Local Children Prepare for Knights Of Columbus Pilgrimage to Lourdes

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Geraldine Cataldo’s hope is now a reality.

Her 11-year-old son, Finnian, is one of seven children from the archdiocese chosen by Our Lady of Lourdes Knights of Columbus Council 5890 in Washingtonville to participate in the 62nd annual U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France June 26 to July 5.

“This is the opportunity of a lifetime for Finnian,” said Mrs. Cataldo, whose child has spastic cerebral palsy, dystonia and epilepsy. “Miracles do happen there, and it would be fantastic if it happened with him. If not, we’ll be at peace with everything. Everyone tells me it’s so peaceful and your worries are lifted there. When you come home, you’re able to accept anything.” The Cataldos belong to St. Brendan and St. Ann parish in the Bronx.

Also making the pilgrimage are Emma Cernuto, 12, St. Stephen’s, Warwick, diagnosed with anxiety; Brandon Rojas, 8, St. Charles Borromeo, Dover Plains, X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy; Kyle Arbogast, 12, Sacred Heart, Monroe, autism; Justina Witte, 9, St. Mary’s, Washingtonville, developmentally delayed, speech and language impaired; and twin brothers James and Liam Randall, 12, St. Thomas of Canterbury, Cornwall-on-Hudson-St. Joseph, New Windsor, atopic dermatitis.

Participating for a 42nd year, the Knights Council in Washingtonville is halfway to raising $44,000 to send each child, accompanied by a parent, on the trip and will continue fund raising through the summer.

The pilgrims will attend the International Mass of Lourdes and a Mass at the Grotto of Massabielle, the site of apparitions of the Blessed Mother in 1858 to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous, now known as St. Bernadette. Pilgrims also will have the opportunity to bathe at the Lourdes Shrine and may participate in a Eucharistic procession, blessing of the sick and Benediction.

“They’re all excited and filled with anticipation,” said Walter Kozlowski, chairman of the Knights of Columbus Our Lady of Lourdes Council. “It’s fulfilling for me to see people getting something out of it. It’s a pilgrimage and you go there for spiritual uplifting and fulfillment.”

Finnian Cataldo is one of two child participants nominated by the readers of Catholic New York.

Mrs. Cataldo, whose husband is Joseph, said Finnian suffered a stroke before he was born. He is legally blind and unable to talk and eat without assistance. He enjoys attending Mass and listening to music, especially Italian singer Andrea Bocelli.

“He loves to be around people. He’s a very happy child and loves music,’’ Mrs. Cataldo said. “I’m a parent to two teenage children and Finnian, and I’m a different type of parent now because of Finnian. I’m more patient and understanding. He changed everything in how we saw this, and for the good.”

Three generations of women from the Witte family are also heading to France. Sue Witte and her daughter Justina will be joined by Sue’s mother, Lou Ann Sindaco.

The Witte family adopted Justina from an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland, when she was 3 years old. In addition to coping with her speech and language impairment, Justina had to learn English.

“She understands what is being said to her, but expressing herself takes a lot of concentration,” said Mrs. Witte, whose husband is John. “She’s showing progress over the years and is working hard at it.

“She’s got a great sense of humor. She’s very friendly and enjoys playing with other kids on the playground. She swims, plays soccer and enjoys playing on the trampoline. She doesn’t let her disabilities hinder her in any way.”

The energy and enthusiasm build with each passing day, especially after Mrs. Witte discussed the trip with families who experienced previous pilgrimages to Lourdes.

“The more we heard about it, the more we had to do it. It’s an amazing experience,” she said.

Financial donations for the pilgrimage may be remitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Benevolent Association Inc. and sent to the Knights of Columbus, Attention: Lourdes Program, 18 Hallock Drive, Washingtonville, NY 10992. Information: Walter Kozlowski, (845) 863-1494.

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