Pilgrimage to National Shrine – Thousands from Diocese Travel to Washington, D.C., for Year of Faith

by Antonina Zielinska

An estimated 2,000 pilgrims from Brooklyn and Queens made their way to Washington, D.C., for a daylong pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, on Saturday, Oct. 27.

Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros and retired Auxiliary Bishop Guy Sansaricq joined the priests and faithful of the Diocese of Brooklyn at the basilica to entrust the Year of Faith to Mary, Mother of God.

“We seek her intercession – looking to her to teach us how to do God’s will every moment of our life,” Bishop DiMarzio said during his homily after reminding the congregation that Pope Benedict XVI entrusted the world-wide Year of Faith to Mary during his pilgrimage to the shrine of Loreto in Italy.

Bishop DiMarzio urged the pilgrims to take the responsibility of evangelization seriously.

“It’s time to consider how we have used the gift of faith we have received in baptism,” he said. “Everyone who has received the gift of faith is obligated to share it with others” and not keep it as something private.

John Vollmertausen, a freshman at Cathedral Seminary Residence, Douglaston, said he hoped to share an atmosphere of faith and prayer with the pilgrims of the diocese.

“I’m looking forward to have some time to pray alone and with the community,” he said. “It’s good for people to see the young men who are beginning their journey to the priesthood. It’s important for people to see that we are very prayerful, but we are regular guys, too.”

Jose Diaz, who is working on his first year in pre-theology in Douglaston, said that when the faithful comes together through the sacrifice of a pilgrimage they share with each other the gift of faith.

“For our Church to get together for this celebration – I believe the Lord will bless us with an increase in faith,” he said. “When you have faith, the Lord will bless you, especially during the sacrifice of Mass.”

Nidia Rivera, a pilgrim from Our Lady of Refuge, Flatbush, said God has granted her deeper faith during the pilgrimage.

“He let me know today that no matter what, He is always on my side,” she said. “He loves me.”

Johny Escobar, a pilgrim from Presentation of B.V.M., Jamaica, said he was on the path to reuniting himself once again with the Church. He used the opportunity of the pilgrimage to reconcile himself with God through the sacrament of Penance and prepare himself for World Youth Day 2013. He said the day helped him feel once again welcome in the Church.

“It all kind of reminds me of my childhood when my mom used to take me to church,” he said.

While Escobar found familiarity in the pilgrimage, Belinda Madero, a pilgrim from Our Lady of Refuge, said it helped her discover new aspects of her faith. She said the day was different from the Hispanic retreats she is used to. While Hispanic retreats are usually full of energy, this pilgrimage was “more peaceful and more meditative.”

She said she enjoyed the time she had to pray before the different sacred images throughout the basilica. She walked to the various chapels, altars, statues and paintings dedicated to Mary, under many different titles, and various saints.

At the end of the pilgrimage, Bishop DiMarzio urged the faithful to remember to bring home the fruits of their pilgrimage.

“We return as pilgrims to our diocese to evangelize – and to ask our mother Mary to take us by the hand and show us how to do it,” he said.


Bishop DiMarzio with diocesan seminarians.