WARWICK - On June 27 Kristen Haeberle, 9, the daughter of John and Patty Haeberle of Warwick, will travel with her mother to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes. Kristen, an “A” student in Grade-4 at St. Stephen’s - St. Edward’s elementary school, is an active youngster with a bubbly personality. However, she was also born with Esophageal atresia, a disorder of the digestive system occurring in about one out of 4,000 births, in which the esophagus, which carries food from the mouth to the stomach, does not develop properly. As a result of her disorder, Kristen also suffers from severe acid reflex. She has had six surgeries to help correct her problems. For the past 35 years, the Knights of Columbus, Our Lady of Lourdes Council 5890 in Washingtonville, has sponsored children with challenges to travel to Lourdes. This year’s annual pilgrimage will be from June 27 to July 6 and, as in years past, money is being raised to send a parent or guardian with each child. The world famous site is where, in 1858, the Blessed Mother is believed to have appeared 18 times to 14-year-old Bernadette Soubirous. Other children, from parishes in Richmond, Rockland and Orange counties, will make the trip and all will be blessed with the spring waters believed to have miraculous healing powers. However the trip is spiritual and not intended to give people false hope for miracle cures like the 67 inexplicable ones reported and certified by the non-sectarian Association Médicale Internationale de Lourdes. “We have strong faith,” said Patty Haeberle, “and we are praying for some improvement to her quality of life.” The story behind Lourdes In 1858, Bernadette Soubirous, 14, claimed a lady had appeared to her in a grotto just outside of Lourdes, France. There were 18 apparitions and at one point, according to Bernadette, the lady identified herself as the “Immaculate Conception,” meaning that she had been conceived “full of grace” and without original sin. This would have been a difficult theological concept for most adults at the time let alone an unsophisticated 14-year-old. The faithful, including skeptical clergy, soon began to believe Bernadette had indeed seen a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Today, about 5,000,000 pilgrims and tourists visit Lourdes every year. And, after a careful investigation of each case by the non-sectarian Association Médicale Internationale de Lourdes, many reported cures from the water of the spring first discovered by Bernadette have no scientific explanation. The Catholic Church, which places far more emphasis on the spiritual rather than the physical benefits of a pilgrimage to Lourdes, however, seldom declares even inexplicable cures as miraculous. Essential information To help support this program checks can be mailed to the Knights of Columbus, attention Lourdes Program, 18 Hallock Drive, Washingtonville, NY 10992. For information, visit the Web site at www.lourdes-pilgrimage.com or call Walter Kozlowski at 863-1494.