As a child in a poor French family in the Hautes-Pyrenees town of Lourdes, Bernadette suffered both asthma and cholera. Uneducated, she had not made her first Communion by 1858, the year she experienced 18 visions of a beautiful lady calling herself the Immaculate Conception and calling for penance and pilgrimage.
Bernadette’s grace-filled encounters with the Blessed Virgin Mary were intimate and revealed profound theological truths. They also led her to enter the convent of the Sisters of Charity in 1866, taking the name Maria-Bernarda. Chronically ill after 1875 with worsening asthma and tuberculosis of the bones, she died at age 35.
When she was canonized in 1933, it was not just for being the Lourdes visionary, but for her simple life of prayer, devotion and obedience. She is the patroness of St. Bernadette Parish in Scottsdale.