Six Youths Making Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes

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Karheem Mattioli is seeking inner peace for herself and her son Nicolas.

Nicolas, 16, was one of six children chosen by the Our Lady of Lourdes Knights of Columbus Council 5890 in Washingtonville to participate in the 64th annual U.S. National Rosary Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, July 1-11.

Mrs. Mattioli will accompany Nicolas on the pilgrimage.

“I hope he finds that inner peace where he’s less nervous,” said Mrs. Mattioli, a parishioner of Our Lady Star of the Sea on Staten Island, of her son, who is autistic. “Sometimes it worries me how he gets nervous. He has to know ahead of time what’s planned that day for him and feels better when he knows ahead of time what the flow of his day is.

“For me, it’s to have the strength and patience. As great as he is, it’s very overwhelming. So I can be more calm and take things more in stride.”

Knights of Columbus Council 5890 has taken 176 children with physical and mental disabilities to Lourdes in the 44 years it has sponsored the program. The council has raised $15,000 of the $44,000 needed for the trip to cover the expenses for the child and a parent, and it will continue to raise money throughout the summer.

The other young pilgrims are Christian Medina-Finsen, 12, St. Anastasia, Harriman, diagnosed with Down syndrome, sleep apnea and hypothyroidism; Sean Tobin, 10, Sacred Heart, Monroe, diagnosed with autism; Asher Xavier Ortiz, 6, St. John the Evangelist, Goshen, who was born prematurely and diagnosed with seizures disorder, chronic respiratory disease and hemiparalysis on the right side; Margaret Anne McNamara, 17, Holy Cross, Middletown, kidney transplant; and Chad Chiebowski, 9, St. Pius X, Fairfield, Conn., diagnosed with Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease.

“We make a selection on a rotating basis. We will not go back to the same parish next year. We will go to other parishes,” said Knights of Columbus 5890 Council member Walt Kozlowski, who is making his 16th pilgrimage to Lourdes.

“The Blessed Mother invites them and they can say yes or no to her. We’re just a channel for her cause.”

The busy pilgrimage will include daily Masses, processions and a visit to the convent of St. Gildard, where St. Bernadette lived and her incorruptible body now lies in state.

“It’s not every day someone gets this opportunity. We’re very excited,” Mrs. Mattioli said. “For a long time I’ve heard of the city of Lourdes and the whole spiritual experience. It sparked an interest in me. I’m looking forward to the whole experience.”

Nicolas Mattioli attends Tottenville High School and enjoys Legos, video games and drawing.

“My Nicolas has a heart of gold,” Mrs. Mattioli said. “Everyone who meets him loves him. He’s so sweet, friendly and outgoing. Everyone who meets him says he’s Mr. Positive and he always makes you feel good.”

Sean Tobin will be joined on the trip by his parents, Andrew and Priscilla Tobin.

“There are many points or specific moments that help to build your belief in something bigger than you. This is that kind of opportunity,” Andrew Tobin said.

“Priscilla and I are Catholic, and Lourdes is an important part of the faith. We thought it would be a fantastic thing for Sean and us. It’s important for us to see our son grow up with Catholic morals and values.”

Sean enjoys playing tennis and drawing.

“His biggest passion is art. He draws nonstop. I have to get him a sketch pad every week,” Andrew said. “He does character and cartoon-style drawings. He creates his own storylines that will span over half a sketchbook. You can see his emotions come through in his artwork.”

“He’s very responsible for a 10-year-old child. He likes to bring a smile to people’s faces,” his father said.

Donations for the pilgrimage may be remitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Benevolent Association Inc., and mailed to the Knights of Columbus, Attention: Lourdes Program, 18 Hallock Drive, Washingtonville, N.Y. 10992.

Information: Walt Kozlowski, (845) 728-5298.

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