Tarek Saab, Gut Check


    "Any goal without salvation as its ultimate end is as pointless as trying to live forever on this earth. "


    Lourdes Program Testimonials

     

    A Journey of Faith and Healing to Our Lady of Lourdes.

    Knights of Columbus - Columbia Magazine 2013    See pages 16 - 21

     


    Our Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France

    The invitation our son got to Lourdes was an enormous gift from up above. Our boy Evan has never traveled on a plane for more than two hours and so we had concerns about how the plane ride and the bus travel from the airport to the hotel were going to be. We had concerns about the oxygen we requested for Evan, for our journey, and were worried about the accommodations at the hotel. But it was a huge relief to travel and stay at the Hotel Solitude without incident. Everything was taken care of and we needed not to worry about a thing. Evan was able to go to the baths 3 times during our stay. I was even able to partake and enjoy the energy and love that came along with going into the baths. My husband and I were also worried about the amount of activities that were on our itinerary with the fear that Evan wouldn't be able to handle it, however, Evan once again surprised us and had energy given to him by The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, and was able to partake in every event. One of our favorite events at The Domain was the candle light procession and the mass for the Anointing of the Sick.

    With our busy lives we aren't able to go to church as a family as we would like, but at Lourdes, life and its hectic pace took a back seat and we WERE able to go to mass as a family. Not only Evan, Tom and I, but we had a new and extended family that we were attending mass with now, the families of the US NATIONAL ROSARY PILGRIMAGE that were with us. The Pilgrimage was a time to reflect and center ourselves again so that when it came time to come back to our home lives, we had a stronger spiritual foundation to continue to build our lives and our children's lives upon. Nothing is a mistake or a coincidence or just happens, this was a plan that God had made for each of us to experience and keep in our hearts. Nothing will ever compare to that and to what the Knights of Columbus were able grant me and my family. A huge thanks to Walter and to Liz who took every precaution to make our trip a smooth one, and a warm hug to all of those men who's mission, from the Knights of Columbus, is to serve their fellow man. God Bless us every one.

    Police Officer Alexandra L. Dougherty
    Crime Analysis Unit
    41 PCT, Rm. 102
    Tel.# 718-542-7115<

     


    Georgiana Roos Testimonial

    About 2 weeks before we left for our trip, one of my daughter’s doctors asked me if we were looking for a miracle at Lourdes. I said no, that I was looking for strength and peace. I think I did come back with a little bit of what I prayed for. I’m still working on that, with God’s help. Lourdes is such a beautiful place, both physically and spiritually. It is like heaven on earth.

    We were fortunate to have a wonderful group of children and parents. Even though our families may have different issues, I believe we all could relate to each other. My thanks to everyone involved in this pilgrimage. I will never forget it.

    Sincerely,
    Georgiana Roos 2014

     


    Dear Fr. Herb and St. Patrick’s Parish,

    We would like to share some details from our U.S Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes. It is hard to believe that we left one month ago - and spent 9 amazing days with so many wonderful people on the pilgrimage. We find it difficult to put into words what it was like to walk where St. Bernadette walked and pray at the Grotto of Massabielle where the Blessed Mother appeared. We will try to give you an understanding of what it was like - on the day we arrived, after almost 24 hours of travel, we were so excited to go to the Domain and see the Basilica and the Grotto - we immediately took our prayer petitions to the grotto and then we ran our hands on the stone below where the Blessed Mother appeared to Bernadette. So many faithful have done this before us - and it is so amazing that from running their hands on this stone it has actually become polished. We walked in front of the actual spring that Bernadette dug with her own hands. It was a very overwhelming feeling and we were just absolutely filled with the Grace that Our Blessed Mother was bestowing upon us. We attended many masses and Andrew received Anointing of the Sick at one of the masses. We were a part of an International Mass which took place in the Underground Basilica - this Basilica can seat 25,000 people; Andrew was given the honor to be a part of the procession and carried the American Flag. We went to the baths 3 times and each time were filled with a feeling of healing and peace; it is an experience like nothing you can imagine. You are wrapped in a towel and lowered into a marble tub filled with freezing cold water from the spring. You silently bring all of your intentions to the bath and then pray to the Blessed Mother and to St. Bernadette. When you leave the bath- they do not have you dry off; you simply get dressed and exit. This is the amazing part - you dress and your body is still wet - within minutes you are completely dry. During our pilgrimage we had many days when we were rained on in Lourdes, and during those very heavy rain storms our clothing and shoes were soaked and did not dry...however leaving the baths we were putting on clothes, shoes and socks and within minutes we were dry; I can’t explain this other than to say it is the Blessed Mother letting us know she is with us...

