Warriors to Lourdes

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5/15/2014

Knights of Columbus supported the Archdiocese for the Military Services in the 2014 Pilgrimage to Lourdes for Wounded Troops.

More than 125 wounded or disabled troops and veterans, family members, chaplains and support staff joined other U.S. pilgrims for the annual Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage for Wounded or Disabled Military Personnel organized by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS) and supported by the Knights of Columbus. The pilgrimage, which took place May 14-19, is part of the 56th International Military Pilgrimage (PMI), which included delegations from more than 40 countries.

The AMS pilgrims attended the PMI events and engaged in a number of other religious and spiritual activities, including Masses, the Stations of the Cross and times of reflection. Pilgrims also had the opportunity to bathe in the waters of Lourdes, which annually draw millions of the faithful, many of whom seek spiritual, physical or emotional healing.

The theme of this year’s PMI was “Servant of Christ, Servant of Peace.” Delegations came from throughout Europe, as well as from North and South America, Asia, Africa and Australia.

The PMI was inaugurated following World War II to foster “reconciliation, peace and healing” and has grown to become a prayerful and festive occasion. In addition to Masses and other times of prayer, pilgrims were treated to an impressive display of military pageantry, including ceremonies with the color guards of the countries in attendance and performances by military bands. They were also given the opportunity to meet soldiers from around the world — many attired in colorful dress uniforms.

Members of the Knights of Columbus, headed by Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, also joined the pilgrimage.

“No one knows the value of peace better than those who endured war,” Supreme Knight Anderson said. “The Knights of Columbus are honored to be able to support — and pray with — these soldiers and veterans as they come to Lourdes to seek the help of the Blessed Mother in their lives, enrich their faith, and pray with those in uniform from around the world for peace.”

“The Knights of Columbus has a long history of support for our troops and veterans,” the supreme knight continued. “For nearly a century, serving those who give so much for our country and our freedom has been a priority of the Knights of Columbus, and we are pleased to continue that important tradition.”

Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio, J.C.D., of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, who made the pilgrimage last year but was unable to go this year due to other pressing pastoral concerns, offered his blessings. “The pilgrims will journey and pray with others from around the world,” he said. “It will be a wonderful occasion to raise their hearts and minds to the Prince of Peace and beg for an increase in understanding and a decrease in strife.”

Auxiliary Bishop F. Richard Spencer, who serves as episcopal vicar for Europe and Asia, represented the AMS at the pilgrimage this year.

The Knights of Columbus has worked closely with the AMS for many years, and the organization’s support of the military goes back even further. Nearly a century ago, during World War I, the Knights took a decisive leadership role in supporting the temporal and spiritual needs of the troops.

At that time, Knights were active in serving American troops at home and abroad through the organization’s “Army Hut” program, which provided hospitality centers for the troops in the United States and Europe and served as a precursor to the United Service Organizations (USO). Under the banner “Everybody Welcome, Everything Free,” the Knights provided centers in a number of countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Belgium, the United Kingdom and the United States. During and immediately following World War I, the Knights also ran such a center in Lourdes itself and assisted American soldiers in France with pilgrimages to the Marian shrine. At that time, the Knights also produced a guidebook to Lourdes to assist the American pilgrims.