“I would never have the opportunity to be in Lourdes, so she came to me. It was such a blessing that we got today.”
So shared Sister Leda Domino, O. Carm., a social worker who works with hospice at Mary Manning Walsh Home in Manhattan. She spoke with CNY outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral May 23 after the 5:30 p.m. Mass where St. Bernadette’s relics were displayed in the sanctuary from 3 to 7 p.m.
Auxiliary Bishop John O’Hara served as principal celebrant of the St. Bernadette of Lourdes Mass and Anointing of the Sick. Father Enrique Salvo, cathedral rector, served as a concelebrant and delivered the homily. Deacon of the Mass was Deacon Jeffrey Trexler, executive director of the American Association of the Order of Malta, which sponsored the Mass.
Relics of St. Bernadette are touring the United States for the first time. The pilgrimage, which began April 7 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Miami, will continue with cross-country stops through Aug. 4, with the last visit scheduled at St. Bernadette Church in Los Angeles.
The Manhattan stop included a five-day visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Harlem.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes is organizing the pilgrimage of the relics in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, North American Volunteers, Hospitalité of Miami and the Order of Malta.
Sister Leda, 57, was joined by seven other sisters from her congregation, the Carmelite Sisters for the Aged and Infirm, and three residents of Mary Manning Walsh.
The three residents, she said, “were just thrilled” to view the relics in person. “Being here,” she said, “brings a different healing presence.”
In addition to offering prayers for healing for others, Sister Leda prayed for healing for herself, as she said she has ongoing health issues from her Covid diagnosis two years ago.
She briefly reflected on the story of St. Bernadette. “The whole innocence of who she was, and just putting her total faith in our Lady” is reassuring to Sister Leda. “She just knew that Our Lady was there for her and would take care of her.”
St. Bernadette of Lourdes received visions from the Blessed Virgin Mary in a cave near Lourdes, France, beginning in 1858. When she reported these visions, civil authorities attempted to force her to recant her accounts.
She refused, and word spread about the cave she had found with miracle healing springs. Lourdes emerged as a pilgrimage site for faithful from around the world.
Accompanying Anthony, 25, and Monica, 35, Largotta to the cathedral was their 14-month-old daughter, Anna Scarlett. The family attended the Mass “for all of us to remain healthy,” Anthony Largotta said.
The family belongs to Our Lady of the Angelus parish in Rego Park, Queens. “It was so peaceful,” Anthony added of the cathedral Mass.
Father Salvo, in his homily, said it was a blessing to have the relics of St. Bernadette in the cathedral as it “reminds us that Mary is always with us, that our Lord is always with us.”
“It’s beautiful and very important for us Catholics to appreciate all of the apparitions, especially those that the Church confirms,” including Our Lady of Lourdes, he said. “They’re gifts from God and gifts from our Blessed Mother, who we know is a loving mother to us all.”
Although she is always present spiritually, the Blessed Mother appears every so often through an apparition “to remind us of the messages of the Gospel, to turn to God” and to have faith and trust in Him.
“On this day that we are here through the intercession of St. Bernadette, let us ask Our Lady of Lourdes to always pray for us, to always remind us how much of a loving mother she is to each of us,” Father Salvo said. “And we pray for the physical healing of all the sick…and we pray…for the spiritual healing, for the healing of the mind, for the healing of every aspect of our lives, to purify anything that might separate us from God. And that we each day can come closer and more trusting to His love.”
Born Marie-Bernarde Soubirous in Lourdes Jan. 7, 1844, she died April 16, 1879 at age 35. Pope Pius XI canonized her in 1933. Her feast day is April 16.
On the U.S. pilgrimage, St. Bernadette’s relics are contained in a large reliquary created by master craftsmen of religious artistry at Maison Granda workshop in Spain.