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St Mary, Our Lady of LourdesSt. John Baptist de La Salle

St Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes

St. Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes
When St. Mary’s parish was founded in 1903, it was originally dedicated under the patronage of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary: the scriptural story (Luke 1:39-56) of Mary visiting her cousin Elizabeth. However, in the 1960s, Bishop Connare sought to more readily distinguish the 25 parishes in the Diocese of Greensburg dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and so the parish was re-dedicated under the title and patronage of Our Lady of Lourdes. Lourdes was the site of an apparition of the Blessed Mother to St. Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.

Bernadette Soubirous was a sickly child of very poor parents who met a series of personal (the death of several children) and economic hardships. After her father was injured and they lost the family mill, they had to live in a musty former prison cell and Bernadette often had to work instead of going to school. Their practice of the Catholic faith was scarcely more than lukewarm; Bernadette knew simple prayers but not much more, though she was devoted to the rosary.

On February 11, 1858, a 14 year-old Bernadette told her mother that a “lady” had spoken to her in a cave a Massabielle, where she was gathering firewood with her sister and a friend. This “pretty young girl” was praying the rosary, spoke kindly yet respectfully, asked her to return and promised to make her happy not in this world but in the next. Though others came back to the cave the next day with her, only Bernadette was privileged to see the woman or hear her words.

More people began to come, and the parish priest and local authorities became concerned, and many did not believe Bernadette. The lady called for penance, and the crowd were shocked to see Bernadette drinking from a muddy stream and eating weeks. The apparition had told her to drink the water, and the weed-eating was a penitential act. Onlookers, meanwhile, saw only the girl’s unusual behavior, and popular fascination turned to ridicule and suspicion.

Yet, a few days later, the spring was no longer muddy, but clear. A woman with a paralyzed arm came to the water hoping to be healed – the first miraculous healing at Lourdes.The vision asked Bernadette to have the priest build a chapel, and while others were quick to conclude that Bernadette was seeing the Virgin Mary, the visionary herself did not claim to know the woman’s identity. As she conveyed the repeated message to her parish priest, he grew frustrated and told Bernadette to ask the woman her name. But when she did so, the woman smiled and remained silent. Her identity remained a mystery after the initial two-week period.

Three weeks later, on the Feast of the Annunciation, Bernadette visited the cave again. When she saw the lady, she kept asking to know her identity. Finally, the woman folded her hands, looked up and said: “I am the Immaculate Conception.” The seer, devout but uneducated, did not know what these words meant. She related them to Fr. Peyramale, (the parish priest) who was stunned and informed his bishop. (Four years earlier, Pope Pius IX had declared this dogma).

In 1862, the local bishop declared the apparitions worthy of belief. Pilgrims have been coming to Lourdes ever since.

Our Lady of Lourdes is the patroness of the sick, because of the miraculous healing spring which St. Bernadette uncovered at Lourdes. Annually, millions of pilgrims travel to Lourdes. The parish patronal feast day is on February 11.

St John Baptist de La Salle

St. John Baptist de La Salle
When St. John’s parish was formed in 1949, it was placed under the patronage of St. John Baptist de La Salle. Two statues of St. John can be found on the parish grounds.

John Baptist de La Salle was the eldest son of a wealthy family, who made plans for a clerical career, providing him with a fine education and position. Though he had to assume administration of family affairs after his parents’ death, he was ordained in 1678. He became involved with a group of rough and barely literate young men and sought to establish schools for poor boys. (At that time, an education was the privilege of the wealthy, and the idea of educating the poor was not well scorned). He abandoned his family home and property, moved in with the teachers, renounced his position and his wealth and founded the Brothers of Christian Schools to educate the poor. He met opposition from ecclesiastical authorities for desire to create a new form of religious life. The educational establishment resisted his innovative methods and free education for all, especially the poor. At one point his schools were even set fire by arson!Nevertheless, de La Salle and his Brothers succeeded in creating a network of quality schools throughout France with vernacular instruction, ability-grouped classrooms, religious instruction and competent lay teachers and parent involvement. John died of exhaustion in 1719. de La Salle was a pioneer in founding training colleges for teachers, reform schools for delinquents, technical schools, and secondary schools for modern languages, arts, and sciences. He inspired others how to teach and care for young people, how to meet failure and frailty with compassion, how to affirm, strengthen and heal. His work quickly spread through France and, after his death, continued to spread across the globe.

In 1900 John Baptist de La Salle was canonized and was made Patron Saint of all those who work in the field of education in 1950. St. John Baptist de La Salle is the patron saint of teachers for his work in education. Today, the Christian Brothers (or Lasallians) continue his legacy and work in 79 countries throughout the world (www.lasalle.org). Locally, the Christian Brothers staff Pittsburgh Central Catholic High School. 

The parish patronal feast day is on April 17.