    The US Rosary Pilgrimage was attended by over 100 people who came from all over the US; we had the pleasure of spending this time with 5 priests from various parts of the US. They each added something memorable to the time spent together; by the time we left they all had become special to us! We had the opportunity to tour the basilica area and learn the history of the churches and chapels; we had mass in each part of the basilica. In the crypt which is the original and only part of the Basilica that St. Bernadette was ever in; it houses a first class relic of St. Bernadette. We were able to visit where she was born and get a deeper understanding of her life and the life of her family. In addition to the spiritual events, we had two excursions, one day we went to the Pyrenees Mountain which had unbelievable views - the highlight of course was the horseback ride that Andrew and I took through this small town. Another nice thing we did was go on a day trip to St. Jean De Luz which is a beach town about 2 hours from Lourdes; it was nice for the kids to just play in the ocean and have a day to just be silly kids! The most spectacular part of each day was actually in the evening - every night at 9pm thousands of faithful gathered in the Domain (which are the grounds that surround the Grotto and Basilica) with candles. We would all follow a statue of the blessed mother that was carried in an enclosed case - we followed and the rosary was said in various languages and we would all respond and sing the Ave Maria. As we processed and the sun would set, there was a beautiful glow from all the candles, there was a feeling of complete joy and adoration for the Blessed Mother; it was a breathtaking sight to see. On our last day we celebrated a private mass for our group in the underground Basilica and a special candle which was approximately 6 feet tall and contained pictures of all the children that were sponsored by the Knights of Columbus was blessed and then carried to the candle burning area in the grotto. This area has tall metal stands that house various candles that are burned continuously - day and night. Our candle was carried by two of the children’s fathers who were a part of our pilgrimage and placed there - Walter Kozlowski from the Knights of Columbus said a few words in closing for the pilgrimage and then the candle was lit for our children. It is said that the candle takes close to a week to completely burn.

    Our journey began on February 11th when Walter called us to let us know Andrew had been nominated to attend this year’s pilgrimage (coincidentally - although I don’t really believe anything is a coincidence anymore - February 11th is the day of the first Apparition of Mary to Bernadette) we met the other families that we would travel with and right from the beginning there was an instant bonding that took place. By the end of the Pilgrimage these 8 families all become one family - we shared stories of what our children go through on a daily basis, the reality of each of their illnesses, we laughed together and many times were overcome with emotion and we cried together...we heard many times during the pilgrimage “everyone comes here praying for their miracle and you may not leave here with what you were praying for, but you will not leave here the same as when you arrived - everyone leaves with something; you just may not realize immediately what that is or will be” This is something that continues to resonate with me as we have returned home and slowly got back to reality. Andrew may never receive a cure or outgrow his Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis, but we left there with a sense of healing; I believe it is our hearts and souls that received this healing, and it will help us to continue to move forward and be positive. I have always looked at Andrew with awe and thought he is an inspiration, with the difficulties and pain he has faced every day since he was diagnosed at 2 years old, he is always happy and positive. During the pilgrimage we came in contact with many people we may never have met and through conversations we found strength and also gave strength to those who needed it and for that our lives are forever changed for the better! Thank you to all who prayed for us during our travels and for your continuous generosity to the Knights of Columbus when they fundraise at church every year. Andrew was a part of the 40th group of children that have been sent to Lourdes and this year’s group brought the total number of children who have attended a pilgrimage to 150! This was truly a gift that we will never forget and please know that everyone in our parish was in our prayers throughout the pilgrimage, we thank you and wish you all the blessings that we received while in Lourdes.

