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Pilgrim Queen Comforts Families of Chilean Miners
As 33 Chilean miners await rescue, their families gather to pray and keep vigil at Camp Hope in Our Lady’s company.

Pilar and miner family
This picture of Pilar Bulnes giving out a Pilgrim Queen triptych first appeared in the online newspaper

September 10, 2010. Copiapó, Chile. Just as she stood at the foot of the cross on Calvary, today Our Lady stands watch alongside the families of the 33 Chilean miners who have been trapped almost half a mile underground at the San José copper-gold mines since August 5. The rescue operation is underway, but it is slow going, and the miners will most likely not emerge from their underground prison until Christmas.

On September 2, in an effort to give spiritual support and strength to the families, Mrs. Pilar Bulnes, the national director of Pilgrim Queen of the Family in Chile, Irish Legionary Fr Donald O’Keeffe, and several other members of the Pilgrim Queen apostolate brought 33 Pilgrim Queen of the Family triptychs, one for each family, to Camp Hope, the rescue site where the families are living in makeshift tents.

After giving the families their triptychs, the Pilgrim Queen representatives stayed to pray the Rosary with them.

Cardinal Francisco Javier Errázuriz, the archbishop of Chile’s capital city of Santiago, visited Camp Hope as well. After celebrating Mass for the families in the afternoon, he gave each of the trapped miners a rosary blessed by Pope Benedict XVI. The families then brought their triptychs to be blessed by Cardinal Errázuriz.

“There is no real earthly explanation for everything we lived that day or for the way the Blessed Virgin’s encounter
cardinal blesses triptychs
Cardinal Errázuriz blesses the Pilgrim Queen triptychs given to the families of the miners.
with the miners was brought about,” reflected Pilar Bulnes.

“The entire time, we felt like we were walking hand-in-hand with the Blessed Virgin, that her steps were showing us the miracle that is taking place there day by day, and that the land we were walking on is already a shrine where the Blessed Virgin wishes to remain, and where those 33 lives are being immolated, submerged in the depths of the earth, with families that, in spite of their pain, are waiting in peace, with a lot of faith and with the hope that they will soon have them with them again.”

Buried alive, awaiting rescue

When the roof of the San José mine collapsed, the miners were about 700 meters (2,300 feet) below the surface and 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the entrance. A post-collapse dust cloud blinded the workers for about 6 hours, causing eye infections and irritations in some workers. Although there were no serious injuries, food supplies were severely limited, and the miners rationed what little they had, stretching two days’ worth of food into 17 days, eating two small spoonfuls of tuna, a sip of milk, a bite of biscuit, and a morsel of peach every other day. Most lost about 20 pounds in two weeks. In addition to hunger, they have also been suffering from the high heat (90 degrees) and humidity of the mine, plus a diminished oxygen supply.

Rescue workers have managed to bore a narrow tunnel with a diameter about the size of a grapefruit, through which they have been delivering water and a calorie and protein-enriched milk drink. Solid foods are on
Fr hands out PQ
Fr Donal O'Keefe, LC, and Mrs. Pilar Bulnes give out Pilgrim Queen triptychs to the families at Camp Hope.
their way, and a third shaft to be completed later this week will deliver enriched oxygen to the men.

The escape tunnel is in progress. Dug through solid rock, it will be a long, narrow shaft just large enough for one man at a time to be hauled up in a basket. Since the escape tunnel will only be about 26 inches wide (the diameter of a bicycle tire), the men have to keep tabs on their waistline so that they don’t get stuck in the shaft on their way out.

Family members and friends are taking turns standing watch a few hundred yards away from the mouth of the mine. They are able to exchange letters and messages with their loved ones underground, and now that they know their men are unhurt and that the rescue will be slow but certain, the spirit at Camp Hope is one of optimism, faith, prayer, and solidarity.

As these families watch and wait during this long Holy Saturday, the Pilgrim Queen of the Family will be by their side, comforting them with her gentle presence and imparting strength to the miners. We invite our readers to keep these families and their loved ones in our prayers as well.



Related links

Alpha and Omega Clinic
Pilgrim Queen of the Family

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