Boston Order of Malta leads annual pilgrimage to Lourdes

iStock photo

BRAINTREE -- Ten-year-old Luke Dillon was excited to visit Lourdes, France -- not as a tourist, but a pilgrim seeking healing.

The 950-year-old Order of Malta brought Dillon and 50 others with debilitating conditions or sicknesses to experience the healing waters in Lourdes, France, as part of their annual pilgrimage, May 2 through May 8. The 27th annual pilgrimage was run by 1,800 members of the American Association of the Order of Malta, the branch of the group in the United States.

Luke has muscular dystrophy that keeps him bound to a wheelchair, so he felt very excited for the trip according to his mother, Dawn Dillon.

"About two weeks before he kept asking, 'When are we going? When are we going?" she told radio host Scot Landry on the Good Catholic Life radio show on May 14.

Luke and his mother emphasized that the trip to Lourdes with the Order of Malta was "not a vacation."

The trip took Luke and his mother from Newark, N.J. to France, with no immediate rest upon arrival. The trip included visits to the Rosary Basilica, St. Pius X Basilica, and to the Grotto of Massabielle in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Luke said he especially enjoyed the visit to St. Pius X Basilica. He described how the location captured his 10-year-old imagination.

"It is designed to look like the belly of the whale, like you are Jonah in the belly of the whale," Luke said on the radio show.

The group accompanied Luke and 50 "malades" (French for "the sick"). Each malade accompanied by a family member or caregiver joined about 100 health care workers and the Knights and Dames of the Order of Malta formed the Boston group of about 350 people.

The Grotto of Massabielle at Lourdes contains a spring of water believed to hold healing properties, which have contributed to 68 miracles recognized by the Church.

The shrine was erected on the spot where the Virgin Mary appeared to French peasant-girl Bernadette Soubirous multiple times in 1858, revealing the healing waters. Today, Lourdes draws six million pilgrims each year.

The American Association of the Order of Malta began attending the International Order of Malta Pilgrimage to Lourdes in 1986.

On this year's trip, Luke bathed in the waters and prayed, as caregivers helped him into the pool.

Though he did not experience a miraculous cure for his condition, Luke -- whose name means "bringer of the light" in the Christian tradition -- said he did experience a small miracle as he exited St. Pius X Basilica on a very rainy day.

"It was raining after we came out of St. Pius X Church and the sun came out," Luke told The Pilot.

Luke's mother Dawn Dillon noted the healing power of the trip for her and her husband Tim on an emotional level.

She said her in-laws Jim and Sue Dillon, a knight and a dame in the order, arranged the trip.

"I thought it was mostly for Luke, and then my mother-in-law pulled me aside after we had seen a few things. She said, 'I am so glad you are here because I really wanted you and Tim to be here for your own healing because you are suffering at the foot of the Cross.'" Sue said.

"It really shifts your perspective," she said.

The Order of Malta is a lay religious order of the Roman Catholic Church, founded during the crusades, making it the oldest order of knighthood in the world.

The Boston Area is one of 26 Areas of the Order of Malta, American Association U.S.A., with members from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. The local contingent of about 240 knights and dames conducts charitable work locally under the guidance of a Boston area board.

Members, called knights and dames, dedicate themselves to help the sick and the poor and defend the faith as part of their duties to the order's concept of chivalry.

A dame of the order, Sheila Feitleberg, appeared on the Good Catholic Life with her husband, a knight and advisor to the Boston board, Joe Feitleberg.

After the radio show, Sheila explained how chivalry drives the commitments of knights and dames.

"I think the members of the order intend to live up to a noble intention. They extend themselves to a higher level. They want to take the higher bar. They want to be more of a gentleman and more of a lady to people in need," she said.

"You try to be noble. You try to be a true Hospitaller," Sheila Feitleberg said.

The Order of Malta started as a Hospitaller group, running hospitals for pilgrims in the holy land during the Crusades, providing medical service, irrespective of religion, to those in need.

The tradition continues with the trip to Lourdes and other works of the Order of Malta throughout the world.

The order has carried out humanitarian aid projects in Kosovo and Macedonia, India, Southeast Asia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mexico, Congo, Sudan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Georgia. Some of the projects continue today, with support from hospitals of the order like the Hopital Sacre Coeur in Haiti.

