A Pilgrimage Filled with Vocation and Faith

Excerpt below is from Molloy student nurse Kaitlin Byrne's reflection on her week in Lourdes, France, where she volunteered with representatives from the Order of Malta.

Two things I heard before going to Lourdes: 'You come as strangers and you leave as family,' and 'the experience is indescribable, you just have to experience it for yourself.' I soon learned that those statements could not hold any more truth.

The days were filled with masses, a candlelight procession, adoration, confession, stations of the cross, and other beautiful events, but most importantly, the days were filled with unforgettable, irreplaceable and meaningful interactions. Lourdes is a sacred place for Catholics, where people flock hoping for healing. However, a trip there is not merely about people's beliefs, it is about the serenity, compassion, companionship, and an openness that allows malades (the French term used for the sick or disabled) to forget about their illnesses for a little while and not feel so alone.

Student nurses play an important role on this pilgrimage, they are given the opportunity to work with patients who have chronic illnesses, terminal illnesses, and include a wide variety of ages and levels of functioning. They attend the medical team meetings, help patients get ready in the morning and night, and work side by side with the nurses and doctors. Student nurses are engaged in the spirituality aspect of care, holistic care, and therapeutic communication; this is not something you experience in clinical. This experience taught me the importance of connecting not only patients, but people in general, and the impact of going that extra mile.

I learned about myself, my faith, the good of humanity, how I want to live my life, and the nurse I want to be. I am so grateful to have had the pleasure of witnessing true faith in God and taking a small part in the process of healing and acceptance.  A special thank you to Fred Flynn, who made this opportunity possible for me. I look forward to taking all that I have learned and experienced this week and applying it to my work as a nurse.

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