Why did you first decide to join us on pilgrimage or virtual pilgrimage?
I started getting ill about 10 years ago, and many of my friends would say, “You have to go to Lourdes.” I didn’t think it was possible, because of the medical equipment I required and because the power is different in Europe than the United States.
Then, a friend from my Carmelite group, who I didn’t know was a Lourdes Volunteer, came up to me at a meeting and asked if I’d ever thought of going to Lourdes. I told her I didn’t think it was possible, but she said, “Yes. It is.” And she gave me Duckie’s number, who was so great. She actually came up to my house to look at the equipment, which was very reassuring to us, and she said we could go. From then on, it was a go. It was like a dream come true.
What has been your favorite aspect of pilgrimage?
Going over there with an illness and knowing there were doctors and having Lindsey as an assigned nurse. It made, especially my husband, very comfortable. The volunteers were great. One thing Joe said to me was: “I feel so special. I don’t know if everyone feels this special, but I feel so special.” All because of the volunteers, who made us feel so special.
Plus the spirituality of it. It was a pilgrimage, not a trip. It was very spiritual. I loved the Rosary Processional. The Blessed Sacrament. The Baths. It was overwhelming to be able to go into the Baths. Our Mass in the grotto. Those things really stand out in my mind.
Lindsey and I have stayed in touch, texting each other nearly every day. I came home with a good friend. A good spiritual friend.
Another thing that touched me, at the very end, was learning about a prayer partner you didn’t know you had. I looked at Joe’s letter yesterday, and it said they offered their Rosary in the grotto for him. Very special.
Favorite memory of Lourdes?
The Baths, because that’s the only place where you would ever do something like that. I was impressed at how it was done so modestly. My nurse Lindsey was able to come in with me. It was just both of us, there together. You can feel kind of reluctant, like “Should I bring my bathing suit?” But I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all because of the modesty of it, with the towels. And the prayers. They prayed with you. You came out feeling cleansed. Almost like another baptism, in a way.
When you think of Lourdes, what do you think of?
I think of the spirituality. The love that was there.
How has pilgrimage with Lourdes Volunteers influenced your faith / daily life?
I’ve always had a devotion to the Blessed Mother, since I was a child. Pilgrimage rekindled that love of Our Blessed Mother and of St. Bernadette.
I also can’t leave the volunteers out because they were such a highlight. I could have gone with another organization that brought people there on a bus, or something. For me, the volunteers were such a big highlight. They’re the ones that really really made the pilgrimage special. It makes me want to do something—but I don’t know what I can do, other than prayer. So I pray for North American Volunteers in my daily prayers. I pray for those who have a chance to go, that they will go and not worry about the condition they are in. That they know there are doctors or nurses and other volunteers there to help them.
I am so privileged to have been able to go with North American Volunteers. Something that I will never forget is to pray for the volunteer and the organization. I just can’t say how much the volunteers added to the pilgrimage.
What would you tell someone considering pilgrimage with Lourdes Volunteers?
I would tell them that you have so much help from the doctors, nurses, priests, volunteers, and no matter your condition, there is somebody to help you, no matter what. I was afraid at first to go. But the overwhelming support that we have helped me. Do not be afraid to go. The Lord is calling you to go.
In what ways do you hope to continue expressing the Message of Lourdes?
Through prayer, first of all, for the organization and the people that God is calling to go. By telling other people that might have the same feeling I did, the doubt that it was possible.I will let them know it is possible, because I went, in the condition that I was in, wheelchair, ventilator, and all.
Anything else you wish to add?
Not every minute is spiritual. There is some free time to connect with other people on the trip, to go out into the town, to do some shopping and go out to lunch a couple of times. One day, I tried to go and mail a letter, and I got out of the building, and Lindsey came running up saying, “You’re not supposed to be out of my sight.” It was so funny, her running out. I thought that was cute.
It was one of the best experiences of my life. I did go to Fatima years ago, a pilgrimage, but it was nothing like this. Nothing where you had people really really watching over you. It was just beautiful. The organization was so wonderful. I never experienced anything like it. With so many volunteers and such help and such cooperation. It was very very special. It’s an organization that I hope continues forever