Some people have been writing to ask me what’s happening here on the Holy Mountain of La Salette. Well, the Shrine officially closed the 2015 Pilgrimage Season on November 11th and we had a very busy year.
Various Feasts and Groups of Pilgrims
In August and September, we had some very important religious events at the Shrine: the Feast of Mary’s Assumption, August 15. It is our biggest pilgrimage. Why August 15th and not September 19th, which is the Feast of Our Lady of La Salette?
Everyone in Europe is on vacation in August and children are out of school. August 15th is much like our July 4th in the U.S. Although France is a very secularized country – much more than in the U.S. – they still keep all the religious feasts plus national holidays, the best of both worlds. André Armand Vingt-Trois, Cardinal of Paris, was here on August 15th to lead our celebration.
There was the blessing of horses. There are many people, called “les Cavaliers”, who travel the mountain trails on horseback. Then, there was the busy and enjoyable weekend with “les motards” – the motorcyclists.
The Feast of Our Lady of La Salette on September 19th was followed by the Diocesan Pilgrimage of Grenoble-Vienne. Thanks be to God, we had good weather for all of these events.
Our Shrine is Doing Better
In October, the number of pilgrims as usual winds down with the onset of Winter; but overall, this 2015 pilgrimage season was great! The weather was perfect. We actually had an 18% increase in the number of pilgrims over 2014. Financially this was great news for our Shrine on the Holy Mountain.
This increase also means an increase of work for the laborers: kitchen staff, rooms, registration desk, snack bar, and laundry. The chef estimates that 132,270 meals were served to the pilgrims and the staff during the 2015 season. That’s a lot of food. Of course, all of this is my area of responsibility.
Pastoral Ministry to “All Her People”
Pastorally, the Rector with his team of chaplains did very well responding to the spiritual needs of all our pilgrims. It’s almost impossible to calculate the number of individual visitors who come to the Shrine because most do not reserve a room. They come up to the Shrine just for the day. It’s much easier to know the number of pilgrims who come as groups on busses.
In 2015, there were 542 pilgrim bus groups coming from at least 25 different countries:
• 190 groups came from Poland,
• 160 from France,
• 56 from Italy
• only 6 from the U.S. or Canada.
We have been truly blessed during this Pilgrim Season of 2015!
Our Support Staff Including Volunteers
We have 38 salaried workers and over 400 volunteers coming from 11 countries. During the season, we were about 12 priests at any given time and 16 La Salette Sisters.
In October, I returned to the U.S. for our Provincial Chapter and we elected a new Provincial Team. I also took a few days to visit sick friends in Enfield/Lebanon, NH. I also managed to go to Montreal to visit a fellow La Salette suffering with cancer.
Brother Albert Girard, M.S. (1945-2015) – A Unique Gift to the Shrine
Brother Albert Girard has been at the Shrine since his religious profession 50 years ago. He was “clerk of the works or superintendent” for all the construction having taken place during those 50 years. He was an engineer – very knowledgeable in all things: electricity, plumbing, carpentry, etc.
In later years, he became very interested in the internet. He created internet programs for the Shrine magazine, Les Annales. He became indispensable – last to go to bed, making sure that all the doors were locked; first to rise, making sure that everything in the boiler room was performing perfectly.
When Fr. Silvano Marisa, M.S., our Superior General, asked me to come to the Shrine as Director, he told me that Brother Albert would be here to help me. Unfortunately, after a brief illness, Brother Albert died of cancer on Nov. 17, 2015. But God created only one Brother Albert, a longstanding gift to our Shrine community and our pilgrims.
The Seasons are A’Changing
I wish you and your family a very blessed Advent and Christmas Season. And may God bless you abundantly in the New Year of Our Lord, 2016!