On the morning of Thursday, February 11, 1858, at a rocky grotto next to the River Gave in the town of Lourdes, France, a poor 14 year old gril named Bernadette Soubiros had her first of 18 apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These apparitions continued for two weeks. At the ninth apparition, the Blessed Virgin asked Bernadette to dig a hole in the ground of the grotto and drink the water. Eventually the water became a strem and many people who washed in it were healed of their diseases.
Mary encouraged Bernadette to wash her face in the water. This prompted people to do the same. In the winter of 1949, at the Archbishop's house, Brighton, Massachusetts, on the occasion of a luncheon in honor of Most Reverend Pierre-Marie Théas, Bishop of Lourdes, the Most Reverend Richard J. Cushing, D.D., Archbishop of Boston, offered the visiting ecclesiastic the opportunity of founding a LOURDES CENTER in Boston Massachusetts. The year before (1948), Archbishop Cushing had led some 500 Americans on a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France; up to that time, it had apparently been the largest group ever to come from America.
A short time later after ceremonies in his honor at Our Lady of Pity church, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Bishop Théas asked Very Reverend Cyr J. Parent, S.M., then Provincial of the Boston Province, to have his Marists take over the project. In a letter from the Mother House in Rome, dated June 18, 1949, Very Reverend Alcime M. Cyr, S.M., Superior General of the Society of Mary, authorized the Boston Province to accept.
In July 1950, the National Lourdes Bureau of America was approved by Archbishop Cushing of Boston, and entrusted to the Marist Fathers. Due to the growth of the Lourdes Bureau it became necessary to seek permanent and larger quarters.
From the Boston Province Newsletter of January 8, 1962:
After over a year of tedious, frustrating transactions the Boston Province has acquired for the Lourdes Bureau, a commercial building at 698 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass., a few steps from Kenmore Square, just beyond the First National Bank at the intersection of Beacon Street and Commonwealth Avenue. The property was purchased and paid for by the Lourdes Bureau at a cost of $75,000. The former owner was the Gulf Oil Corporation, which maintained a prominent neon sign over it. The building comprises of three floors and a basement.
Present plans call for a chapel and store on the first floor; offices on the second; living quarters on the third; bottling facilities, storage, and parking in the basement. The main entrance to the building is on Beacon Street, but a service driveway for shipping and receiving gives access to Commonwealth Avenue. The building will not only provide more spacious and efficient quarters for the Bureau, but will also relieve the congestion at Isabella Street. The big task of moving has already begun and is expected to be completed during the course of this month.
From the Boston Province Newsletter of February 8, 1962:
No date has been set for opening of the new Lourdes Chapel at Kenmore Square, other than sometime in the spring, but the Lourdes Bureau will be moving to its new quarters before then. The "Pilot," official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Boston, highlighted the Kenmore project in a front page article. 'The proposed Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes,' said the Pilot, 'will be another workers' chapel, one of the many public chapels established by the Cardinal, in business, shopping, and industrial areas, especially for working people. There will be no Sunday or holyday schedule of Masses, but the new chapel will be open to the public for weekday Masses, novenas, visits etc., and it is expected to serve many hospital, banking, hotel, sports, and retail store people as well as residents and students in the neighborhood of Kenmore Square.
The Lourdes Center, 698 Beacon Street, Boston, Massachusetts, was officially opened with a public Mass in the Lourdes Chapel on the Feast of the Annunciation, March 21, 1963. On March 21, 2013, the Lourdes center celebrated its 50th anniversary of ministry in Kenmore Square.
Lourdes Center Today
The Lourdes Center is the official distributor of Lourdes Water in the United States and Canada, and was established in 1950 by Boston Archbishop, Cardinal Richard J. Cushing, and the Bishop of Lourdes, France, Most Reverend Pierre-Marie Théas. The ministry of The Lourdes Center was entrusted to the Marist Fathers of Boston, Inc. Our ministry began at Our Lady of Victories, 27 Isabella Street, Boston. We moved into our present facility in 1963. The Lourdes Center is located at 698 Beacon Street, Kenmore Square, Boston, a five minute walk from Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.
Our Mission is to promote a loving devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes, and to distribute Lourdes Water in North America, which is shipped to us from France. The Lourdes Center also publishes the free monthly newsletter, "Lourdes Echoes", and coordinates Pilgrimages to Our Lady's Shrine in Lourdes, France.
The first shipment of Lourdes Water arrived in the United States in January, 1951, and since that time thousands of requests for Lourdes Water have come from all over North America each year. Approximately 25,000 bottles of water are distributed each month by mail.
Please contact us if you would like to order Lourdes Water. The Lourdes Center emphasizes that, in itself, Lourdes Water is simply water from the spring at Lourdes, France. It has no curative or miraculous ingredients, but it is known that due to one's faith and God's mercy, Lourdes Water has been miraculous for many who have used it. The Church has officially recognized 68 miracles resulting from individuals who used Lourdes Water or journeyed to Lourdes on a pilgrimage. Thousands more claim to have had physical healings but have chosen not to go through the long process of official verification by a team of meicl professionals.
The Lourdes Center in Boston, MA, has daily Mass available to locals and vistors. Priests are available for confession and spiritual direction on request. The Center is located in Kenmore Square in Boston — a 5 minute walk from Fenway Park, and up the street from Boston University. Mass times are Mon-Weds-Fri at 8 AM, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 12 noon, and Saturdays at 4 PM.
Join or Support Us
Since 1951 many people have joined and supported our ministry in many ways. Our costs include getting at least 30 barrels of Lourdes water from the Lourdes Shrine in France every year. The cost of shipping the barrels by boat from the port of LE HAVRE, France, to the port of Boston is $6,500. The trucking and custom costs to get the water from the port of Boston to 698 Beacon Street is about $800. Then we need to buy the different size boxes to mail the bottles to those who order it. There is the additional cost of the bottles, and the mailing costs. We figure it costs us at least $3 per bottle, hence the suggested $3 donation. WE DO NOT MAKE ANY PROFIT from making the Lourdes water available to whoever orders it.
So how do we survive? How do we pay our fuel bills, food bills, electrical bills, maintenance bills, staff payroll? We survive through the generosity of our friends and supporters. To maintain this Center, to support the priests in this ministry (none of the priests receive a salary for their work), people send us additional contributions over and above the $3 donation per bottle.
Readers of the "Lourdes Echoes", our small bi-monthly publication, remember us in their wills or in trusts. Readers send in $100, $300, $500 donations in thanksgiving to Mary for favors received. Other readers send us outright donations to help us in our ministry. Many of our readers who have joined our Pilgrimage to Lourdes see what this ministry is all about and want to support us financially. Also, we accept donations earmarked to enable sick children to get to Lourdes. Without their help we could not do this ministry.
Our newsletter, Lourdes Echoes, is sent free to anyone who requests it, but it does cost us $20,000 to print and mail each issue. Again, we rely on our reader's generosity. Past issues of our newsletter are available here on the website, please click this link.
We also know that Our Lady of Lourdes touches the hearts of many and makes them respond through prayer and through monetary contributions. You can be one of those supporters of this ministry. You can be involved in spreading devotion to Our Lady of Lourdes. There is a donation button where you can make a tax-free contribution. Until then, please send us a note or asked to be put on the mailing list for "Lourdes Echoes" through this link. Mary wants you to be involved in her work!
Fr. George Szal, S.M.
Director, Lourdes Center, Boston, MA