by Dean Backes
TOPEKA — Father Tim Haberkorn, the pastor of Sacred Heart and St. Joseph parishes here, is one of millions who has traveled great distances to view the relics of St. Bernadette Soubirous and visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Nevers and Lourdes, France.
Many more have longed to make a pilgrimage of their own, but thousands of miles stood in the way.
For a limited time, however, the journey will become much shorter for people of faith who wish to see St. Bernadette’s relics.
The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes, in partnership with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, North American Volunteers, Hospitalite of Miami and the Order of Malta, have taken the thousands of miles out of the equation by introducing a 2022 U.S. tour of St. Bernadette’s relics from April 7-Aug. 3.
The tour is slated to make a stop at St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood from June 30-July 3. There, visitors will be able to venerate St. Bernadette’s relics, be blessed by the healing waters of Lourdes, and ask the Lord for healing and blessings through her intercession.
“This is a great opportunity for people to enhance their faith. To ask for intercession upon the different needs that individuals have,” said Father Haberkorn. “I think it will be a great experience for those who attend.”
The oldest of nine children from a poor family, 14-year-old Marie Bernarde Soubirous received her first of 18 visits from the Blessed Virgin Mary on Feb. 11, 1858, as she walked with her sister Toinette and a friend. Appearing as a young woman in blue, the Virgin Mary revealed herself to St. Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception.
During the apparitions, the Blessed Virgin asked St. Bernadette to build a chapel on the site of the vision and to drink from a fountain in the grotto that Bernadette eventually discovered by digging where she was instructed. Soon, a stream of fresh water bubbled up and continues to flow today.
Millions visit the shrine every year in search of healing, both physically and spiritually. To date, 69 miracles have been approved with thousands more pending.
Following the visions, St. Bernadette lived the rest of her life in poor health. She eventually became a caregiver for the ill and died at the age of 35 as a nun with the Sisters of Charity in Nevers. Her body was exhumed in 1925 and found to be incorrupt; she only appeared to be sleeping.
“In coming to Lourdes, we come to that holy site, that holy place,” Father Haberkorn said. “I think it’s a great place to seek healing in blessed life, but it’s also a place that you find the presence of God. That’s the inspiration that comes from St. Bernadette.”
On Dec. 8, 1933, Pope Pius XI canonized St. Bernadette, and her feast day is celebrated on April 16 in the United States. The website, stbernadetteusa.org, says the “Original Acts,” preserved in the archives of Nevers and written in Latin, indicate that the relics taken from St. Bernadette include: a fragment of the fifth rib; a fragment of the sixth rib; the kneecaps; a sample of muscle from the external part of the right femur; lots of hair; and various fragments which came from muscles and skin.
“St. Bernadette is one of those inspirations that helps the rest of us seek holiness in our lives and to have a better relationship with God,” said Father Haberkorn. “I think through the intercession of the saints, they can help us get that way.”
St. Bernadette’s relics schedule
The United States tour of St. Bernadette’s relics will come to St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Leawood starting June 30. Check the schedule below for details:
• Mass with rite of reception at 6:40 a.m.
• Veneration of relics from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.
• Mass at 5:30 p.m.
• Veneration of relics from 6:30-8 p.m. followed by Water Gesture
• Mass at 6:40 a.m.
• Veneration from 8-11:30 a.m. followed by a rosary
• Mass at noon
• Veneration from 1-4 p.m. followed by courtyard Water Gesture
• Courtyard Water Gesture from 7-7:30 p.m.
• Veneration from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. in the school gym
• Mass at 4 p.m.
• Veneration from 6-8 p.m. followed by a rosary
• Rite of farewell at 1:30 p.m.
The veneration of relics will be by exposition only. Touching the reliquary or glass surrounding it is prohibited. Visitors are expected to spend a brief minute in front of the relics due to expected crowds.
It is suggested that pilgrims begin praying a novena to St. Bernadette nine days ahead of their visit. A freewill offering will be taken up in support of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes, France.