"It's about giving back to society by volunteering my time and resources to help the sick," said Ibukun Oyedele, a mother of four, as she prepared to board her flight.
A member of the nursing staff at Cherry Orchard Hospital in Ballyfermot, Dublin, she was among 2,000 people taking part in the largest pilgrimage that leaves Ireland annually for the French shrine of Lourdes.
From 5am, Dublin Airport was alive with activity as the 175 sick pilgrims, over 50 nurses, eight doctors, 560 volunteer carers and 300 young people set out on seven flights.
They will be joined in France today by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin as well as a number of parish groups and 40 priests.
Bridget Mulligan, who retired last year as assistant director of nursing in Beaumont Hospital, has been volunteering on the pilgrimage for 15 years. "You never know when ill health might happen to you and you would like somebody to be there to help you when the day comes," she said.
The Director of Nursing for the pilgrimage is Rosaleen O'Malley, who works in the Emergency Department at Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown. This is her 14th year taking part in the pilgrimage.