By GRETCHEN KEISER, Staff writer | Published September 23, 2016
ATLANTA—A pilgrimage to the Marian shrines of Fatima and Lourdes and the opportunity to walk a portion of the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path in Spain is being offered by The Georgia Bulletin this coming April.
The 11-day pilgrimage from April 18-28, 2017, which begins in Lisbon, Portugal, will occur during the year of the 100th anniversary of the apparition of the Blessed Mother to three children in Fatima, Portugal. The first appearance took place on May 13, 1917.
Those taking part in the pilgrimage will join the international rosary procession that takes place nightly in Fatima. They will participate in Mass and visit the Basilica and Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima and the birthplaces of the children, Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia, to whom Mary appeared.
The pilgrimage will spend two nights, April 19 and 20, in Fatima during this 100-year anniversary, revisiting and listening again to the guidance given a century ago by the Mother of God on obtaining peace in the world and peace in one’s heart.
From Fatima, the pilgrimage will travel into Spain where since ancient days Christian pilgrims walked across Europe to the Shrine and tomb of St. James the Apostle. The world-renowned Romanesque Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela dates from the 11th to the 13th century. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The pilgrimage group will stay in Santiago de Compostela for two nights. During the day those in the group will have the opportunity, if they choose, to walk a portion of the famous pilgrimage route known as “the Camino” or “the Way” into Santiago de Compostela, accompanied by a guide.
After two days in Santiago, the pilgrims will travel along the mountains and northern seacoast of Spain to Santander, staying one night. The next day the pilgrimage crosses into France, arriving in Lourdes on April 24.
Staying in the place where Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, pilgrims will have the opportunity to take part in the torchlight Marian procession at night, attend the celebration of Mass at the grotto, and walk to places in Lourdes where Bernadette was born, her home and the parish church. There will also be free time so pilgrims can, if they choose, take part in the blessing of the sick or the Lourdes baths where water from the miraculous spring at the grotto bathes those seeking healing. There will be time for personal prayer. Pilgrims will be in Lourdes on April 25, the feast of St. Mark the Evangelist. Two nights will be spent in Lourdes.
Crossing the Pyrenees, the pilgrimage will reenter Spain on April 26 and travel to the Marian shrine of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar in Zaragoza, Spain. The artist Goya was born in Zaragoza and the basilica includes two works of art by this native son. After staying overnight in Zaragoza, the pilgrimage will travel to Madrid on April 27 and visit the capital of Spain during the afternoon. A farewell dinner will take place that night in Madrid. The group will return home from Madrid to Atlanta on April 28.
Father Tim Hepburn, vocations director of the Atlanta Archdiocese, will be the spiritual director for the pilgrimage, and Msgr. Dan Stack, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church, Alpharetta, also plans to be on the pilgrimage.
Unitours, which is providing travel arrangements, specializes in Catholic pilgrimages and has been providing them since 1957.
Belinda Lewis Held, tour manager, said a pilgrimage is a special experience.
“Three things happen on a pilgrimage. You come back healthier. We walk every day. You come back with new friends. You become a family. The third thing is the spiritual growth you experience—how you have grown in your faith and understanding of your Catholic faith.”
“We are going to Fatima the year of the 100th anniversary. It is a privilege to go during this time,” she said.
“We celebrate Mass and we listen to the messages of Fatima and to the message the Virgin gave the children. We will pray for world peace, and not just to be tolerant of each other, but to have acceptance of each other, which is very much what our pope is encouraging us to do,” she said.
In Santiago de Compostelo, on the free day, “people will have the option of walking a portion of the Way. We might have a group that only goes out one mile. We might have a group that will go five miles. We will take our time.”
She said a surprise stop at a medieval Marian shrine has been added to the itinerary on the way to Lourdes.
“Lourdes is almost a paradox,” she said, where many shops sell mementos, but “it retains such a deep spirituality at the same time.”
“Having Mass at the grotto where Bernadette first saw Our Lady, it is overwhelming to people. You may cry at the most unexpected moments. You feel like you are being touched by God,” Held said.
The cost of the pilgrimage is $3,799 from Atlanta, which includes round trip airfare on Air France and Delta Airlines, specially selected hotel accommodations with twin occupancy, breakfast and dinner per the itinerary, air-conditioned motor coach, full-time tour manager, departure tax and fuel surcharge. A single room supplement is $418 additional.
For information and reservations, call Marianna Pisano at Unitours at 1-800-777-7432. The full itinerary and additional details about the pilgrimage, as well as the opportunity to book online, can be viewed here.