    May God bless you,

    Laura and Andrew Curtis 2014

     


    Perrina Testimonial

    To say that this experience was spiritual is an understatement. There are no words to describe the feeling that you get when you step into “the Domain” for the first time. To see the thousands of people walking around and knowing that we are all there for the same reason, “we believe”. It is an indescribable feeling, watching the young, old, sick, and well just stopping to pray, in front of, the Crown Virgin statue again, because, “they believe”. Attending masses in one of the many churches, chapels, basilicas, at the Grotto, were all special experiences. I’ve attended mass hundreds of times but each time, in Lourdes, felt much different. I had an overwhelming desire to participate. Whether by, carrying a banner, saying a reading, singing loudly or “really” listening to one of the wonderful sermons, you really feel like your experiencing something different than you have before. Even Julia and John seemed to sense the “different” feeling. They woke each day without a complaint, went to mass each morning and participated fully in the 3 candlelight processions that we walked in. They sang,“Ave, Ave, Ave Maria” and raised their candle at the appropriate time. I cried each time we walked in the procession, partly because of John, my son, and partly because of my realization that all of the people there truly “believed”.

    The baths themselves were a beautiful and emotional experience. The women that were there to assist were wonderful. They walked me step by step through the process so that my experience would be meaningful for my daughter and I. The men and women that volunteer at these baths are there for no other reason than, “they believe”.

    On this pilgrimage we made some new friends. We all share a common factor, we believe. Our healing might not be a physical one for our son but a spiritual one. Knowing and trusting that the Blessed Mother will bestow her grace on us and that God’s will, will be done.

    Joanne Perrina 2014

     


    This is a brief summary of my son’s trip to Our Lady of Lourdes.

    My son Isaiah and I feel we were blessed to have an opportunity to learn and experience the life of St Bernadette. Visiting the places where she lived, and slept was astonishing as well as the garden where she went to clear her mind. Viewing St Bernadette in the glass coffin and seeing the grotto where she had her apparitions was an unforgettable experience for me and Isaiah. Isaiah was very much interested and alert of his surroundings and at all the Holy Ceremonies. Procession nights was especially a joyful, happy and a tranquil evening for Isaiah. I would like to thank and honor those who made it possible for such an indelible and memorable life experience. It was a great challenge to travel and visit another country and exchange with the different cultures and pilgrims.

    Thank you: Rev James G. Flanagan-Pastor of Holy Family Church from the Bronx, You're spiritual and moral support has been a great inspiration for the life of the Arocho family, especially in Isaiah's faith, health, and mental development.

    Thank you: Mr. Walter H.Kozlowski (PGK) Co-Chairman Knights of Columbus Lourdes Programs Council # 5890 for all your help and guidance on our pilgrimage to Lourdes France 2013.

    I would also like to thank all of my fellow parishioners and fellow pilgrims for all of their faith, support, encouragement, and sacrifices in making Isaiah's pilgrimage comfortable and memorable.

    Mrs. Brenda

     


    Dear Walter,

    The 2013 U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France was a great and enjoyable experience for my dad and I. We would like to personally thank you for inviting us to participate in such a spiritually fulfilling adventure. Father Allen was correct when he stated that Lourdes would be a life changing trip, and it truly was.

    In my opinion, there were two things that I loved most about the trip. Number one would be the baths. At that moment, I truly felt at peace and just really happy. It provided me with an opportunity to really pray not only for myself, but for the other individuals who were going through some tough ailments as well such as Leo, Gil, Jeffrey, Christopher (and you have to pray for his twin brother Michael), Julianna, Ellie, Willy, and Izaiah. In addition, I also took time to pray for my family and friends back home as well. My second favorite part of the Lourdes pilgrimage was meeting all the young and happy people that I just mentioned. They were all truly inspirational, and wouldn’t let any sort of disease slow them down. It also made the trip even more fun than it already was since we were all experiencing it together.

