Upon returning from the Lourdes pilgrimage, it takes a while to unpack. It’s not just the suitcases, souvenirs, and laundry. We bring home joy, friendships, and spiritual renewal. 

Throughout this most recent pilgrimage that concluded in early May, we were reminded in many homilies and discussions that when Mary appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858, the area that is now the Grotto was once the town trash dump. We bring our emotions, worries, fears with us to the Grotto. And we leave them there, lightening the burden and making space for joy. It is the joy we experience through helping one another, praying with and for one another, sharing meals, sharing the pilgrimage.

The teams serving the maladies submitted pictures that were posted on Facebook to keep followers up to date on pilgrimage happenings. The pictures featured in this article can be found here in the albums taken by pilgrimage photographer Megan Bean, DM.

Msgr. Anthony Marcaccio, from Greensboro, NC, helped commence our time in Lourdes by leading the pilgrimage candle lighting after the Mass in the Rosary Basilica. Malades added their names on the candle, which was then kept burning in the candle case for pilgrims to visit throughout our pilgrimage.

The weather was a little rainy and cold Friday morning for the baths but cleared a bit for the afternoon team meetings and orientation discussion with Shep Abell, GCMG-Ob, of Montgomery County, Maryland.

At the Grotto Mass, which is always a special event, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, was the main celebrant. There, the granddaughter of Kip Rolland, KM, of Dallas, received her first Communion.

Malades and companions gave rave reviews of the lunch discussions lead by our chaplains. And the youth lunch offered pizza, french fries, ice cream, and fun for young pilgrims from all teams.

The Eucharistic Procession and Adoration gave us a glimpse of fellow pilgrims from 45 countries represented in international pilgrimage. Mary told St. Bernadette that we should come in procession, and we heeded those instructions once again with a candlelight procession Sunday evening, joining with the American and Western associations.

The International Mass on Sunday morning typically provides an example of one catholic, universal, Church. This year was no different, with a sea of malades from multiple countries, peppered with sections of knights and dames in robes and capes. 

The countryside tour was one of the highlights of this year’s pilgrimage with Mass at Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Assomption in Cauterets. Mass was followed by lunch in the town square and event space. Derek Ritzel, KM, of Greenville, North Carolina, presented Craig Jarchow, KMOb, from Houston, with a big thank-you cake for his six years serving as pilgrimage chair. After lunch, many pilgrims and children of all ages enjoyed the carousel, playground, and putt-putt course. 

No countryside tour would be complete without a rousing talent show featuring many of our pilgrims, malades, and companions. The performances continued in the Tangerine Lounge of the hotel upon returning from the countryside.

Tuesday’s schedule allowed for some free time after the farewell Mass and final blessing in the Domaine. Many pilgrims and malades took advantage of the time to light candles, pay a final visit to the Grotto, purchase Mass cards, and even indulge in a little shopping on the walk back from visiting the Cachot, where St. Bernadette lived as a child with her family. 

When boarding the charter flight back to BWI Airport, the joy of each pilgrim was palpable. 

A huge thank you to the Lourdes Committee, the team leaders, the medical team, and association leadership for such a fantastic pilgrimage!

Now that we’re stateside, we keep our beloved malades in our prayers, review the pictures, and aim to share the joy of the pilgrimage with each person we encounter throughout the coming year.