Maltese Association Pilgrimage to Lourdes 2017
Maltese Association Pilgrimage Director
The President, HE Marchesino Daniel de Petri Testaferrata
The 2017 pilgrimage to Lourdes, organised by the Maltese Association of the Order of Malta was, once again, a huge success. I am incredibly grateful to all the members of the organising committee, who worked so very hard for so many weeks and months to make sure that everything was prepared to the very best of our abilities.
It is most impressive, and greatly humbling, to witness the many dedicated members and volunteers of the Order of Malta, performing their Hospitaller vocations with an abundance of generous love. Their hard work, from the most minor and sometimes imperceptible task, through to the ones which are eminently visible, make all of this possible.
I am also most grateful to all our various sponsors. It would be almost impossible for me to mention them all, as we are blessed by very many generous souls. Please allow me therefore to limit myself to one: The Malta Community Chest Fund Foundation, which assists us greatly year after year. The MCCFF, and all the other individuals and organisations that provide us with financial assistance are also an indispensable cog in this complicated machine. We are greatly indebted to the generosity of each and every one of them.
We are most grateful to Our Lords the Sick, who give us the opportunity to serve Our Lord himself through them. We are honoured by the privilege of assisting them.
And, finally, we thank our dear Mother herself, who intercedes for us, with St John the Baptist and the Blessed Gerard, in our mission of service.
The Experience in Lourdes
Here are a few comments from the local pilgrims and guests to the Marian shrine:
On Thursday, 4th May 2017 a total of 360 pilgrims flew to the Marian shrine of Lourdes. For many it was their first experience, for others it was their annual trip to this sacred place. The Maltese Association of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, led by the President, H.E. Marchesino Daniel de Petri Testaferrata and under the spiritual guidance of The Very Rev. Mgr Lawrence Gatt, principal chaplain, ensured that the 65 ‘Malades’ and a sizeable group of children from Puttinu Cares together with their parents, were able to spend this special time in Lourdes to gather strength, to reconnect with others, to listen to the word of God and finally to sing, pray and heal. His Eminence Prospero, Cardinal Grech graced us with his presence and inspiring words during the services of the pilgrimage.
Once they set foot in Lourdes, the town beneath the Pyrenees, the Maltese contingent joined the rest of the International pilgrimage constituting 44 nationalities who were gathered on this memorable occasion, united in their devotion, service and fellowship. Albania, the Dominican Republic and El Salvador were welcomed as the new participants not to mention the pilgrims from Iraq and Syria who joined the French Association. Senegal came for the first time as its own Association.
The Lourdes pilgrimage, which has been organised since 1958, and led by Lieutenant of the Grand Master Fra’ Giacomo Dalla Torre del Tempio di Sanguinetto offered the unique opportunity for the 4,500 Dames, Knights, Chaplains, doctors and volunteers assisting over 1500 sick or disabled pilgrims to fully experience the charism of the Order, whose members relentlessly endeavour to be true to their motto:
“Tuito fidei et Obsequium pauper” – to be the defence of the Faith and the assistance to the sick and poor.
and the large attendance on this pilgrimage is testimony of this.
In his address of welcome to all first time volunteers, the Lieutenant of the Grandmaster drew on the fact that the 59th International Pilgrimage “is an affirmation of our commitment to the Order of Malta and to its works, which have given help to those in need for almost a thousand years.” He reminded all that “Lourdes is a special place dedicated, through the Virgin Mary, to supporting the sick. It brings hope and courage to all. Lourdes is a place of healing. The miracle is that we are invited to be present, to renew our faith and hope in Mary, and to bring peace and serenity to those we assist”.
In fact, the same miracle happens each time particularly to first time visitors. They enthusiastically return the following year!
For the past few years, my grandson, Giacomo, who is 10 years old, has been asking, to come with me to Lourdes. I used to tell him, that sooner or later, he will. I never imagined that it would be sooner than I had anticipated, as after being cured from a very rare form of cancer, he was hosted by the Maltese Association of The Order of Malta for the annual pilgrimage to Lourdes
Giacomo was so excited and happy, to be near Our Lady, for whom he always had a great devotion. There are no words, to describe the feeling of seeing him there with me, especially when I remembered that on two occasions, during his illness, he was one step away, from going to meet Our Lady, in heaven. Together we could thank The Blessed Mother, for his recovery.