    The other pilgrims also helped me to realize that everyone has their own struggles and that there are no "worse" or "better" conditions to be in, but just different battles. We will continually pray for all those included in the U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage and all those at Lourdes, that they may continue to be strong in their struggles and always have faith in God. Lastly, to all the candidates, their guardians and their families, the directors, the priests, and everyone who took part in the pilgrimage this year, it was great to meet all of you and good luck with everything! Thanks again Walter for such an amazing journey that we will hold in our hearts for the rest of our lives and we hope you enjoy the rest of your summer!

    Ethan Besas

     


    Hapgood Testimonial

    I have prayed to be on a path that would lead to healing my daughter, Ellie. My prayers were focused – I wanted the miracle that would give Ellie the voice that autism took from her. To have her body find peace and comfort; free of the pain and turmoil that came with her severe sensory issues.

    I am now aware that our path to healing began when I saw the article about the pilgrimage to Lourdes and subsequently wrote our petition to be a part it – and thankfully selected to partake in this beautiful experience. In Lourdes, I saw that my prayers were indeed being answered – quietly, slowly and gently – but answered nonetheless.

    Ellie is communicating in her own way – and because I also experienced a healing at Lourdes – I am able to recognize that her speech is blossoming, as is her desire to interact and connect. The pilgrimage was a gift for our children…but what also needs to be recognized is the mending that we the caregivers encounter. As a parent we suffer our child’s condition, along with our own personal stresses as we fight, worry and advocate for our kids. During my time in Lourdes, all I did was focus on Ellie and our faith. I was able to put my daily distractions aside and witness my prayers being answered every time that Ellie initiated communication, said a new word, bonded and played with the other children. And then one night at dinner with our fellow pilgrims, Ellie dipped her hand in a glass of water and gestured the sign of the cross as she clearly said "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen". Everyone at our table had just witnessed a little miracle.

    Thank you for the privilege of being gifted the experience of Lourdes…it truly is life altering and the memories will be cherished forever.

    Siobhan Hapgood

     


    Hi Walter,

    Well what can I say about the trip...hmmm..? Well the trip was amazing, the Basilicas were beautiful. Just in general the trip was a life changing experience.

    Just seeing how many people go to worship & to pray for their loved ones is just something unimaginable. I know for a fact that I am going to remember this trip & hopefully want to go back soon.

    My favorite part of the trip would have to be going to the Candle Light Procession, & also going to the Beach. But seeing how many people were going to the Candle Light Procession is just beautiful. The Beach was also nice, but spending the entire week taking care of my little brother was difficult but also fun & interesting, because even though we live together we don’t spend as much time together like we did on the trip. Having to wake up early, shower him, give him his medicine, & looking out for him was also a challenge. Taking care of my little has made me more responsible in my Parenting skills even though I’m not a parent.

    This trip would have to be the most amazing trip that I have even been too & I would like to go again,

    Thank-you for this experience & see you at the Labor Day BBQ.

    Liborio Nieto

     


    Catholic New York Article 2013

    "Siobhan Hapgood is one of seven parents who will accompany their children with disabilities on the 59th annual U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, June 27-July 6 2013.

    She will be traveling with her six-year-old daughter, Ellie, who is severely autistic."

    Read more at the Catholic New York

     


    US National Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes – a Testimonial by Beth Zeman

    This year I attended the US National Rosary Pilgrimage in Lourdes, France with my mother, Liz, and my daughter Sarah, courtesy of the Washingtonville Knights of Columbus. Each year, the Knights thoughtfully sponsor 6 children suffering from illnesses or disabilities, each with a parent or guardian, to attend the Pilgrimage. I am eternally grateful to our Pastor for nominating Sarah and to the Knights for the incredible gift of this Pilgrimage.

    We are still so humbled that our Sarah was selected for this unique itinerary. Partly contributed to being 11 weeks premature and further complicated by illnesses along the way, she has suffered since birth with a chronic lung condition. Our hope for Sarah was to find relief from this condition which in turn would help her developmentally. When going to Lourdes there is a certain anticipation of miracles. Since 1858, 67 Lourdes miracles have been recognized by the Vatican, though with all certainty many more have gone unacknowledged and/or undocumented. Nevertheless, we asked our family and friends to join in our prayers for Sarah and her own miracle at Lourdes.