Nancy Gibson, a dame of the Order of Malta, was at home recovering from surgery and could not appear on the radio show, but she attended the pilgrimage as a group leader.

"Our Catholic faith is universal. It is in all languages, all around the world. We go to Lourdes and we do have hope. There are small miracles that happen every day there," she said.

Retired Green Bay auxiliary bishop failed to report abuse, withdraws from ministry

Green Bay, Wis., Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- Bishop Robert Morneau, Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus of Green Bay, has withdrawn from public ministry saying ...

Dolan 'impatient' waiting for apostolic visitation in response to McCarrick

New York City, N.Y., Sep 20, 2018 CNA.- The Archbishop of New York said Thursday that while he has confidence in the way Pope Francis is handling the ...

Two more Chilean bishops step down in wake of abuse crisis

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis accepted the resignations of two more Chilean bishops, bringing to seven the number of bishops who have stepped down ...

Celebration of the Priesthood dinner raises over $1.8 million

BOSTON -- A record 1,700 people attended the 10th annual Celebration of the Priesthood dinner to raise funds for the Clergy Health and Retirement Trust ...

Lawrence parish helps community cope with gas explosion aftermath

LAWRENCE -- Volunteers at St. Patrick Church's Cor Unum Meal Center were serving dinner when multiple natural gas explosions and fires broke out in homes ...

Ceremony, Mass kick off St. Augustine Chapel bicentennial

SOUTH BOSTON -- St. Augustine Chapel and Cemetery began its year-long bicentennial celebration on the weekend of Sept. 14-16 with tours, special Masses, ...

Mass. Knights install new officers

The Massachusetts State Council Knights of Columbus recently held its Installation of State Officers at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Canton with ...

Deal will keep Sancta Maria Nursing Facility open

CAMBRIDGE -- Sancta Maria Nursing Facility announced Sept. 17 that it has negotiated a comprehensive operational contract with Advocate Healthcare Management ...

From Cardinal Seán's blog

As I mentioned in my preface to last week's blog, this week and last, I have been in Rome for meetings related to the work of the Pontifical Commission ...

N.Y. Archdiocese names judge as independent reviewer on abuse protocols

NEW YORK (CNS) -- New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan has named a former federal judge to study archdiocesan policies and procedures with respect to sexual ...

U.S. reports poverty declines, but agencies finding needs remain great

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The good news from the U.S. Census Bureau Sept. 12 was that the poverty rate dropped for the third straight year in 2017 and median ...

Class-action lawsuit filed against eight Pennsylvania dioceses

PITTSBURGH (CNS) -- A class-action lawsuit was filed Sept. 17 against eight Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania demanding the dioceses provide proof that ...

Apostolic visitor outlines plans for expansion at Medjugorje shrine

WARSAW, Poland (CNS) -- The Polish archbishop tasked with overseeing Bosnia-Herzegovina's Medjugorje shrine has outlined plans for expansion, including ...

Pope names administrator as Indian bishop investigated for alleged rape

MUMBAI, India (CNS) -- Pope Francis has accepted the request of an Indian bishop accused of raping a nun to be relieved of his duties during the investigation. In ...

In letters to German cardinal, retired pope defends way he stepped down

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Retired Pope Benedict XVI expressed his displeasure with the way a German cardinal publicly criticized his stepping down as pontiff, ...

Thousands of Hispanics expected in Texas for Encuentro summit

Fort Worth, Texas, Sep 20, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- As many as 3,000 Catholics of Hispanic background are expected in Texas this week for the National V Encuentro, ...

Church plans third-party abuse reporting system, code of conduct

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pledging to "heal and protect with every bit of the strength God provides us," the U.S. bishops' Administrative Committee Sept. 19 ...

Be grateful to parents, never insult them, pope says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Honoring mothers and fathers means being grateful for the gift of life and Christians should never insult anyone's parents, Pope ...

Canadian cardinal: Women should help screen, train priest applicants

Poznan, Poland, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- Increasing the role of women in screening and training priests is among the steps that should be taken to prevent future ...

