WASHINGTON, D.C. — Celebrating Mass with his fellow South Jersey Catholics here last weekend at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, Bishop Dennis Sullivan likened their lives to a certain young woman revered in the universal church.
“Like us, the Blessed Virgin Mary and her cousin, Elizabeth, were beset by fears, temptations and joys in a gritty world,” he said.
The fact that the two bore children through miraculous circumstances, Mary with Jesus and Elizabeth with John the Baptist, are “reminders that God comes into our lives in surprising ways,” he added.
“The presence of God in our lives brings joy,” he said.
The afternoon liturgy on Oct. 1 with Bishop Sullivan and priests, deacons, religious and laity from South Jersey concluded the Diocese of Camden’s biennial Marian Pilgrimage to this shrine, a time for faithful to pray, reflect and ask for the intercession of Jesus, the Blessed Mary and the communion of saints.
The day began with a morning concert of sacred music with the Diocese of Camden choir, the Diocesan Hispanic choir, and a student choir from Paul VI High School in Haddon Township. During the designated time for lunch, pilgrims either ate meals in the shrine cafeteria, explored the various shrines to Mary and the saints in the Upper and Lower Churches, or visited the gift shop to purchase books, rosaries, medals or statues.
Randy Roland was one of 50 pilgrims, including Father Larry Polansky, who left on a bus from Merchantville’s Saint Peter Church. The bus pulled out of the parking lot shortly before 8 a.m., and pulled up to the curb in Washington around 10:30 a.m. Entering the shrine, he and other pilgrims were greeted by Bishop Sullivan.
The day was “a good time for self-reflection, and continued search for meaning and purpose,” he said, adding that the shrine “offered ways to acknowledge our Mother and the saints.”
Adriane Bendu was also part of the Saint Peter’s contingent. Of West African heritage, she found particular meaning in praying before the Chapel of the Blessed Mother of West Africa.
“The Blessed Mother looked like my family and I,” Bendu said.
The afternoon liturgy was preceded by a procession of diocesan parishes with representatives carrying personalized banners; a multi-lingual rosary, with each of the five decades led in the language of English, Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese or Tagalog; and the crowning of the Blessed Mother.
Father James Bartoloma, Diocesan Chancellor and Director of the Marian Pilgrimage, called the pilgrimage a “great success,” adding that over 2,000 people, from either the parish busses or their own personal transportation, celebrated the day at the shrine.
He noted that the 12 diocesan priests hearing confessions during the pilgrimage turned out not to be enough, as more time had to be allowed to accommodate everyone seeking God’s mercy.
“It was an uplifting day to honor Our Lady as the mother of Mercy during the extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy. God only knows the extent of his mercy that was poured out to the people going to confession that day,” Father Bartoloma said.
The next Marian pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. will take place in October 2018.