BLOOMFIELD – The Order of Malta’s third annual Lourdes in a Day Pilgrimage for the infirmed and their caregivers on Sept. 10 included a washing of hands with holy water brought from the consecrated grotto of Massabielle in Lourdes, France.
This grotto is the site of 18 appearances of Mary, the mother of Jesus, to Saint Bernadette Soubirous in 1858 and is known for the divine healing power of its waters, known as “Lourdes Water.”
During a Mass in the St. Thomas Seminary chapel celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso, the 200 congregants received the sacrament of the sick during the laying on of hands and anointing with holy oil. Bishop Macaluso was assisted by Father Robert M. Kwiatkowski, pastor of St. Peter Claver Parish in West Hartford, and Father Boris Tengabo, a visiting priest from Rome.
“Many sick and infirmed people are incapable of taking an international flight to Lourdes,” said Mark Sullivan, coordinator of the annual event that included 20 Malta volunteers from throughout Connecticut. “So we bring Lourdes to them.”
Participants clearly were moved by the ceremony.
“I never experienced anything like that,” said Elizabeth Murphy, parishioner at St. Mary in Coventry. “It [the laying on of hands] was very special and the anointing with oil was also a very touching moment for me.”
Homilist for the Mass was Father Robert Dunn, a Malta chaplain and priest of the Archdiocese of New York, who called Lourdes the “greatest place of blessings.”
Reflecting on the power of Lourdes as a place of either “magic or miracles,” Father Dunn stated, “It’s a mystery, not magic.”
“Mary smiles in the grotto … She carries out what Jesus asks her to do,” he said, noting that “actually, most miracles happen at the Eucharist ... as we approach Christ the King for that blessing.”
The message of Lourdes, he said, is “a rock solid message of the mercy of God.”
The day of pilgrimage, which was offered at no cost to participants, included a lunch followed by two talks for the sick and for caregivers by Father Dunn, who also is the chaplain at the Jeanne Jugan Residence in the Bronx run by the Little Sisters of the Poor. Father Dunn (www.fatherdunn.org), who has multiple sclerosis, has made 17 pilgrimages to the international shrine.
“We came to send along a little prayerful and special support to people we know who are sick,” said Dolores Johnson, from Holy Trinity Parish in Wallingford, who was there with her husband. “The Blessed Mother is always so powerful.”
Similarly, Sister Gerard Marie O’Connor of the Little Sisters of the Poor noted, “It’s an opportunity to reflect on the reality of suffering in our life, and to remind ourselves that the Blessed Mother is always there to help.”
Malta members also distributed bottles of holy water from Lourdes for later use in following the command of the Blessed Mother to Bernadette at the Lourdes spring: “Go … and wash yourself there.”
The day, which began with the sacrament of reconciliation, concluded with adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, recitation of the rosary and Benediction.
“We do this for the Order of Malta,” said Mr. Sullivan, a member of St. Mary Parish in Simsbury. “We pledge our support to the sick and the poor worldwide.”