Photo: Pilgrims from the diocese of Rockville Centre pray at the Basilica. Photo by Gregory A. Shemitz. Check here for more pictures from the pilgrimage.

Saturday morning, buses started arriving at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception around 10:30. In all, 61 of them came rolling on up to noontime, all with pilgrims from our Diocese. Over 3,000 came from all our parishes as part of our diocesan observance of the Year of Faith. For the next six hours we prayed and sang. We visited the many chapels  dedicated to Mary under her many titles, so many expressing the devotion to Mary of the individual countries where she is honored under so many beautiful and inspiring representations.

Bishop Perez began by leading us in the Angelus. Later he led the adults in the rosary accompanied by gospel readings and hymns. At that same hour Bishop Brennan led the youth in their own rosary with contemporary hymns and meditations appropriate for them.

A highlight was a reflection by John Garvey, President of The Catholic  University of America   He spoke of renewal, personal and ecclesial, as a key to the Year of Faith and of the need for courage to witness our faith in today’s world. He was clear, eloquent and persuasive.

Walking around and later hearing confessions I was very moved by the enthusiasm, faith and devotion of our people. They were joyful and happy, sharing their experiences, visiting shrines, lining up for the sacrament of penance offered by 40 priests of our diocese.

It was my privilege to offer the Mass that closed the day. Our priests and deacons joined me in the sanctuary assisted by our seminarians. There was standing room only as we filled the basilica. The diocesan choir was superb. The Shrine’s rector, Msgr. Walter Rossi, was, I know, overwhelmed by the size and the fervor of our people. And I was very grateful to God to be part of this local Church where the faith of priests and people is expressed every day in their lives, their worship and their witness.

To all who made this day possible I offer my deepest thanks and to all of you were present and those who could not join us but accompanied us with prayer I pledge my devoted prayers for this Church and all her members that this Year of Faith will help us all belong more deeply to The Lord, his Church and one another.