By Lisa Everett
SOUTH BEND — For each of the past 50 years, Knights of Columbus Council 553 in downtown South Bend has sponsored an all-expense paid pilgrimage to Lourdes for someone who is suffering from an illness or injury. Ranging in age from small children to the elderly, these pilgrims have experienced not only the healing power of the Lourdes baths but also the spiritual fruits of this famous shrine which attracts over 5 million visitors annually.
Besides seeking donations to cover the cost of the yearly pilgrimage, Council 553 hosts an annual Lourdes Dinner Dance and silent auction. This year’s event will be held on Saturday evening, May 7, at the Knights of Columbus Clubrooms, 553 E. Washington St., in downtown South Bend.
The most recent beneficiary of this annual fundraiser was Michael (Mick) Linsdell, who traveled to Lourdes this past September along with his wife, Erika. Mick, himself a member of Council 553, spent all of May 2010 and most of June in the hospital with recurrent mini-strokes. Physicians found a blockage in his brain and he underwent surgery to insert a stent. One of his fellow Knights submitted Mick’s name to the Lourdes’ selection committee, and he was chosen. Erika recalls how weak Mick was, physically and mentally, when they began their pilgrimage. He was unsteady on his feet, and his speech was still slurred. Once in Lourdes, however, Erika realized that he was being supported by a strength that was not his own.
“I went there with no expectations,” Mick remembers. “It was a wonderful experience. I found it very moving. There was definitely a spiritual feeling about the place. There seemed to be a peace there, despite so many people.” The candlelight processions in the evenings were particularly beautiful, Mick noted. One night he and Erika walked up to St. Bernadette’s Church for a bird’s-eye view. As long a climb as it was, it did not tire him like he expected — he literally felt lifted up.
One of the highlights of the trip for both of them was a morning jaunt by train up the mountain Pic Du Jur near the village of Lourdes. “It was breathtaking to see the surrounding area and the Pyrenees mountains,” Erika remembers. “Being up there felt like you were being filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Another highlight was making the Stations of the Cross, which Erika describes as “absolutely amazing, walking up and down along the path, almost as if you were following Christ’s footsteps.”
Then there was the Anointing of the Sick, the Eucharist processions, the wall of candles representing so many prayer intentions of pilgrims like themselves, and of course, the long wait for the baths, which have become the hallmark of the famous shrine. While Mick is reluctant to think himself the recipient of a cure, the fact is that he has not had any relapses since he returned from Lourdes, and feels good. “I feel I was totally blessed,” he comments. “I was blessed by the Knights to be sent, and it was phenomenal.”
Reservations for this year’s Lourdes Dinner Dance can be made by calling chairpersons John and Judy Lehner at (574) 236-7642 by April 29. The evening begins with a wine and hors d’oeuvres social and silent auction from 5:30-6:30 p.m., followed by dinner catered by Fiddler’s Hearth. Afterwards there will be dancing to the music of Mike Vaszari and his band. The cost of the dinner dance is $30 per person, $60 per couple.
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