SINGAPORE – The Lourdes Experience, which was estimated to cost $120,000 and involved 1,500 volunteers, was organised by the Singapore Order of Malta and the Archdiocese of Singapore to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Mary’s appearance to St. Bernadette in Lourdes. The
amount was raised from donations from individuals and institutions.

The Lourdes Experience began with an audio-visual presentation titled ‘A Pilgrimage to Lourdes’ shortly after the stadium gates opened at 2.00pm. The stadium gradually filled up as the people prepared themselves spiritually for the pilgrimage through the Stations of the Cross.

The Lourdes Experience was brought to devotees in Singapore especially "for those who cannot go to Lourdes", Knight Gabriel Oon explained in his welcome address as chairman of the organising committee.

This is the second time that this event has been held in Singapore.
The first was held in December 2004, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It was at Lourdes that the appearance of Mary confirmed the dogma by identifying herself to St. Bernadette as the Immaculate Conception.

These words, "Que soy era Immaculada Concepciou" (I am the Immaculate Conception) marked the base of the rotating statue of Our Lady which was illuminated with blue lights, a returning feature of The Lourdes Experience which hundreds crowded around to take photos of and with during the intermissions.

While there have been no documented miracles coming from The Lourdes Experience, Knight Gabriel related the story of how a man with liver failure had been brought into the Indoor Stadium on a stretcher in 2004. Last year, recalled Knight Gabriel, the man "walked into my clinic and hugged me" and explained how his experience in 2004 cured him of his drinking problem, which caused his liver failure in the first place. Father Leslie Raj, SJ, who has suffered from an autoimmune disease called Crohns for 13 years,
gave a touching testimony of the spiritual healing he received through a Lourdes pilgrimage that he accompanied pilgrims on at the outset of his disease.

"… I found my consolation when I saw many priests more challenged than me, in wheelchairs
and beds, in procession as concelebrants," Father Raj shared, adding that this was "my first and significant experience of Lourdes".
He shared that this experience has "continued to carry me through some difficult times as a parish priest, while at the same time embracing the uncertainties of this illness".

While Father Raj admitted that he asked Our Lady to take this illness from him, he has come to learn that "I was not in charge anymore" and constantly finds "new ways of ministering to the flock God has entrusted me with".

During the Mass concelebrated by 14 priests, the main celebrant Archbishop Nicholas Chia, in his
homily, gave a brief history of Our Lady’s appearance to St. Bernadette.

Speaking on the theme "Mary and the Word of God", Archbishop Chia shared some points of the Word of God in the life of our Blessed Mother and encouraged all to "cultivate Mary’s disposition towards God’s holy word". "Be open to the word of God, respond to the word of God in faith, live the word of God in our live and share the word of God with our fellowmen," he exhorted.

What followed was a Eucharistic procession which was the highlight for many participants,
and a Marian procession which involved the use of torch lights and the recitation of the Rosary in English, Tamil, Mandarin, Indonesian, Cantonese, Tagalog, Teochew, and Korean.

Knight Gabriel explained in an email interview that "in Singapore and this region, we wanted Asian cultural languages to show that our reverence for Mother Mary stretches beyond one culture or ethnic group".

Janis Wong, 19, volunteered to help in logistics because "it sounded interesting and I wanted to experience Lourdes". "It was interesting to see that when the Blessed Sacrament moved around, everyone was very reverent," the Risen Christ parishioner told CatholicNews.

Sarah Anthony, 17, told CatholicNews that she was "so touched by the music and the Benediction", adding that it was "quite cool" that the Archdiocese organised this event. She shared that she "felt like the Holy Spirit came upon me", a similar feeling as the one she had when she attended the first Lourdes Experience in 2004.

"I was very touched," said Francine Tang, 20. "I prayed for my grandparents to be healed, and when I prayed, I felt I was pouring out all their sufferings for them because they couldn’t come [for the event]." - By Daniel Tay, TheCatholicNews

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