Vatican delegation will travel to China this month to finalize agreement, Chinese newspaper reports

Beijing, China, Sep 18, 2018 CNA.- A newspaper tied to the Chinese Communist Party reported Tuesday that a delegation of Vatican officials will head to ...

Media reporting Vatican-China agreement could be signed in late September

HONG KONG (CNS) -- The long-awaited Sino-Vatican agreement on the nomination of bishops is expected to be signed in September, reported several media ...

Update: Irish singer Bono calls pope 'extraordinary man for extraordinary times'

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Bono, the lead singer of the Irish band U2, said he told Pope Francis that in Ireland "it looks as though the abusers are being ...

Cardinal Marx says mistakes were made, calls for change in German church

Cardinal Reinhard Marx, head of the German bishops' conference, admitted that mistakes were made in the German church's handling of sex abuse of minors ...

Church crisis response: Healing Masses, listening sessions, fasting

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- In response to the sexual abuse crisis in the church, Catholics are praying for victims, talking about their frustration and anger, ...

Pope names Minnesota priest as auxiliary bishop of Hartford

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Pope Francis has appointed Father Juan M. Betancourt, a priest in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, as auxiliary bishop ...

Listening church: Pope gives new vision for Synod of Bishops

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Synod of Bishops increasingly should be a structure for listening to the Catholic faithful, demonstrating a local bishop's concern ...

Director of Courage releases letter on Penn. abuse report

Washington D.C., Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Courage International, an apostolate to support people with same sex-attraction in leading chaste lives, has issued ...

Richmond bishop apologizes to victims; commits to opening, reviewing files

RICHMOND, Va. (CNS) -- In celebrating the Diocese of Richmond's first Mass of Atonement for victims of abuse Sept. 14, Bishop Barry C. Knestout apologized ...

Advocates decry historically low cap for refugee entry in 2019

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Advocates for refugee admissions into the United States decried what one statement called a historically low cap of 30,000 for fiscal ...

Stanford University to remove saint's name from some properties

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- California's Stanford University will strip the name of 18th-century Franciscan friar, St. Junipero Serra, from some of its properties ...

Catholic Charities distributes disaster relief to areas hit by Florence

RALEIGH, N.C. (CNS) -- The Carolinas were hard hit with record rainfall and flooding rivers from tropical storm Florence since it made landfall Sept. ...

Archbishop Lori assures diocese he's with them in journey toward healing

WHEELING, W.Va. (CNS) -- In his celebration of Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling Sept. 15, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore said ...

Bishop takes a (sky) dive to get pilgrims to Lourdes

HOVE, England (CNS) -- "The Moth has landed," tweeted the Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. The tweet Sept. 14 and a similar post on the diocesan Facebook ...

Words, promises are not enough to prevent abuse, archbishop says

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Inviting presidents of the world's bishops' conference to the Vatican to discuss abuse prevention reflects an understanding that ...

Pope praises Capuchin order's charism of authenticity, simplicity

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Capuchins are called to be men of peace, reconciliation and prayer and to be close to all people, Pope Francis told members of the ...

Path to healing starts with seeking forgiveness, Cardinal Wuerl says

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- A "Season of Healing" for sexual abuse survivors began in the Archdiocese of Washington with a Sept. 14 Mass at the Cathedral of St. ...

Archbishop McCarrick's unofficial role in Vatican-China relations

Vatican City, Sep 17, 2018 CNA.- Following reports that the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China could be about to sign an agreement ...

Archbishop Chaput: When we forget faith, we forget our humanity

Spokane, Wash., Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- When man tries to cling to reason and separate himself from faith, he forgets who he is and loses his source of hope, ...

Pope Francis warns priests against living a double life

Palermo, Italy, Sep 15, 2018 CNA/EWTN News.- During a day trip to Sicily Saturday, Pope Francis told priests and religious to fight their vices and strive ...

What is the pontifical secret?

Vatican City, Sep 14, 2018 CNA.- Following the allegations made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò about the case of Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, ...

Catholic workers say U.S. aid cuts to Palestinians could be disastrous

JERUSALEM (CNS) -- The U.S. budgetary cuts to humanitarian aid institutions helping Palestinians could lead to long-term disastrous consequences, said ...