The miracle lies in having faith.
But there’s something in the Lourdes water that got Denver believers to beg for its return.
Their prayers came true July 16 when a small gathering of familiar volunteers joined Father Joseph Hearty, F.S.S.P., as he blessed the site of the new Lourdes Marian Center, reopened after a three-year hiatus.
“I’m just thrilled. We’ve been waiting for so long,” said volunteer Joyce Brooks, who added that she cried at hearing the news.
Now housed at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish in Littleton, the center will be the fourth in the United States approved to distribute water from the shrine in Lourdes, France, where 156 years ago Mary appeared to St. Bernadette Soubirous, a 14-year-old peasant. In one appearance, Mary asked the young girl to dig in the ground near a grotto where a spring came forth. Millions of pilgrims flock to the grotto every year to receive the water, believed to have healing powers.
The benefits to believers made it an easy decision to request its reopening, said Father Hearty, parochial vicar of the church.
“Because of the miracles of Our Lady of Lourdes water, how much people benefit from it spiritually, and even temporally, I think it’s important to maintain or reopen the center so people will make use of the water that was given to us by the Virgin Mary,” he said.
Discussions began on reopening the site in October 2013 and Archbishop Samuel Aquila officially approved it June 24.
The original Denver center was spearheaded by former St. Vincent de Paul Church pastor Father Michael Walsh, who opened the Tudor-style structure nearby with the mission of promoting Marian devotion. It was dedicated January 2003 by former Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput.
By 2008, the center touted a distribution of some 90,000 vials of water.It closed in 2011.
Now, in the same spirit of love and devotion of those who opened the original center, Mount Carmel Church and center volunteers are ready to pick up where the former center ended and to work to promote the message of Our Lady of Lourdes, which was an urgent call to prayer and penance.
Volunteer Bob Higginbotham said he anxiously awaited its reopening. After watching the 1943 movie “The Song of Bernadette,” he became attached to Mary, who he said “has been so good to me.”
He joined Dick Altman, known for hand-filling the 1-ounce vials of Lourdes water, and Bud Kraeft, who designed a machine to auto-fill vials with water.
The center will order more Lourdes water in 30-some gallon drums that will travel by boat and truck to reach Denver.
The center is not taking orders for vials, but will announce when it is ready, Father Hearty said.
As Father Walsh once told the volunteers, miracles will happen with “a drop of Lourdes water and a gallon of faith.