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The Students of Archbishop Molloy High School visit France

22/09/2006: United States

Growing in faith and serving others was the focus of the 12 day pilgrimage undertaken by the newly sanctioned St. Marcellin Champagnat International Service Society of Archbishop Molloy HS. Champagnat has changed all our lives forever. We will never be the same. From Lourdes to Le Rosey (the birth place of Champagnat) to Marlhes (where he was Baptized) to St. Chamond and de L’Hermitage and on to LaValla, we saw first hand where it all began. What a wonderfully enriching experience it was.

This was the groups second time at Lourdes and the first time at The Notre Dame de L’Hermitage. 26 students, faculty, alumni and parents made the pilgrimage that impacted our lives. All of us had to work hard to make this journey. We held car washes, cake sales, and yard sales; saved money from weekend jobs and graduation gifts; and many received donations from their home parishes. All this to work in a country where we could not speak the language; where we did not know the people, so why put out all this money? Our world is bigger than Queens. Our world is bigger than New York State. We are called by Champagnat and Mary herself to go teach all nations. One word stood out on our journey more than any other …Hospitality. Listen to what they had to say and you will understand why we went to France…in their own words:

“It opened my eyes to a whole new world. I can make that statement now, but in the beginning of the trip I would never have imagined to end up feeling this way….the most miraculous thing was that many of the people I became close to did not even speak the same language as me. Though gestures, smiles, laughs and all kinds of expressions, we worked together for the same reason – desire to help others experience the magic of Lourdes.” (Casey McAuliff)

“I wept when I realized that Lourdes is a place for renewal, a place where God’s work is seen in His people: the handicapped, the pilgrims and the volunteers.” (Richard La Rocca)

“This place is beautiful…. I have to ask, How can there not be a God?....I don’t know if we use faith as an excuse to explain the inexplicable. But, how then, have humans for thousands of years come up with the same similar idea, without knowing the other. Faith doesn’t just give a dues-ex-machina ending to the confusing, unexplainable play of life. It is the unexplainable part of life. It just makes sense to people without having to. I can’t imagine my life without faith in God and I don’t want to try.” (Cristina Balducci)

“When you worked the baths, you had the opportunity to be a part of one of the most important moments in that person’s life. It was such a powerful experience as you were the person who actually helped them in and out of the water and shared that time with them as they prayed or was silent for a moment. A moment you knew they had been looking forward too for a very long time. The baths were definitely my favorite part of the entire trip. At night after work, the group would go down the block from our hotels and meet at a café called the Four Corners. After a long day of work, we got a chance to unwind and have a few laughs with each other while sharing food and most of the time song. (ALWAYS a good time.) You could really tell that Brother Pat and Chris Dougherty, our leaders for the trip, were trying to make the trip seem as if you were working with your family and not just students that you go to school with. Throughout the trip we had times where we would sit and reflect on our experiences as either a group or alone, and it truly helped with all the emotions you were feeling, be them good or bad. The work was sometimes exhausting and sometimes dirty or just not a good overall time but we all understood that all the jobs we did that week were necessary…. I’m hopefully going to be going back to Lourdes again next year, and I’m crossing days off my calendar as it approaches. Never too early too start looking ahead.”(Ian Fitts)

“People went around the circle and shed their tears, but I couldn’t muster any of my own. Finally Joe, the quiet guy form Minnesota, spoke. He talked about how much he had enjoyed spending time with my friend, Casey, and me. I was actually intrigued because I didn’t know that I had the ability to leave an impression on someone just by being myself. Finally, Joe said the words that broke the barrier in my fortress of a mind, “You are beautiful. Just be who you are.” And I cried. I cried until Casey came to sit next to me to calm me down. While I finally wept out every last inhibition in my skeptical mind, I understood what I was hiding from. I was afraid to go home. I didn’t want to go to a place where everyday I felt unnecessary and provoked. All those times I had felt confident, I never knew I was missing so much. I never thought that someone who I barely knew actually regarded me as a beautiful person.

Lourdes taught me so much, most of which I didn’t even realize until I got home. I became patient and accepting of who I am and where I am. I put people ahead of my needs do so without resentment. I have faith in an outcome. I have the renewed confidence to depend on myself and the strength to deal with misfortunes. I am excited for the future, not afraid, because I met people I can count on and I now see the potential of a positive choice.

Although I went to Lourdes expecting the stereotypical “experience,” I got so much more. I found friends, faith, and most importantly: myself” (Christine Ward)

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