MIAMI | Before the pandemic, over six million pilgrims per year visited the grotto in Lourdes, France. Last year, shut down to visitors like the rest of the world, the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes was all but deserted, watched over only by the chaplains of Lourdes, offering prayers.
That changed July 16, 2021, when pilgrims from around the world once again united at the French shrine. The day-long event gathered people both in-person and online to celebrate the 18th and final apparition of the Virgin Mary, the Immaculate Conception, to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.
Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Kendall participated.
“We were asked to send in a video of Our Lady of Lourdes Miami to Lourdes France to be incorporated into the worldwide video,” said Msgr. Kenneth Schwanger, Our Lady of Lourdes’ pastor. “I was asked to attend the event, and little did I know that we would lead off the video, which gives a detailed account of our sanctuary, which was founded in 1985, and our service to all pilgrims who come to us for healing, prayer and peace.”
An organization called Hospitalité de Miami has flourished at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish since 2012. That’s when the North American Lourdes Volunteers presented a virtual pilgrimage at the church and a small group of parishioners joined them on a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The momentum continued to grow, with Miami volunteers serving in Lourdes and getting to know the Hospitalités from around Europe who came and served at the annual pilgrimages of their own dioceses.
Miami volunteers wanted to share that blessing with the people of Miami and have an annual Archdiocese of Miami pilgrimage to Lourdes.
In 2016, Archbishop Thomas Wenski founded the Hospitalité de Miami and in 2017, Bishop Nicolas Brouwet of Tarbes et Lourdes welcomed the Miami group into the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes family. 2016 also marked the fifth consecutive year of pilgrimages from Miami since that first small group joined the North American Lourdes Volunteers in France. Archbishop Wenski went on the pilgrimage in 2019.
The Hospitalité de Miami is now dedicated to organizing the annual Archdiocese of Miami pilgrimage to Lourdes and to serving in the sanctuary with the Hospitalité Notre Dame de Lourdes. Their coordinator in France is Josephine Lathan, a dedicated “hospitalier” whose mother was miraculously cured of terminal cancer at Lourdes at the age of 49. She lived to be 95.
“We are reaching out to the greater community, encouraging them to engage with Lourdes,” said Msgr. Schwanger. “It is an encounter with grace for mind, body and spirit.”
Hospitalité de Miami, led by Ernesto Medina and Tim VanScoy, and Mission Mary Pilgrimages, assists parishes and dioceses with the “how-to” of Pilgrimages, led by Debra Bartkowski, to Lourdes. The experience, Msgr. Schwanger said, “breathes new life into parishes for people of every age and condition. People can see the interaction of faith with God and his Church, and with that come many blessings.”
The next Archdiocese of Miami pilgrimages to Lourdes are scheduled for June 24-July 5, 2022 (reservation deadline Feb. 11, 2022), and Sept. 16-27, 2022 (reservation deadline May 13, 2022). Find out more about Hospitalité de Miami at: https://www.hdmiami.org/ip.php?pg=Home. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.