| Our Lady of Lourdes Church is named for
one of the most prominent Marian sites worldwide, with six million flocking to
southwestern France each year since the original in 1858.
story began with a peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous. In 1858, the 11-year-old
saw a "Lady in white" in a grotto. The girl was frightened, but the figure
smiled and made the sign of the cross.
Photographer: Jim Davis
This statue of Mary is carried in monthly outdoor processions at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Miami.
returned to the site for two weeks, relaying the "Lady's" requests: a
procession, a chapel and "penance for the conversion of sinners." The
girl even dug a hole that revealed a spring, which many say has the power to
the next two weeks, Bernadette's reports of the apparition drew more and more
visitors, eventually growing to 8,000. At her last appearance, the Lady finally
identified herself — "I am the Immaculate Conception" — a title conferred
on Mary four years earlier by Pope Pius IX.
about her experiences, Bernadette simply said: "The Virgin used me as a
broom to remove the dust. When the work is done, the broom is put behind the
joined the Sisters of Charity as an adult, but developed tuberculosis of the
bone and died at the age of 35. She was declared a saint by Pope Pius XI in
feast day is April 16, the day she died in 1879; however, the feast of Our Lady
of Lourdes is Feb. 11, the day in 1858 when she first saw Mary.
Her namesake church in Miami was founded in 1985 for the
fast-growing West Kendall area. Five years later, the congregation dedicated a
home, then rebuilt after extensive damage in 1992 by Hurricane
The current Mediterranean-style church, which can seat up
to 1,200, was built in 2002. A decade later, the church began leading
pilgrimages to France for physical and emotional healings.
The Miami church campus seems to resemble a Marian
shrine. A grotto, lagoon and small waterfall stand beside the main church
building, with a live webcam trained on it.
Statues of Mary greet worshipers around the church office
building. There's even a statuette of the adult Bernadette, who conveyed
visions and messages from Mary as a girl.
Photographer: Jim Davis
A statuette of St. Bernadette kneels at a grotto and waterfall meant to evoke the shrine at Lourdes, France.
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