Seeing Giacomo, joyfully, participating in the various functions, although he was still very weak, brought tears to my eyes.
As always, on my return from Lourdes, I start looking forward to the following year . Even Giacomo felt the same , as he already asked me to accompany me next year. God willing we will be back.
After having gone to Lourdes as a helper with another group, quite some time back, I kept dreaming of going back. Along the years I had been encouraged by close friends, to join the Knights of Malta on their pilgrimage to Lourdes. However I always resisted and felt the time wasn’t right for me, until this year, I grabbed the opportunity to go and I have to say that I have absolutely no regrets.
Everyone was warm and welcoming from the the word go, found myself a room mate, my uniform was prepped up for me, and all fell into place so nicely.
It felt surreal, I was actually going back!!! I was so excited and eager to forget myself for a few days and dedicate my time and energy to Our Lords the sick, their spouses and families who are challenged in their daily lives by various circumstances due to their situations or illnesses. Given that I had the role to transport Our lords the sick to and from all the various functions, we had ample time to get to know them. Some just wished to share and speak freely and openly about their problems, illnesses or ailments. Some would thank us endlessly for the little things we would do for them, others simply enjoyed sharing photos and talked to us about their loved ones back home. Whether we were on our way to a function, having a little chat over a coffee, or walking to one of the places they wished us to accompany them to, the joy of giving a helping hand, or lending an ear, was priceless! It is indescribable to see the faith of so many people who chose to come along on this pilgrimage in the hope that Our lady of Lourdes and Our loving mother Mary will bring healing, peace and joy in their lives. My prayer was to have at least a fraction of these people’s faith.
On my overall personal experience and expectations, if any, this particular pilgrimage to Lourdes, did not let me down. The place itself is an oasis of peace, it’s a retreat away from all our stresses and demands of our every day lives. I have to say I enjoyed every single last minute of the experience. Getting to know so many people from every walk of life, young or old, on so many different levels. The spirit of caring and looking out for each other, conjured up with the sense of unity and working together between the helpers and the pilgrims alike was evident from every aspect. I believe we all left with a sense of the true peace from within, a peace I’m certain only a place like Lourdes can offer. The spirit which makes my experience with the Knights of Malta a unique one. A sense of true Spirit the Knights of Malta should be proud of, and this an experience which I have no doubt shall be repeated form my end.
When a friend recommended that I join the Order’s annual pilgrimage to Lourdes in May this year, I declined immediately. I was passing through a very difficult phase in my life and the last thing I was looking for was spend time making polite conversation and looking after patients. I felt I did not have the moral strength as I needed that care myself. However my friend persisted and tried her best to sell me the idea. In the end I capitulated as I am a firm believer that when Our Holy Mother calls one should heed that call. So this is how last minute, I found myself dressed in an ill-fitting dreaded uniform joining the Knights of Malta pilgrimage. Looking back and right throughout the stay in Lourdes, I can say that it was a very profitable investment of effort and time. I was so very positively impressed by the sheer number of Knights of Malta groups from all over the world. What a wonderful organisation this is. All with the same mission and giving themselves selflessly and tirelessly to Our Lords the Sick. The dreaded uniform turned out to be a blessing and a great ally in itself – it gave me the anonymity I craved at the time whilst earning me the respect of pilgrims and patients alike. All my fellow helpers in the Malta team were super kind and supportive, including and welcoming me in their free time plans. My patients were a lovely couple and I found that I was able to offer them both the attention and love they deserved. More importantly I found healing, understanding and compassion for myself at the Grotto where I ran to at every opportunity. I prayed, I sat, I cried and I listened and joined in the community of service, prayer, praise, hope and love that is Lourdes.
Friends asked me if I would attend another pilgrimage and without hesitation, I answered “yes’. Indeed, if Our Lady beckons, I will be there. Marie Montanaro