The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate

Blessed Sacrament Procession, 2007, the year of the 25th Anniversary of our SSMI mission in Lourdes


Eucharist carried in procession to Pius X Underground Basilica


Pius X Underground Basilica (photo courtesy M. P. Senkow)


A dancing troupe from Ukraine preparing for the Rosary Candle Procession, August, 2009


Sr. Stephanie with Pro-life group, preparing for Torchlight Procession


Sr. Stephanie Olynyk tells a group from England about our mission in Lourdes.


Sr. Veronica Bartkiw, SSMI, Fr. Peter Guy, MSC, and Sr. Stephanie Olynyk, SSMI, the Lourdes Mission team


Sr. Davyda Fedak, of our Ukraine Province, joined our team for five weeks in 2009

Greetings from our SSMI mission in Lourdes, France

Pilgrims come to Lourdes all year round, but the official pilgrim season opens on Palm Sunday, when the daily processions commence. At 5 pm there is the one hour Eucharistic Procession, adoration and blessing of the sick in the underground Basilica of Pius X which holds 23,000. Incidentally, there is a large icon there of our Blessed Josaphata, along with the hundreds of portraits of other saints. Then at 9 pm each evening pilgrims walk the Torchlight Procession, praying the rosary in many languages, singing and lifting high their candles when the refrain of Ave Maria is sung. When we have a group of Ukrainian pilgrims we have them lead some Hail Mary’s in Ukrainian and sing one verse of the Lourdes hymn. This is a very moving experience for our pilgrims to walk with thousands of others and hear the prayers read and sung also in Ukrainian. We are thus answering the request of Our Lady of Lourdes who said, “Go and tell the priests to have a chapel built. I wish people to come here in procession.”

A couple run a hotel for the Exarchate of France, here in Lourdes, across the street from our home. They and their workers welcome the groups, beginning to arrive on the Easter weekend. This year, 2010, these will be Ukrainian pilgrims from Italy.

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Celebration at hotel of the Exarchate of France, in Lourdes. Exarch, Rt. Rev. Michael Hrynchyshyn speaks to guests.

A group of Ukrainian pilgrims from Napoli, Italy, outside our chapel, 2008.

Divine Liturgy at the Grotto, where the Blessed Mother appeared to St. Bernadette

Divine Liturgy celebrated in our Lourdes chapel

Dancing troupe from Ukraine outside our home in Lourdes, July, 2009

Being in this pilgrimage town, where Our Lady appeared to St. Bernadette in 1858, is like being in a whole different world. The grotto, where one experiences the presence of Our Blessed Mother, brings thousands of people to Lourdes daily. There are constant throngs of people passing by the grotto and taking part in the Masses and the processions. From our home we can hear the singing, prayers and bells ringing as we are only a 12 minute walk from the grotto and the Rosary Basilica. Our Church is open daily for all to come and visit and pray — some come for the daily 8 am Divine Liturgy and then later in the day, groups of pilgrims from England, Ireland, Croatia, Germany, etc., and groups of handicapped come with their volunteers, to use our Church to celebrate their Mass. On weekends, our Ukrainian pilgrims of the European diaspora come from Italy, Spain, France and Portugal, where 7-8 million now work. They are overwhelmed with gratitude and joy that they are now able to make such a pilgrimage, which they would never have dreamed possible a few years ago. Over and over they express their gratitude to us that there is a Ukrainian Catholic Church here where they can come and feel at home in a foreign land and hear their own language and be assisted in making their pilgrimage. We explain the Mission of Lourdes, the origin of our Ukrainian Catholic Church in Lourdes, take them on tours to visit the main sites connected with Bernadette, lead them in prayers at the Mass, Molebens, Way of the Cross and Torchlight Processions, etc. The non-Ukrainian groups who come ask us to tell them about our Ukrainian Eastern rite and our traditions.

There is so much more that could be said about our Lourdes mission, and even after being here for years, one is always learning new things. What makes living here so special is the presence of Our Lady at the grotto. Everyone who comes experiences the peace and presence of God and His Mother and all express the desire to remain here, and certainly want to return.

It is such a privilege to be in Lourdes, where millions come each year from all over the world, to pray and find grace and comfort in the presence of Our Lady of Lourdes. As She said to Bernadette, “I do not promise you the happiness of this world but of the other.” Even when pilgrims leave, and their prayers for healing have not been answered as they would have wished, no one leaves disappointed, but filled with the hope and comfort of the promise of happiness to come and with many graces and blessings.

submitted by
Sisters Stephanie Olynyk and Veronica Bartkiw, SSMI
April, 2010

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Exterior of church at SSMI home in Lourdes (file photo)

Interior of church at SSMI home in Lourdes (file photo)

View of Ukrainian church domes from Basilica dome
(photo: M.P. Senkow)

Our Canadian SSMI, resident in Lourdes, were edified by the piety of our pilgrims. "They just love Our Lady! They're so grateful, now that Ukraine is open, that they can come!" Sr. Stephania Olynyk, SSMI

The Sisters Servants of Christ the King Province in Canada have had a mission home in Lourdes since November 1, 1975. This present home was purchased by the Apostolic Exarchate of France in 1983.

Ukraine is the only nation foreign to France that has national representation in Lourdes. The Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate (Canadian Province) have been there for over 30 years. An icon of their foundress, Blessed Josaphata Hordashevska, is prominently displayed in the underground Basilica of St. Pius X, on the grounds of the Grotto.

Ukrainian Church on the Rue de l'Ukraine (Photo: M.P. Senko)

Sr. Theresa Slota, Provincial Superior, Christ the King Province, Canada, and Sr. Janice Soluk, General Superior, Rome, before the icon of Bl. Josaphata in the Basilica of St. Pius X.