WASHINGTON, D.C. – Time is running out for current and former U.S. Military personnel, including the wounded, ill, and injured, to apply for an all-expenses-paid, round-trip journey to Lourdes during the 62nd annual Pèlerinage Militaire International (PMI)—or “International Military Pilgrimage”—in May. All applications to join the “Warriors to Lourdes” (WTL) spiritual journey, May 12 to 19, must be received no later than Wednesday, Jan. 15.
The PMI will draw thousands of troops, veterans, and others from around the world to the famous French Marian shrine where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous in 1858. The theme for the 62nd PMI is “Je vous donne ma paix” (“My Peace I Give You”).
Given the escalation of tensions in the Middle East, WTL and PMI planning staff will continue to monitor the security situation in France in consultation with the EUCOM/USAREUR/USAFE Antiterrorism and Force Protection Offices. The 2020 PMI will be treated by the French government as a full military operation with enhanced security in place. WTL staff will be continuously tracking security matters and related events throughout the planning period and will post security updates, as warranted, to the WTL website at warriorstolourdes.com.
The Warriors to Lourdes excursion is essentially a week-long retreat in which pilgrims take part in an international opening ceremony, special Masses, the sacrament of confession, visits to the baths at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, a candlelight vigil, and days of fellowship with military personnel and veterans from the U.S. and other countries. U.S. servicemen or women currently on active duty, recently retired, or honorably discharged—including those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Moral Injury—are encouraged to submit an application to the Knights of Columbus (K of C), which co-sponsors “Warriors to Lourdes” along with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS).
Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc., will cover expenses for approved applicants, including wounded, ill, or injured warriors and their designated caregivers. Preference will be given to post-9/11 era warriors. Acceptance and full coverage for pre-9/11 era veterans will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Companions and volunteers are invited to apply at specially priced rates. Applications will be reviewed by the pilgrimage leadership team and its medical director.
The Warriors to Lourdes pilgrims will depart either on May 12 or 13, depending on their place of origin. In the U.S., flights leave hubs at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, Houston’s George Bush, and New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airports on Tuesday, May 12. Pilgrims departing from Los Angeles (LAX), Dulles, Raleigh-Durham, and Seattle-Tacoma International Airports will leave on Wednesday, May 13. For pilgrims who don’t reside within driving distance of one of those hubs, the K of C will arrange flights from their local airports. In Europe, pilgrims will depart Kaiserslautern, Germany, by bus on May 13.
Since all pilgrims will lodge in a hotel, the wounded, ill, or injured warriors must be able to perform their “activities of daily living” either alone or with the assistance of their designated caregivers. Potential applicants and their clinical providers should not anticipate that professional medical or nursing services, including hospitalization, will be delivered during the pilgrimage. In addition, potential applicants must be spiritually motivated to participate as a pilgrim.
The PMI traces its historical roots back to World War II. During the War, members of the French military visited the site of St. Bernadette’s apparitions, where they offered prayers for peace. In December of 1944, U.S. Military personnel joined British, Belgian, French, and Russian military representatives for a Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. After the War, French soldiers and their chaplains invited German soldiers and their chaplains to gather to pray together. The purpose of this initiative was to heal physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds and reconcile the past between these former adversaries by recognizing their common identity as Christians in search of peace. The first official PMI was celebrated in 1958—13 years after the war and one-hundred years after the apparitions.
Payments in full, if applicable, must be received by the January 15 application deadline in order to receive consideration.
Applicants may be contacted by pilgrimage staff with additional questions. All applicants will be notified of their application status beginning February 15, 2020.
To follow the journey online or on social media, or to share your own experience with Warriors to Lourdes, use the hashtag #WarriorsToLourdes.
For more information, or for those wishing to support the pilgrimage, visit the 2020 Warriors to Lourdes website, or contact the Knights of Columbus Military and Veterans Affairs Office at Lourdes@kofc.org or 203-800-4857 (Monday through Friday 7:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Eastern Time).