Knights and dames of the Atlanta Region, along with other volunteers, were thrilled to be visited by the relics of St. Bernadette at Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Atlanta for the first four days in May. St. Bernadette’s arrival was particularly poignant because this was the very week members would have been on the annual Lourdes Pilgrimage if not for COVID-19. The pandemic took Lourdes away from us, and God brought St. Bernadette, and Lourdes, to us.

Upon the arrival of the relics on May 1, the Atlanta Region, along with Order of the Holy Sepulchre, the Knights of Columbus, other volunteers, pilgrims and—most important—our beloved malades, held a candlelight procession around the campus, ending in the sanctuary of the church. The relics remained on display there for veneration.

On May 2, veneration continued throughout the day. In addition, a Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience™ took place, providing pilgrims and malades the opportunity to touch rocks from the Lourdes grotto and to bless themselves with Lourdes water. Multiple people said, “This is the closest I will ever get to Lourdes.” Although the cancellation of our pilgrimage was disappointing it turned out to be a blessing for those who experienced Lourdes in Atlanta. Some of the malades most likely would not have qualified to travel to Lourdes. This was truly a once in a lifetime experience for them. 

In addition to veneration and two virtual pilgrimages, a votive Mass for Our Lady of Lourdes was celebrated in Spanish by Auxiliary Bishop Ned Shlesinger on May 2. The next day, Auxiliary Bishop Joel Konzen, S.M., celebrated Mass with the Anointing of the Sick. The malades in attendance were given bottles of Lourdes water and the traditional red and black Lourdes blanket.

Kim Schulman, DM, spearheaded this event, working countless hours on the logistics. As St. Bernadette departed Holy Spirit Catholic Church on May 4, to the sound of bells, Kim said, “I was overcome with emotion, and although I wanted to be in Lourdes this week, I felt St. Bernadette was supposed to come to Atlanta. After three years of cancelled Lourdes pilgrimages, it was a true blessing to host the relics of St. Bernadette the very same week the Order would have been in Lourdes.” 

Msgr. Edward J. Dillon, pastor of Holy Spirit, came down with COVID after attending the May 1 evening procession and so was unable to participate in the other activities. I mention this because it turned out to be a very mild case, with him back on his feet in less than a week. Can we attribute his quick recovery to the visit of St. Bernadette? I will let you decide.