    On June 28, 2012, our pilgrimage was officially underway. We first visited the Convent of St. Gildard in Nevers, France to tour the location where St. Bernadette lived out her days, and more importantly to venerate her incorrupt body. The grounds of the convent are lovely – nicely trimmed and manicured. Inside the convent, the ceilings are high and the walls are populated with beautiful works of art. Silence is observed, for the most part, throughout the buildings and grounds. It is amazing how absolute silence can be so peaceful. The sisters of the convent kindly hosted us for a delicious lunch in their dining room prior to allowing us to celebrate mass in their chapel. Upon entering the chapel the incorrupt body of St. Bernadette was directly before our eyes. Immediately, and without warning, the gravity of our pilgrimage took my breath away. The atmosphere of standing in the presence of a Saint is extraordinary. It has the magnitude of attending a wake of a loved one while at the same time the enormity of an angelic presence. As I knelt on the marble step and closed my eyes to pray, I felt Bernadette beside me, listening to my prayers ready to intercede for me. I’ve prayed many times to saints for their intercessions, but never once felt their company as closely as I did in Nevers that day.

    The following morning, we flew from Paris to Lourdes where we would sojourn for the duration. This is where we met up with the rest of our U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage hailing from Ohio, Boston and Washington, D.C. That evening, our first scheduled event as a whole was to participate in the Torchlight Marian Procession, a daily practice of pilgrims in Lourdes since 1872. Thousands of the world’s faithful, each holding a candle with a paper shield imprinted with the Ave Maria in their native language, abounded the Domain – many of them sick and disabled pilgrims. As we processed, the Rosary along with the meditation of that day’s Mysteries were recited over the sound system in every language imaginable. Every two or three Hail Mary’s the language would change with the procession joining in for the petition at the closing of each prayer.

     


    US National Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes – a Testimonial by Beth Zeman

    Several times along the way, the thousands in the crowd would begin to sing the Ave Maria which resonated between the Pyrenees Mountains and could be heard for miles I’m sure. This orchestra of pilgrims, marching in procession with their candles held high, were conducted by volunteers of many different nations. Down one side of the Domain and back up the other, eventually flowing into Rosary Square weaving a pattern of light from the Statue of the Crown Virgin to the Rosary Esplanade, the flickering light of each candle seemingly shone directly from the soul of each pilgrim. Moreover, to see the illuminated statue of our Blessed Mother being carried up one side of the curved sweeping incline, down the other, and finally parting the crowd in the Square just as Moses did the Red Sea - I had no doubt I was in the presence of something glorious.

    All throughout our journey, what impressed me most of all were the pilgrims. One night as I was a spectator at the Torchlight Procession I made my way up close to watch the pilgrims of other countries process on by. I got right in the middle of the action hoping to feel the resounding Ave Marias pass through my being. Here men and women from Spain, Ireland, England, and even Africa came and laid hands on my daughter. They prayed over her, commenting on how cute she was or how blessed I was to have her. They pressed their hands into my flesh. In today’s society, touch is generally associated with negative or unwanted physical contact. I never gave much thought to how powerful it can be when used in a positive way. We were experiencing hands of compassion and strength. It felt as if Christ’s love was flowing out of the nail marks in their palms, embracing me and my daughter with His love. These were loving, healing hands of strangers who left me with more hope than I came with and tears of pure joy over what I had experienced. In this holy, divine place, where people of the world come to drink and bathe in the waters and radiantly declare their Catholicism, I was lifted up by a goodness in God’s children that I never expected to experience in all my life. Lourdes is a little sliver of heaven here on earth.

    We have yet to visit Sarah’s doctors to see if she shows any sign of improvement in her lung function. We may have to endure another winter to be certain her bilateral pneumonia doesn’t reoccur. Have our prayer for a miracle been answered? Regardless of Sarah’s lung prognosis, we most certainly experienced a spiritual miracle in Lourdes. As for our fellow pilgrims from NY, we have woven them all in to the fabric of our family. Most of all, our pilgrimage to Lourdes has renewed my faith in this world and has developed a deeper spirituality within my heart. I have never been prouder to be a Catholic.