How did the Legion of Mary centre in Lourdes come about?
In some ways it was imposed through circumstances; although there were difficulties in its realisation, we need to say that Our Lady of Lourdes and Saint Bernadette visibly helped us. In 1934, Frank Duff, who accompanied the first Irish pilgrimage to Lourdes, asked Cardinal Gerlier (then bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes) for his authorisation to found a group in Lourdes: “You’re at home here”, replied the Prelate. Despite this spontaneous welcome, because of the events of the period, there was no follow-up made at the time. It was only in 1948 that the Legion of Mary was installed in Lourdes. Then, in December 1955 we were offered some land, on which – after many ups and downs – the current centre was finally built. To understand the necessity for this centre, we have to go back 1940. This is when the first Legion of Mary group was founded in France by a young Irish girl, Veronica O’Brien, who had been delegated to extend the Legion of Mary to our country. In the midst of the war, she arrived in Paris which she had to leave very quickly: France was invaded. A family friend, who was also leaving, dropped her off in Nevers at her request, near Bernadette’s tomb. Thanks to the authorization from Mgr Flynn, Bishop of the diocese, and even though he advised her to leave France, she founded the first French Legion of Mary group in Nevers on 15 th August 1940, during the occupation.