International News

K of C Offers Wounded Vets Chance for Trip to Lourdes to Seek Comfort of Blessed Mother

A highlight of the pilgrimage is the opportunity for the warriors to collect water that flows from the spring in the grotto. cleanse themselves in the waters that flow from the spring in the grotto (top), where, in 1858, the Blessed Mother appeared to the young French girl who later became St. Bernadette. (Photos: Tamino Petelinšek/Knights of Columbus)

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — It’s the opportunity of a lifetime — a free trip to Lourdes to pray in the spot where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette — and the Knights of Columbus is offering it to members of the armed forces and veterans.

The Knights will provide armed forces members and veterans who were wounded in battle or suffer from serious illnesses an all-expenses paid trip to Lourdes for the Ninth Annual Warriors to Lourdes Pilgrimage, a week-long faith journey co-sponsored by the Knights and the Archdiocese for the Military Services in Washington D.C.

Father Mark Bristol, a Navy chaplain who formerly served as parochial vicar for St. Anastasia Church in Douglaston, took part in the pilgrimages in 2018 and 2022 and found them deeply moving.

“We are reminded that Mary sees our tears and knows our invisible wounds that no one else sees,” he said. “She wants to bring us to the Lord so that he can heal and transform us for His glory.”

Warriors to Lourdes is part of a larger International Military Pilgrimage that has been taking place for decades and draws thousands of people from dozens of countries each year. 

The 63rd annual International Military Pilgrimage will take place starting May 12, 2023. Participants will have the opportunity to not only attend special Masses and a candlelight vigil but will also visit the baths at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes. 

All armed forces members and veterans can attend, but pilgrims who wish to have the Knights of Columbus pay for the trip are required to apply for it. The application process, which started on Sept. 15, is open until Jan. 15 at

Under the guidelines, service members with physical and mental injuries, including post-traumatic stress disorder, can apply. The process is also open to military personnel and veterans who suffer from life-threatening illnesses.

“I’ve seen warriors with Stage 4 cancer who have to be carried to see the baths whose lives have changed for the better after experiencing the power of our Blessed Mother,” said Marine Col. Charles Gallina (retired), who is directing the Knights effort.

Gallina reads all of the applications and is often touched by the stories the service members tell. “It humbles you,” he said.

The biggest thing he looks for when reviewing applications is evidence that the pilgrim understands the nature of the journey. 

“This isn’t a pleasure trip. This is a spiritual journey,” he explained. “We want someone to demonstrate that they understand the purpose.”

The Knights have 195 available slots for the free trip to the 2023 pilgrimage.

Richard Johnson took part in the 2022 pilgrimage. He relished the chance to wash his face in the healing waters and came home feeling that the experience changed his life.

“I definitely feel I experienced a miracle there, and it’s a miracle that is still ongoing for me,” said Johnson, an Army veteran from St. Louis who served in the war in Kosovo in 1998.

“You literally see the world differently after you’ve been there,” he explained. “When I got to Lourdes, I felt like I was in a bubble of peace. It was the most tranquil feeling I’ve ever had.”

Johnson was seeking healing for both physical and mental health when he traveled to Lourdes.

In one of the more moving scenes from the pilgrimage, veterans in wheelchairs are taken to the shrine.

While serving in a military field hospital during the war, he suffered a serious back injury. He was sent back to the U.S., was prescribed painkillers by a doctor and developed an addiction. Years later, he suffered a mental breakdown and turned away from his Catholic faith. However, he realized that he wasn’t quite done.

“In 2018, I began to reconnect with my faith and started praying the Rosary. I hadn’t prayed the Rosary since I was a child. I didn’t know why I started again. I now realize that it was the Blessed Mother leading me to do it. And she led me to Lourdes,” he said.

It was during a stay in the V.A. hospital in 2021, where he had gone for treatment of ulcers, that he first heard about Warriors to Lourdes. “I met a priest in the hospital who told me about it. He had gone on the pilgrimage years ago,” he recalled.

While he found the process time-consuming (applicants are required to submit testimony from a medical doctor and a member of the clergy), he’s glad he filled it out. When he got the word that he had been selected, his heart was filled with gratitude.

Tiffany and Adam Farabaugh, a husband and wife from Ebensburg, a town located 73 miles from Pittsburgh, returned home from this year’s pilgrimage feeling closer to their Catholic faith. 

“Lourdes changes you. It really does,” Tiffany said.

Tiffany, a major in the Army reserves, is still on active duty. Her husband is an Army veteran and a Purple Heart recipient who was wounded in the war in Afghanistan. 

Tiffany said the pilgrimage allowed her to see a different side of Adam. “I saw him open up to people. He’s normally a private guy. Over there, he really shared himself with others,” she said.

Adam qualified for the trip by virtue of the injuries he suffered in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2011. “I got what I call ‘miracle’ wounds,” he said. “It didn’t hurt too bad. I ended up with some shrapnel in my back and in my heart area. But I’m still here.”

Tiffany was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor a few years ago. After an operation and a regiment of medications, she is able to live a relatively normal life.

Despite her tumor, she was reluctant to complete the application form. “I thought there were probably people worse off than me who deserved to go more than I did,” she recalled.

In fact, she submitted an incomplete application. But Col. Gallina read it and contacted her to question her as to why she didn’t finish. Shortly after the conversation, Tiffany learned that she had been selected.

The journey was eye-opening, she said. 

“I had never seen anything like it, honestly. I’ve never been to a spiritual place like that. But just seeing all the people there and just being in a place where it’s holy, you feel maybe it will heal you, or maybe good things can come from it,” Tiffany recalled.

Father Bristol, who is stationed in Rota, Spain and serves 9,000 service members, will be going back to Lourdes in 2023. “I look forward to leading another group of active service members to Lourdes, so we can unite with our NATO allies in a prayer for peace and an end to war, especially in Ukraine,” he said.


** Go to and click the “apply” button in the top right corner of the homepage

** Applicants are invited to create an account, fill out the application and submit it

** Once the form is submitted, the applicant can check on its progress as it goes through the review process

** Applications are reviewed by the pilgrimage leadership team and a medical doctor.