LOURDES, FRANCE — More than 125 wounded or disabled troops, veterans, and family members, chaplains and support staff will join other U.S. pilgrims in a visit the Marian shrine of Lourdes, France for an annual pilgrimage organized by theArchdiocese for Military Services, USA (AMS) from May 14-19. The AMS pilgrimage is occasioned by the 56th International Military Pilgrimage (PMI), which will include delegations from more than 40 countries.
The AMS pilgrimage will attend the PMI events, as well as engage in a number of other religious and spiritual activities including Masses, the Stations of the Cross, and times of reflection. Pilgrims will also have the opportunity to bathe in the famous waters of Lourdes, which annually draws millions of the faithful, many seeking spiritual, physical or emotional healing there.
The theme of this year’s PMI is “Servant of Christ, Servant of Peace.” Delegations are expected from throughout Europe, as well as from North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australia. The PMI was inaugurated following World War II to foster “reconciliation, peace and healing.” It has grown to become a prayerful and festive occasion. In addition to Masses and other times of prayer, pilgrims will be treated to an impressive display of military pageantry, including ceremonies with the color guards of the countries in attendance, performances by military bands and the opportunity to meet soldiers from around the world – many attired in colorful dress uniforms.
Bishop F. Richard Spencer, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese for Military Services and the Archbishop’s Episcopal Vicar for Europe and Asia will represent the AMS at the pilgrimage this year.
His Excellency, the Most Reverend Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., Archbishop for the Military Services, who made the pilgrimage last year, but is unable to go this week due to other pressing pastoral concerns, offered his blessings. “The pilgrims will journey and pray with others from around the world,” he said. “It will be a wonderful occasion to raise their hearts and minds to the Prince of Peace and beg for an increase in understanding and a decrease in strife.”
“No one knows the value of peace better than those who endured War,” Mr. Anderson said. “The Knights of Columbus are honored to be able to support – and pray with – these soldiers and veterans as they come to Lourdes to seek the help of the Blessed Mother in their lives, enrich their faith, and pray with those in uniform from around the world for peace.”
“The Knights of Columbus has a long history of support for our troops and veterans,” Mr. Anderson continued. “For nearly a century, serving those who give so much for our country and our freedom has been a priority of the Knights of Columbus, and we are pleased to continue that important tradition.”
The Knights of Columbus has worked closely with the AMS for many years, and the organization’s support of the military goes back even further. It was almost a century ago, during World War I that the Knights took a decisive leadership role in supporting the temporal and spiritual needs of the troops.
At that time, Knights were active in serving American troops at home and abroad through the organization’s “Army Hut” program, which provided hospitality centers for the troops in the United States and Europe and served as a pre-curser to the United Service Organizations (USO). Under the banner “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free,” the Knights provided centers in a number of countries including France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the United States. During and immediately following World War I, the Knights also ran such a center in Lourdes itself, and assisted American soldiers in France with pilgrimages to the shrine. At that time, the Knights also produced a guidebook to Lourdes to assist the American pilgrims.
Always a strong force for charity on a variety of fronts, last year Knights set new charitable records by donating more than $167 million and 70 million hours to charitable causes.