As part of its celebration of the Year of Faith, the diocese of Rockville Centre is hosting a pilgrimage to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on September 28. The pilgrimage offers an opportunity for Catholics to join their neighbors from across the island and their bishops and priests in a unique day of prayer.

“What better way basilica-6to honor our Blessed Mother during this year of faith?” asks Joan Graham, pilgrimage coordinator for St. Joseph’s parish, Babylon.

“It is a chance to be deeply involved in our faith, while getting to know fellow parishioners,” she said.

The prayer and fellowship begins on the bus ride to Washington. Buses are leaving from sites across the Island and interested pilgrims should contact their local parish for information. There are already 50 buses scheduled to participate and more may be added if there are enough people on waiting lists.

Marge Baum, pilgrimage coordinator for St. Anne, Brentwood, notes her parish prays in three languages — English, Creole and Spanish – and that they will pray the Rosary in all three during the bus ride, as well as the prayers for the Year of Faith being provided by the diocese.

“I don’t speak Spanish, but we can communicate as one group” in our prayer, she added. “Our parish is big on spirit and it should be a lot of fun.” Baum noted that in addition to the group getting to know each other and being renewed in their faith, “we will come back and share the spirit with the rest of the parish community.”

Having attended diocesan pilgrimages in the past, Gina Arresta, coordinator for the Basilica Parish of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, is excited about next month’s trip.

“It is a great day from beginning to end,” she said. “It will help you get excited about your faith.”
“Bishop Murphy greets every bus as it arrives, creating a true feeling of community for the diocese,” she noted. “Everyone there is part of your community, whether you know them or not.”

The day’s agenda includes the noon Angelus led by one of the diocesan bishops. Following a welcome by the basilica-5shrine’s rector, there will be a talk by John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America.

After that, pilgrims will be free to tour the Byzantine-Romanesque basilica , the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America, and is one of the ten largest churches in the world. There will be time for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, Reconciliation and lunch before the group meets again in the upper church for the Rosary in word and song or in the lower church for a youth event.
At 4 p.m., the entire diocesan group will gather for Mass in the upper church.

“It really is a day to unify everyone,” said Arresta. “The celebration of the Eucharist, in the beautiful basilica with the beautiful music, is amazing.”

Designated by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a National Sanctuary of Prayer and Pilgrimage, the Basilica is tbasilica-1he nation’s preeminent Marian shrine, dedicated to the patroness of the United States — the Blessed Virgin Mary under her title of the Immaculate Conception. It is oftentimes affectionately referred to as America’s Catholic Church, according to the Basilica’s website,

“There is so much to see,” added Arresta. “The Basilica is magnificent. There are so many beautiful chapels, you feel like you are in Europe.” To have more time to see the basilica and gardens, her group will pre-order lunch, something she highly recommends.

Graham of St. Joseph notes that “all kinds of people make the pilgrimage and it’s important to them, for different reasons.” But whatever their motivation, each pilgrim contributes to the success of the pilgrimage. “We are all part of a group, and the more in the group the better.”

All photos from Catholic News Service