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St. Marcellin Champagnat International Service in Lourdes

24/10/2007: United States

This summer, the St. Marcellin Champagnat International Service Society of Archbishop Molloy H.S., Briarwood, made their third pilgrimage to Lourdes, France. It was their most positive faith experience yet.

Thirty-four students, alumni, parents and faculty members volunteered for 13 days, July 28 to Aug. 9, to assist sick and disabled pilgrims, who travel to Lourdes by the thousands each year, so that they may bathe in the healing waters near the grotto where the Blessed Mother appeared in 1858. The group attended Mass and prayed the Rosary daily. Father Richard Bertone from Pace University served as chaplain for the trip.
This is the third year that Molloy has sponsored a pilgrimage to Lourdes. The Society began with 13 volunteers in 2005, and sent 26 last year. Each year, the North American Lourdes Volunteers has helped arrange the trip and accommodations at Ave Maria Hospitality Center.

Most of the students and alumni who participated have been involved in the school’s Service Program and have worked with people who have special needs.

Each student and alumnus had to raise $2,300 for the trip. Young people held various fundraisers, including a scavenger hunt in Manhattan and a school-wide raffle, used their earnings from part-time jobs and received financial help from their parents.

AM volunteers spent eight days in Lourdes, followed by three days in La Valla, where St. Marcellin Champagnat founded the Marist Brothers of the Schools in 1817. Students and adults stayed in the hermitage built by the saint and the early brothers, toured the saint’s parish in Marhles, visited Le Rosey, the hamlet where he was born, and experienced a mini-retreat to refresh their spirits.

Bishop Jean-Yves Riocreux of Pontoise, near Paris, upon hearing that Marist students from the U.S. were in his hometown, flew to Marhles to say Mass and have lunch with them. He carries a first-class relic of St. Marcellin Champagnat in his Pectoral Cross. Group members had this to say of their time in Lourdes:
“When you are a volunteer you do not get to pick your job. You go where you’re needed. We had a great time with the guys in our Stagiare. … We worked hard and well together and truly enjoyed one another’s company. Language barriers made it even more fun. It was clear to me that we were all there to do God’s work and that was to care for the sick. Before every job we gathered to pray in different languages so we could keep the focus of why we were there.” — Chaperone Brother Pat Hogan, F.M.S., AMHS alumni spiritual director.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect but I went in with an open mind and an open heart. … Once we finished training, the women in the Piscine showed us the technique of the baths. I was quite frightened and scared to begin work the next day. ... By the third day I knew why I had come. One woman came in on a stretcher with her mother and nurse at her side. You could tell the woman was very sick so she required a lot of attention. ... Both of these women began to cry watching the experience the daughter was going through. Eventually all the women waiting for their baths began crying ... Most of the women didn’t speak the same language but what was felt in that waiting area had no language barrier.” — Julia Hurtubise, AMHS ’07, a parishioner at St. Fidelis, College Point, and a student at St. Joseph’s College, Downtown Brooklyn.
“It was everything I expected it to be, but so much more. I expected to do hard work, day in and day out. That I did, but I did not expect for the people I helped to hug me after my efforts. I did not expect to be doing so much work, yet someone else’s smile or gratitude give me more fuel to burn. ... In witnessing another person’s hope for a miracle healing, I did not expect it to heal me. Lourdes is simply incredible, and I can’t wait to return next year to discover what I didn’t expect.” — Joseph LoGiudice, AMHS ’06, a parishioner at St. Helen’s, Howard Beach, and a student at St. Joseph’s College, Downtown Brooklyn.
“It has been my dream to work in Lourdes, to offer comfort to those pilgrims journeying to this sacred place. It was I who received encouragement from the smiles of all those faith-filled pilgrims. Their faces are etched in my heart. This blessing was multiplied working side by side with my daughter Janine and the caring students, faculty and volunteers. ... The graces that I received on this pilgrimage will no doubt unfold for a lifetime to come.” — Chaperone Kathy Accardi, parent and member of St. John’s University Sunday Community and St. Kevin’s, Flushing.
“The days leading up to our departure for Lourdes were pretty tough for me. I felt like I shouldn’t be going on such a holy and religious trip, that I wouldn’t be able to get anything out of it or be able to contribute anything because I wasn’t such a holy and religious person! As soon as we arrived in Lourdes I immediately began to feel better ... but at the same time I still had that nagging feeling that the religious aspect of the trip might do me in, that I wouldn’t know the words to a certain prayer, or a song, or that I wouldn’t know what to do during Mass. I finally realized how ridiculous and trivial I was being ... I was sitting directly across from the grotto, and even though it was pretty late there seemed to be hundreds of people still gathering. And I realized that I had never seen so much faith and unity before in my life. All of these people, regardless of their different backgrounds and the circumstances that brought them to Lourdes, just praying and believing, together. This realization really hit me hard and I started to cry ... I think that’s why Lourdes is such a special place. It helped me realize that it didn’t matter if I was religious, that I didn’t need to be a super religious person to get something out of the trip. And as soon as I saw all of those people and just let go of all my own concerns and worries, I felt like I’d become more faithful ... Ill always remember the amazing people I met, and the amazing feeling of faith and comfort that it gave me.” — Jacqueline Siino, AMHS ’06, a student at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, and a parishioner of St. Sebastian’s, Woodside.

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