WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Military personnel, including the wounded, ill, and injured, are invited to apply for an all-expenses-paid, round-trip journey to the Marian grotto and spring baths at Lourdes, France, during the 62nd annual Pèlerinage Militaire International (PMI)—or “International Military Pilgrimage.” The PMI will be held next year from May 12 to 19, 2020, drawing thousands of troops, veterans, and others from around the world to the famous Marian shrine where the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Saint Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.
The "Warriors to Lourdes" excursion amounts to a week-long retreat in which pilgrims take part in an opening ceremony, special Masses, visits to the baths at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, and a candlelight vigil. U.S. servicemen or women currently on active duty, recently retired, or honorably discharged—including those suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), moral injury or illness—are encouraged to submit an application to the Knights of Columbus (K of C), which co-sponsors Warriors to Lourdes along with the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA (AMS). Applications are being accepted from Sept. 13, 2019, through January 15, 2020.
All pilgrims will arrive at Lourdes in time for the Warriors to Lourdes Opening Mass on Thursday, May 14, at 2:30 p.m. (local time). Knights of Columbus Charities, Inc., will cover expenses for approved non-wounded, wounded, ill, or injured warriors, and their designated caregivers. Preference will be given to post-9/11 era warriors. Acceptance and full coverage for pre-9/11 era wounded, ill, or injured veterans will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Companions and volunteers are invited to apply at specially priced rates.
Applications will be reviewed by the pilgrimage leadership team and its medical director. Each pilgrim package includes lodging, meals, PMI credentials, and round-trip fare from Washington, DC; Atlanta; Raleigh-Durham, NC; New York City; Houston, TX; Seattle-Tacoma, WA; or Los Angele, CA; or bus service from Ramstein-Miesenbach Air Base in Germany. The K of C will book flights from the nearest local airport to the seven departure cities for all pilgrims starting their journey from outside those areas. Barring exceptions, pilgrims will be responsible for transportation to and from the originating airport or bus terminal.
Companions of Warrior pilgrims are invited to attend and may be offered needs-based, financial assistance on a case-by-case basis. U.S.-based and European-based medical and non-medical volunteers are also encouraged to apply. The package rate for companions and volunteers traveling from the United States is $2,600 for a double occupancy room and $2,900 for a single occupancy room; and for those traveling from Germany, $600 for a double occupancy room and $800 for a single occupancy room.
Since all pilgrims will lodge in a hotel, the wounded, disabled, or sick warriors must be able to fully perform their “activities of daily living” either alone or with the assistance of their designated caregivers. Potential applicants and their clinical providers should not anticipate that professional medical or nursing services, including hospitalization, will be delivered during the pilgrimage. In addition, potential applicants must be spiritually motivated to participate as a pilgrim.
The PMI traces its historical roots back to World War II. During the War, members of the French military visited the site of St. Bernadette’s apparitions, offering prayers for peace. In December of 1944, U.S. military personnel joined British, Belgian, French, and Russian military representatives for a Mass at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary. After the War, French soldiers and their chaplains invited German soldiers and their chaplains to gather to pray together. The purpose of this initiative was to heal physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds and to reconcile the past between these former adversaries by recognizing their common identity as Christians in search of peace. The first official PMI was celebrated in 1958—13 years after the war and one-hundred years after the apparitions.
Applications and payments in full (if applicable) are due no later than January 15, 2019.
Applicants may be contacted by pilgrimage staff with additional questions. All applicants will be notified of their application status beginning February 15, 2019.