Fifty-five pilgrims, mostly from the Los Angeles region and affectionately known as the “White Team” (each WA Location is assigned a color), attended the record-setting 2023 Lourdes Pilgrimage from May 2 – 10, 2023. All total, 376 pilgrims, including 62 Malades, made the journey to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in the Order of Malta Western Association’s 48th Annual Pilgrimage.
The White Team was led by veteran Team Captain Mike Psomas, KM, his 9th Pilgrimage, and Brancardier Bob Pasquesi, KM, his 17th Pilgrimage. (The brancardier is responsible for team logistics and safety.)
“What made the White Team so very special this year was that Our Lady called together many families to Lourdes,” said Mike Psomas.
The White Team’s 19 Malades and caregivers included six families. Among the members and volunteers were 10 families. The cart teams were comprised of many husband/wife, mother/daughter, and father/son teams.
The White Team was also blessed with many young people and children. Four were Malades and caregivers, and youth volunteers Maxwell Pieronek and Joseph Bohan, despite being in high school, were already Pilgrimage veterans and made the young guests feel welcomed.
The White Team was also delighted by the return of Mark Kelsey, KM, who after taking time off for the birth of his twin daughters, made his 25th Pilgrimage.
“Every Pilgrimage is different,” said Mike Psomas, “For one, the people are different. That we had so many families, young people, and long-time friends on the team made for a heartwarming and joyous gathering. Yes, it was a Pilgrimage, but for many of us, it was like coming home.”
There were many wonderful and extraordinary moments for the White Team. A Malade and her teen daughter were descendants of Jeanne Abadie, the school friend of St. Bernadette who accompanied her to the Grotto of Massabielle when Our Lady appeared. Mother and daughter were able to visit the Lourdes cemetery where Jeanne Abadie was laid to rest.
Several adventurous Malades and caregivers took a side trip on a funicular to the “Pic du Jer” for a panoramic view of the unforgettable Pyrenees mountains.
Another young Malade, who assists in the work of his parish, served on the altar during the Mass at St. Savin and the final Mass, carrying the Cross during the Recessional.
And the White Team’s youngest Malade – just nine years old -- thought the highlight of his Pilgrimage was when Father Dorian Llywelyn, a provisional Order of Malta Chaplain, taught him “Superman Grace.”
White Team Members also brought nearly 700 petitions to the Grotto from the faithful who attended this past February's World Day of the Sick Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.
A special thank you to Msgr. Richard Duncanson, STD, and Father Dorian Llywelyn, S.J. who tended to the spiritual needs of the White Team, and medical team members Dr. Edwin Amos, KM, Dr. Edwin Posadas, KM, Dr. Stephanie McKenny, DM, Ann Sanders, DM, and Ann Farley, DM. Also, thanks to Mary Pasquesi, DM, who made the traditional White Team scarves and decorated the team dinner along with volunteer Rachel Fritz.
Asst. Team Captain Rowena Itchon, DM, upon reflection of the Pilgrimage, recalled C.S. Lewis, who, in his classic The Four Loves, wrote, “A secret Master of Ceremonies is at work…. and to every group of Christian friends, ‘ye have not chosen one another, but I have chosen you for one another’….[friendship] is the instrument by which God reveals to each of us the beauty of others.”