The introductory remarks of Brooklyn’s own Msgr. Vito Buonanno captured the essence of Saturday, Oct. 25 perfectly.
“Brooklyn is in the house. … Mary’s house!”
Currently serving as the director of pilgrimages at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate in Conception in Washington, D.C., Msgr. Buonanno welcomed 3,000 pilgrims from the Diocese of Brooklyn to the national shrine for this year’s Diocesan Marian Pilgrimage.
The pilgrims traveled down I-95 on 45 buses representing parishes and diocesan apostolates. Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio served as spiritual guide, while Father Gerard Sauer, director of the diocesan pilgrimage office, and Father John O’Connor, director of the diocesan liturgy office, coordinated the day’s events.
“I think the trip is a lot of fun,” said Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros. “People love the pilgrimage, especially our people in Brooklyn and Queens because they are immigrants. To be an immigrant is to move from one place to the other. Pilgrimages speak about who we are as a people of faith, moving on because of faith in trying to reach our goal which is Almighty God. What more beautiful place than being here in the national shrine of our Blessed Mother.”
The daylong pilgrimage continues the bi-annual tradition started in May, 1923, when the Diocese of Brooklyn was the first-ever group to visit the national shrine, which is the largest Roman Catholic church in the U.S. and North America and one of the 10 largest churches in the world. Even so, the diocesan pilgrims were able to fill the church to greater than maximum capacity.
“It says that the faithful of Brooklyn like to travel,” said Bishop DiMarzio of the 3,000 pilgrims – a full 1,000 more than the last pilgrimage to the shrine in October, 2012. “They’re all immigrants, and they don’t mind getting on a bus and going on a pilgrimage. The immigrant people of the diocese understand pilgrimage. Mary, under the title of Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the United States, and we pay her homage.”
The theme of the day was the prayer for Christians in the Middle East being persecuted for their beliefs. The pilgrims dedicated their prayer and sacrifice to those Christians who are the objects of radical Islamic terrorism.
“Today we chose the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians because indeed the Christians of the Middle East are in need of motherly intercession and care,” Bishop DiMarzio said.
After a welcome by the shrine’s rector, Msgr. Walter Rossi, Bishop DiMarzio led the pilgrims in the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. For each of the mysteries, representatives from the various diocesan ethnic apostolates prayed the Hail Mary in their native language.
“It was beautiful to be up there,” said Laurel Jordan, a parishioner at St. Catherine of Genoa, East Flatbush, for 42 years who led the rosary in English. She organizes the parish’s trip to the nation’s capital every two years.
“Watching the crowd below was like a new heaven that we were in up there,” she said of her position on the altar.
The multicultural representation of the rosary mirrored the melting pot community that is the Diocese of Brooklyn.
“Here today you see a beautiful picture of the immigrants’ love of Mary,” said Msgr. Ronald Marino, vicar for migrant and ethnic apostolates.
“People of every ethnic group in our diocese come to participate … thousands. They do the long bus ride because it’s a sacrifice in honor of Mary their mother. There are so many immigrant groups in the Diocese of Brooklyn, and they all have her in common. They do this with their whole heart.”
“This is a great opportunity to gather for all of us in the diocese,” said John Hwang, a second-year seminarian at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie. “We have so many different cultures and languages. This is probably the only chance [to get] together for the whole diocese. It’s great, especially at the beautiful basilica.”
Following the rosary, pilgrims were given the opportunity to explore the basilica on their own or through a guided tour. The basilica is renowned for its architecture and houses the largest collection of contemporary ecclesiastical artwork in the world. Pilgrims admired the different sacred images and statues of Mary in the various chapels and altars.
“When I walked in today, I was so astonished to see the works in the ceiling,” said Marlene Watts, a parishioner at St. Augustine Church, Park Slope. “It’s so beautiful. It’s really a sight to behold.”
Also during the break, confessions were available in the basilica’s crypt church. The diocesan vicariate choir then performed a concert of sacred music prior to Mass in the Great Upper Church.
In his homily, Bishop DiMarzio spoke about how the pilgrims don’t have to travel all over the world for a pilgrimage, but rather he thanked them for coming to the national shrine to realize what it means to be a pilgrim Church.
“Life is a constant pilgrimage to the only life that really matters … eternal life,” the bishop said. “All along the way, we seek the light that comes from the morning star, Mary herself, who guides us on our pilgrim way of life.”
St. Rosalia-Regina Pacis, Bensonhurst
Holy Cross, Maspeth
Sacred Heart, Cambria Heights
St. Andrew Avellino, Flushing
Our Lady of Czestochowa-St. Casimir, Sunset Park
St. Augustine, Park Slope
Our Lady of Mount Carmel-St. Francis of Assisi, Astoria
St. Francis of Assisi-St. Blaise, Borough Park
St. John Vianney, Flushing
St. Leo, Corona
St. Benedict Joseph Labre, Richmond Hill
St. Matthias, Ridgewood
St. Michael, Sunset Park
Diocesan Jornada Group
St. Michael Filippino Association, Flushing
Diocesan Korean Apostolate
St. Stanislaus Kostka, Maspeth
[hr]All photos taken by Jim Mancari.