St. Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes has always been the patron saint of Maryknoll Sister Bernadette Cordis Duggan, so when the opportunity to spend her season of renewal, in part at least, on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, Sister Bernadette was thrilled.
The gift of a family member, Sister Bernadette’s journey was well-timed. Not only had the poor dear become a bit injured just months before the opportunity to travel to Lourdes arose, but 2014 would be the 60th anniversary of the National Lourdes Pilgrimage Tour, organized annually by the Knights of Columbus.
The following is Sister Bernadette’s own brief account of her Lourdes journey, which also included a large group of handicapped children from the Archdiocese of New York.
We checked into our assigned hotel, St. Sauveur, and went to lunch in the hotel dining room where we began to know each other over a huge ham steak and French fries, not counting the salad and delicious French pastry.
I sat across from Joseph, blind from birth, in his 50s and not a happy fellow. Bernard, large and placid, and his traveling companion, patiently answered Joseph’s rapid fire questions, told him what was on his plate, and listened to his complaints.
Jim, an emergency medical technician from New Jersey, offered to take me — in the wheelchair that was waiting for me in the lobby — for a ride around the Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes, an area of ground more commonly called “The Domain” in which the Basilicas and chapels where we would go for daily Mass were located. I, of course, agreed.
The atmosphere in the Domain struck me forcefully. There were thousands of us convened there, gathered together in groups, following banners from all over Europe and the United States, some in national dress but all of us faith-filled pilgrims. There were no tourists snapping pictures and talking loudly, but quiet talk and processions forming, and liturgies starting with the priests who had come with the groups.
The weather caused many changes of venue, as we had only two clear days, and rain on the other days, either morning or afternoon or all day. One volunteer noticed that I did not have a raincoat, though I had an umbrella, so he bought me a plastic raincoat and hood, and would not let me pay for it.
There were 13 lovely young student-nurses from Misericordia College in Detroit giving volunteer service for a semester. Two were assigned to meet me every morning and push me to Mass in the Domain every day and to the Rosary Procession in the afternoon, and the other special events each day, the time of anointing in Pius X underground church, the Benediction procession and blessing at every grouping of seats and wheelchair groups, the renewal of marriage vows of the married couples present, and more.
Please know that all my Maryknoll family and associates and friends were in my prayers at each Mass for your intentions.
With gratitude and prayers,