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Molloy Volunteers Serve Lourdes Pilgrims

06/02/2006: United States

Pilgrims from around the world travel to Lourdes France, every year for the chance to bathe in the healing waters near the grotto where the Blessed Mother appeared almost 150 years ago.
Fifteen students, faculty and alumni/ae from Archbishop Molloy HS, Briarwood NY, volunteered to travel to Lourdes for 10 days. They did not go seeking personal healing or miracles for themselves, although they were changed by the experience. They went to serve the sick and let Christ manifest his love through them.

Inspired to make this journey of faith were 11 young people, both seniors and alumni/a: Jessica Pastore, Ashley Colletti, Jacqueline Dunham, Martha Ksepka, John Luniewski, Jeremy Llave, Scott Kuhner, Alyson Lee, Trisha Killian, Jamie Spataro and Lauren Calder. All have been involved in the school’s Sevice Program, which offers many different opportunities to the to the student body. This was the first outside of the U.S.

Leading the group was Bro. Patrick Hogan, FMS, school guidance counselor. He was assisted by chaperones Denise Lee, the mother of Alyson, and Chris Dougherty, school guidance counselor. Fr. Robert Hogan, SJ, a missionary from the Philippines, served as the chaplain.

Travel arrangements were made through the North American Lourdes Volunteers Program. The Molloy group stayed at the Ave Maria Residence, located along the River Gave.
Pilgrims bathed in the healing waters and attended the Blessing of the Sick. In the evenings, they prayed the Rosary and participated in the candlelight procession.

The Molloy group was responsible for washing dishes, making beds, controlling and directing crowds that numbered in the thousands, assisting the wheelchair-bound, personally helping men. Women and children enter and leave the Piscines (baths,) as the healing waters are called.

“While serving the sick in the kitchen, assisting at the baths, praying the Rosary together and singing in different languages, I realized that the Blessed Mother is present in every face and every act of kindness,” said Denise Lee. “Some people are drawn to Lourdes to realize the opportunity of physical or emotional healing from the blessed waters. For others, it may be a conversion of faith. Whatever the reason, one can’t help but get swept away in the aura of Lourdes and be spiritually uplifted.”

I loved the diversity of people. Young, middle-aged, old, black white, brown, olive tan, beige, French, Italian, American, Australian, sick, healthy, handicapped, crying, praying, silent, playing, in awe, taking photos, looking at their watches, tired, hungry, energized, peaceful, confused, angry, speechless,” added Ashley Colletti.
“We were all at different places physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, but for some reason, we all responded to our call to Lourdes. I am so moved by the faith of so many of the people here…
“In the Piscines, for example, many of these pilgrims don’t know what they know what they’re getting into, but they trust us who work there to care for them. They strip off their layers in front of us, hidden solely by a thin blue cloak and then a transparent white sheet. They fall into our arms and endure the ice cold chill of the water because they trust Our Lady will bless them for their faith, keep them safe, and offer them comfort or relief from their suffering. And that is why I kiss the ground before each shift in the Piscines, and why I was not preoccupied with catching disease. I believe Our Lady will protect us and that God will always provide what I need to live the life He gives me. I pray that every day God will pour His Spirit into my heart and use me to do His will, and spread His light and love.”

My trip to Lourdes, France, was an extremely rewarding experience,” said Alyson Lee. “I have never been on a religious trip and I had no idea what to expect. In the pst, I have never really had a connection with the Mother Mary, and after this my whole outlook on prayer has tremendously changed – for the better…I learned that every helping hand makes a difference. And through helping others, I have helped myself by becoming more humble ans appreciative of the gifts I have.”

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