BY BARRY WARNER
Lourdes Kids of Rockland is an organization that arranges to take severely ill and challenged children to the shrine of Lourdes in France, and a chapter of the American Special Children’s Pilgrimage Group. It is a non-profit organization that sponsors an annual Easter Week pilgrimage to Lourdes, France for young people with special physical and developmental needs. These pilgrims travel with caring volunteers such as doctors, nurses and priests in a family-type atmosphere. The helpers pay their own way and funding is supplied by the Pearl River Ancient Order of Hibernians Division III and the American Legion Post 329, so that every special pilgrim can experience Lourdes free of charge. A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance to a shrine of importance to a person’s belief and faith, where ‘miracles of healing’ were performed or witnessed.
“For many of the affected youngsters, it may be the first trip away from home that they ever had without their parents,” said Neil Cosgrove, Recording Secretary of the Pearl River Ancient Order of Hibernians. “For children whose world is often limited to the four walls of their bedroom, the effect of being able to take a trip to Lourdes is an adventure few of us can appreciate.”
The Sanctuary of our Lady of Lourdes is an area of ground surrounding the Catholic Shrine or grotto in the town of Lourdes, France. A grotto is a small cave or cavern, often associated with miraculous apparitions and other supernatural experiences. Millions come to Lourdes to see the site of a famous vision experienced by a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous, who is venerated as a saint in the catholic church. It is a destination for sick pilgrims around the world who are regarded to be ‘healed’ by bathing in Lourdes’ miraculous waters.
A sample schedule for the developmentally disabled visitors from Rockland County to Lourdes included heading to the baths, attending mass in the Crypt, a tour of Bernadette, bringing candles for the Grotto Mass, a healing service, a Trust Mass with a bishop, a Eucharist procession and a blessing of the sick. The six official languages of the sanctuary include French, English, Italian, Spanish, Dutch and German.
Lourdes Kids of Rockland participant Ciaran indicated that he drank the holy water and prayed at the Lady of Lourdes fountain. He relayed that in the past he suffered from repeated colds, but he has not had a cold and seemed to be ‘healed’ since his visit to the grotto last year. Participant James said that he enjoyed engaging in the activities at the Lady of Lourdes site and had gained confidence since the recent Easter Week Pilgrimage.
“As the co-director of the Lourdes Kids of Rockland Chapter along with Nadine Green, I work with a committee of dedicated individuals whose combined efforts ensure that we successfully schedule and organize pilgrims, nurses, administrators, doctors and clergy with paperwork and travel arrangement for the trip.,” Volunteer Edmund O’Dea told the Rockland County Times. “We schedule meetings and get- togethers for volunteers, organize fundraisers for our program and recruit helpers or same-age companions for each yearly pilgrimage.”
“Our pilgrim selection is intense,” O’Dea continued. “We identify young adults who may be good candidates within our community and surrounding areas. We then work to set up interviews with the pilgrims and their families. Families have also contacted us to inquire if their child or young adult could possibly be a potential candidate. We identify their special requirements to determine the spectrum of care they will require while travelling: physically, medically and emotionally. We then work to pair the pilgrims selected with our volunteer helpers who would be the most beneficial to their needs. Our pilgrims’ overall requirements cover a wide spectrum and thus far we have been successful in pairing them with helpers and nurses that have suited their needs.”
“I have always tried to give back to my family, friends and neighbors,” O’Dea said. “I volunteer in the hopes that my help, however small it may be, will bring a positive experience to people less fortunate than myself. Giving of one’s self is very rewarding. I cherish the friendships I have made with the people associated with our organization and I am proud of my continued friendships with our past pilgrims. I hope to meet many more future pilgrims that I can call my friends.”
The next Lourdes Kids of Rockland fundraiser will be Saturday October 14, 2017, when the annual golf outing will take place at the Broadacres Golf Club in Orangeburg. For additional information, contact Edmund O’Dea at [email protected] or 917-974-9659.