History of Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience
Inspired in a Grace
Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience™ was inspired in a grace within the mission of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers early in 2002. In the fall of 2002, three pilgrims from Kansas City, KS, met the Foundress of Lourdes Volunteers in Lourdes and Nevers, France. They agreed to be the first Host Team to bring the grace of Lourdes back home to their parish community. The Pastor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church in Overland Park, Kansas, was born on the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes. With his birthright devotion, he agreed to allow what was to be the first-ever Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience. Months of prayer, persistence and planning were required. After two years of preparation, the first Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience™ was offered in the fall of 2004 in Kansas, the heartland of America.
From 2002 – 2019, the Pilgrimage Experience spread from parishes into schools, prisons, nursing homes, conferences and many other places across the country and around the world. As of 2019, more than 196,577 “pilgrims” experienced Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience™ in 47 states, 13 Native American Nations, 21 countries on 5 continents. We grew from one founding guide, into a “team”of missionaries.
In 2020, shortly after the Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, the Covid-19 Pandemic brought life as we knew it to a halt. However, having shared the grace of a Lourdes Pilgrimage in a “virtual” way for many years, we were uniquely able to transition to what would become “the new normal” for many people in lockdown: connecting through a live online experience. “Virtual” no longer meant taking place somewhere other than the “actual” pilgrimage site; “virtual” it became synonymous with “on the computer’’—a digital experience. Responding to our plea at the onset of this worldwide pandemic, the Holy See granted an additional plenary indulgence for the faithful who experience the Virtual Pilgrimage via broadcast, live-stream, recorded television and radio program. Grace upon grace in a difficult time of suffering! Through our digital technology and “pilgrimage kits” mailed to our pilgrims, we were able to offer the pilgrimage experience with Lourdes Water and a plenary indulgence to thousands more people around the world.
Just as our Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience™ was inspired in a grace, it continues to grow in grace. In 2021 and 2022, 3 separate EWTN worldwide broadcasts potentially gathered millions together in the grotto of our hearts, guided by our foundress. We will never know the numbers, but we know that it has blessed the lives of many. As the pandemic lock-downs transitioned back to in-person life with health accommodations, our guide teams are back on the road and busier than ever with the first official St. Bernadette Relic Tour to the United States from April to August of this year. We are blessed to share the healing graces of Lourdes Pilgrimage with all those who are unable to make an actual pilgrimage. As we like to say at Lourdes Volunteers, “We love it when Our Lady introduces us to her friends!”