WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, more than one-hundred retired and active-duty U.S. Military personnel–some of them wheelchair-bound from wounds suffered in combat–will gather in Lourdes, France for the annual Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage. The Pilgrimage, co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus and the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, is an important aspect of U.S. participation in the 58th International Military Pilgrimage (PMI), held at the Marian Shrine in Lourdes each year since just after World War II.
Every spring, the PMI brings tens of thousands of active-duty military members and veterans from countries throughout Europe and beyond to the Lourdes Shrine where, in 1858, Saint Marie-Bernarde Soubirous, popularly known as Bernadette, experienced the first of 18 visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary, theImmaculate Conception. Year in and year out, the Shrine and the refreshing waters of its baths draw millions of pilgrims from around the world in search of peace and healing.
This year, the K of C group includes 115 wounded, ill, and injured warriors along with 65 companions, self-paying volunteers, and designated caregivers and medical support providers, including nearly a dozen doctors and registered nurses. The K of C is covering all expenses for the warriors, caregivers, and companions in need of financial assistance. The group will be accompanied by 11 chaplains, including seven Catholic priests and four non-Catholic chaplains to provide pastoral care. The Warriors to Lourdes pilgrims will either fly out of Washington, D.C.; Seattle, Wash.; Houston, Texas; New York, N.Y.; or Charlotte, N.C. on Tuesday, May 17; or else travel from Germany to France on Wednesday, May 18.
The event schedule, which runs through Monday, May 23, will provide the pilgrims opportunities to attend Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, receive the Blessing of the Sick, take part in a candlelight vigil, follow the Stations of the Cross, tour historic Lourdes, and, of course, bathe in the healing waters.