David D’Andrea believes God has blessed him with miracles in his life. He was cured of polio as a child. He overcame the trauma of clerical sex abuse. And he survived stage 3 cancer, which was diagnosed in 2014.
He credits his recovery to Our Lady of Lourdes through the efforts of his cousin, Monsignor Joseph Giandurco, pastor of St. Patrick’s in Yorktown Heights, NY, who celebrated a healing Mass for him and brought holy water from Lourdes to bless him when he began his treatment for cancer.
D’Andrea still has that bottle of holy water and continues to share it with others who are suffering or ill. And while he has never gone on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, he knows Our Lady was instrumental in his recovery.
For those who need a physical or spiritual healing but cannot travel to France, D’Andrea reached out to bring the Lourdes experience to the Diocese of Bridgeport. A “Lourdes Virtual Pilgrimage Experience” will be held Saturday, September 21 at 1 p.m. at St. Mary Church on 566 Elm Street in Stamford. Bishop Frank J. Caggiano will attend and offer a Eucharistic blessing.
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitality North American Volunteers will coordinate the program, which will feature a candlelight rosary, holy water from the shrine and rocks from the grotto at Massabielle, where the Blessed Virgin appeared to Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant girl, in 1858.
Every year, 6 million pilgrims travel to Lourdes, one of the most revered Marian shrines in the world, to pray to Our Lady. Many go in the hope they will receive a healing at the spring the Blessed Virgin revealed to St. Bernadette. In the 160 years since the apparitions, thousands of people have been healed in the waters, and 70 have been recognized as miraculous cures by the Church.
The volunteers of the Lourdes Hospitality association bring seriously ill and disabled people to the shrine and also share the message of Lourdes by conducting the Virtual Pilgrimage for those who cannot travel to France. Their mission is “To extend the invitation of the Immaculate Conception as given to Bernadette in the Grotto at Lourdes, to serve the sick and suffering at Lourdes and at home, following the loving example of St. Bernadette in simplicity, humility and obedience.” More than 3,000 members of the North American Volunteers have served at Lourdes.
The Virtual Pilgrimage experience, which lasts about two hours, is held at parishes, schools, prisons, nursing homes, universities and convents. Since it began in 2004, more than 165,000 people have taken part in 44 states and 19 countries. The Virtual Pilgrimage began in Kansas, when three pilgrims brought it to Holy Spirit Church in Overland Park. Those who participate will receive a plenary indulgence granted by papal decree of Benedict XVI.
The event will recreate a pilgrimage to Lourdes. “This experience draws pilgrims nearer to God in the company of Our Lady as they are guided through a prayerful visit to the Grotto, the experience of water, prayer in a rosary procession and a Eucharistic blessing,” organizers say.
A lifelong Greenwich resident and parishioner at St. Roch Church, D’Andrea approached Bishop Caggiano with the idea of bringing the Virtual Pilgrimage to Stamford and received his support. Father Gustavo Falla, pastor of St. Mary’s, agreed to host the event at his church, which can seat up to 900.
“We are reaching out to people who need God’s help and a blessing from Mother Mary,” D’Andrea said. “This will be a significant event for our diocese. I have seen miracles in my life, and I’m trying to pay back for what I have received. There is going to be a miracle on that day, I am sure.”
There is no fee although a free-will offering is requested. For more information about the volunteers, visit www.LourdesVolunteers.org. To learn about the Stamford event, call David D’Andrea at (203) 918-9089.
By Joe Pisani