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A diocesan tradition dating back to 1922 commenced Oct. 27 when more than 2,400 locals from more than 50 parishes embarked on a daylong pilgrimage to visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
On the final weekend during the month dedicated to the Holy Rosary, pilgrims braved the forecast that called for tumultuous rain and wind and boarded more than 30 buses headed for the nation’s capitol.
“Pilgrimages are meant to be somewhat difficult,” said Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, who served as the day’s spiritual guide. “We have to go out of our normal circumstances of life to find God and to find Our Lady at this particular shrine dedicated to her. So we make a sacrifice to come away from our normal life, pick a day out and pray and make ourselves recognize God’s presence and come closer to God.”
Auxiliary Bishops Raymond Chappetto James Massa, Witold Mroziewski, Paul Sanchez and Neil Tiedemann, C.P. helped the bishop greet the flocks of pilgrims inside the church due to the weather. Whether they were shaking hands or taking selfies with what seemed like an unending line of visitors passing through the basilica’s doors, smiles and laughter was abundant, like a family reunion against the backdrop of a beautiful church.
Father Gerard Sauer, diocesan pilgrimage director and Father John O’Connor, diocesan liturgy office director, both coordinated the schedule and travel arrangements for the day.
“While there are many shrines and some beautiful shrines even in our own diocese, this is the national shrine for the entire United States,” said Father Sauer. “Mary stands in the center. And of course, the shrine is named after the patroness of the United States.”
For Our Lady of Angels, Bay Ridge, parishioner Elsie Salim, she felt right at home.
“Everytime I visit the Basilica, I feel like I’m going to my mother’s house,” she said. “Heaven on earth, it gives me peace in my heart. Especially this time, I was with Sister Christiana, she is an angel who brings joy. I came home with a peaceful heart.”