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Bishops bring prisoners’ petitions to Lourdes

05 5.25.17_AB.Lourdes.SanQuentin2 PAGEArchbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone is pictured at the grotto at Lourdes, France, where he and Oakland Bishop Michael Barber brought San Quentin State Prison inmates’ intentions during a May 2-10 visit accompanied by four members of the Knights of Malta. (Courtesy photo)

May 25, 2017
Valerie Schmalz

A pilgrimage to Lourdes is outside the bounds of possibility right now for the men imprisoned at San Quentin State Prison, but two Bay Area bishops brought their intentions and placed them before Our Lady at the grotto at Lourdes earlier this month.

Archbishop Salvatore J. Cordileone and Oakland Bishop Michael Barber placed the pieces of paper with the prisoners’ intentions from Our Lady of the Rosary Parish chapel at San Quentin against the stones of the grotto. Then, Bishop Barber brought them for prayer to the cloistered Carmelite nuns in a monastery located above the grotto, Knight of Malta Tom Greerty said.

“Many of them know the archbishop; he said Mass there on Mother’s Day,” upon his return from a Lourdes pilgrimage with the Knights of Malta May 2-10, Greerty said. Both bishops have friends among the prisoners, Greerty said.

Four Knights of Malta accompanied the two bishops at the grotto in presenting the petitions to Our Lady, Greerty said. Several Knights of Malta are involved in prison ministry at San Quentin and had collected the petitions from the inmates at the chapel which serves as the parish church for the prison. “Most of the petitions were for reconciliation with others,” Greerty said.

San Quentin chaplain Jesuit Father George Williams said, “It was very important for the men to know that the bishops were praying for them there and that they brought their petitions to Lourdes.”

Archbishop Cordileone said Mass at San Quentin on May 14, Mother’s Day. “He told the guys about the visit to Lourdes,” Father Williams said. “They were very appreciative.”

One of the most famous Marian pilgrimage sites, Lourdes is renowned for the healing properties of the spring water that 14-year-old Bernadette dug from the mud at the Grotto at Our Lady’s request. Lourdes is where the Mother of God first identified herself as the Immaculate Conception in 1858.

The Knights of Malta date to the 11th century when the Knights of Malta, known then as Knights Hospitaller, established a hospital in Jerusalem to care for pilgrims of any religious faith or race. In Northern California, they are active in the Diocese of Oakland and in the Archdiocese of San Francisco. In Oakland the Knights of Malta operate a free medical clinic at the Cathedral of Christ the Light.

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