The Knights of Columbus and the Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes
The Knights of Columbus was founded in 1882 by Father Michael McGivney, a parish priest in New Haven, Conn. Animated by its core principles of charity, unity, fraternity and patriotism, the organization has grown to 1.9 million members worldwide. In 2017, the Knights donated more than $185.6 million and more than 75.6 million hours hours of service to charitable causes.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Knights of Columbus is honored to partner with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA, to sponsor the Warriors to Lourdes pilgrimage. The pilgrimage will provide the opportunity for veterans, servicemen and servicewomen to attend the International Military Pilgrimage (Pèlerinage Militaire International or PMI) in Lourdes, France, to rest, pray, find healing and connect with members of the armed forces from across the world.
The Knights' sponsorship of the 2019 Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage for the 61st International Military Pilgrimage is the latest chapter in the story of the organization’s involvement in Lourdes, which first began nearly 100 years ago. During the First World War, the Knights were extremely active in serving American troops abroad through the KofC Army Hut program. They even established an official Knights of Columbus Army Hut in Lourdes itself.
“The experiences of the Knights of Columbus in France have been almost as various as are the emotions of man,” a report from the period says. It continues: “The Knights have attended the soldiers in their time of trouble; they have helped them to make good use of their moments of leisure. They have knelt by their side on the battlefield, and, when no Priest was to be had, they have taken the dying lad’s last message, encouraged him in making his act of contrition, and, when all was over, they have closed his eyes. In times of military stress they have taken food to soldiers in areas which the commissary had been unable to reach; they have made merry with them in hut and in club, joined in their pastimes, found them good reading, comforted them in body and in soul.”
With so many American troops stationed throughout Europe, the Knights of Columbus organized a military pilgrimage to the Marian shrine at Lourdes immediately following the end of WWI and published a Guide to Lourdes after repeated requests from American pilgrims.
“Nothing that the boys have done,” the article reads, “has given the Knights such satisfaction as has the visits of the doughboys to the shrine of Our Lady at Lourdes. Some of us had come six thousand miles, but if we had come from the uppermost parts of the earth, the joy of these moments would have made the journey and the fatigue seem as nothing. The atmosphere was redolent with prayer and praise and thanksgiving.”
To learn more about the Knights of Columbus, visit www.kofc.org