As we typically select between 50 and 60 Malades (plus a comparable number of caregiver(s)), the total potential number of Pilgrims (assuming we accommodated everyone) would be over 500 people. We are humbled by this interest, but are limited by hotel and transport capacity and by our overall sense of appropriate team ratios. In recent years normal rates of attrition have made it possible to take around 40 annually off the Wait List, and we often have a fair amount of turnover around the full-refund cancellation date of February 1st.
Breakdown of Registrant Pool: We have already decided this year to confirm a larger Pilgrim group – Confirmed Registrant numbers to date are up 19 over the 2023 totals. Last Spring we took 251 people (not including Malades and caregivers); this year, we have 270 registered for 2024. This reflects a larger group of Provisionals (+10), and an increased number of DMs (+12) and KMs (+7) over the 2023 Pilgrimage.
Chaplain and Religious numbers are up (+6) over last year. We have one more Volunteer (49) than last year (48), and six of these are medical Volunteers. (FYI, Dr. Field asked for confirmed Members of the Medical Team to consider joining us in 2025 instead, and a few of them agreed, for which we are grateful.) There are fewer confirmed Auxiliary registrants and slightly fewer Youth Volunteers than last Spring, but given the increased number of DMs/KMs/Provisionals, this works out well.
Hotel Demand: Lourdes is finally experiencing robust attendance after four years of declines due to the pandemic. Hotels there are fully booked for our Malta Pilgrimage week. We have reserved the entire Eliseo and have recently been fortunate enough to secure an additional 20 overfill rooms at two other local hotels.
Conclusions: Perhaps this year’s enhanced demand is just a one-off experience. We certainly did not anticipate that we would reach our full capacity in the first half-day of open registration. In the future we may need to revise policies and procedures in order to maintain appropriate numbers (such as prioritizing Members of the Order above Volunteers, capping registrant categories to maintain an overall balance and adding a team), but new approaches would need to be carefully considered as they all have down sides.
We know that a number of you remain eager to join the 2024 Pilgrimage, and we encourage you to stay on the Wait List if you can. Experience from past years encourages us to expect some mobility. This year’s high level of participation interest reflects well on the desire of all of us to join our Malades in the work that St. Bernadette advocated in 1858.
Paul Tosetti, Pilgrimage Director
John Sylvia, Assistant Pilgrimage Director
Ken Olsen, Western Association President
Michelle Navarro, Pilgrimage Coordinator