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In Myanmar there is widespread devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Every year thousands of people including non-Christians make the pilgrimage to the Shrine with deep devotion. The celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes dates to the arrival of the first missionaries from France.
In 1892, Bishop Ambrose Bigandet opened a mission at Nyaunglebin, entrusting it to the care of Father Michael Mignon, a member of the Parish Foreign Missions Society who built a small wooden church, the first in Myanmar to be dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.
In 1902 a new church was built and consecrated.
In 1918 a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary was set in a nearby cave to represent the grotto in Lourdes.
In 1928 the statue was destroyed by a fanatic. Sometime later another statue arrived from France and was set in the grotto.
Fr Mignon died in 1937 and was buried near the church. During the Japanese occupation in World War II the church was seriously damaged. The missionary’s earthly remains were removed to Nyaunglebin town cemetery and were only returned in 1977 when the church was rebuilt. When the war was over, in 1948, the local Church began to celebrate once again the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.
By 1957 the feast had become a national event and every year thousands made the pilgrimage to Nyaunglebin. This led the Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar to give the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes at Nyaunglebin the title of National Pilgrimage Centre. Our Lady of Lourdes Parish is made up of about 10 villages. Most of the people are farmers. Some do hill cultivation. One priest and three religious sisters are working in this parish.
The Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes attracts thousands of Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists from across Myanmar. Last year, 2020, Cardinal Bo appealed to the Bishops in Asia to entrust all victims of the coronavirus and people across the globe to Our Lady of Lourdes.