In the nation’s capital, a day of reverence and beauty

Photos by Peter G. Sánchez
Pilgrims from the Diocese of Camden worship at Mass during the biennial Marian Pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Oct 13.
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
Laurie Power, from Christ the Redeemer in Atco, joins the faithful in the recitation of the rosary.
Bishop Dennis Sullivan and Father Robert Hughes, Vicar General, speak with a pilgrim.
Seminarian Stephen Robbins greets a pilgrim upon arrival at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

WASHINGTON — Here in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception last Saturday afternoon, Oct. 13, Bishop Dennis Sullivan recalled the “first homily” of Jesus’ first disciple

“Mary told them, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’”

This command of Jesus’ mother, cited in the Gospel story of the Wedding of Cana when Mary tells the hosts to obey the words of Jesus, who then performs his first miracle, is vital in becoming a missionary disciple.

“Do whatever he tells you — love one another. Do whatever he tells you — forgive 70 times seven times. Do whatever he tells you — turn the other cheek,” Bishop Sullivan hammered home to his South Jersey faithful, who made the trek down I-95 for the biennial Marian Pilgrimage.

In his remarks, which came during the Eucharistic celebration which capped off the day, Bishop Sullivan added, “We are very much at home here. We come here, to ask God’s favors, and to let God know what you need, what your family needs, what your community needs, what your church needs.”

Leaving their homes at the crack of dawn, with a cold autumn’s rain, the laity, clergy and religious from the Diocese of Camden arrived in front of the shrine three hours later, to sunshine and a cool breeze, and warm smiles and greetings from diocesan seminarians who ushered them through the sacred space’s doors.

“You have an opportunity to encounter the divine here,” the shrine’s rector, Msgr. Walter Rossi, told the gathered in his welcoming address.

Mary, the patroness of the United States and the Diocese of Camden, “is the mediatrix of grace, and her shrine invites all to a saving moment of faith, hope and love,” when they pray, reflect and walk its halls, exploring its many oratories and chapels marking the life of the Catholic faith in the United States, he said.

The diversity of South Jersey’s Catholic community was reflected throughout the day, be it through the concert of sacred music which featured the Diocesan Choir, high school student choir, and Hispanic Diocesan Choir; the procession of parishes; or the rosary recited in English, Korean, Spanish, Vietnamese and Tagalog.

From retired deacons, to high school students, to elementary school principals, all found the day meaningful.

“All of his pilgrimage is based in love,” said Deacon Leo McBlain, who traveled via bus with his community from Cherry Hill’s Catholic Community of Christ Our Light.

“Mary is the perfect example of this. One of the greatest gifts God gave us, which showed his love for us, was making Mary our mother.”

Paul VI High School, Haddonfield, students Brogan Hummel, Emily Osgood and Madeline Vetrecin performed during the concert of sacred music and found time to explore the upper church and lower crypt when not practicing or performing.

“I loved seeing the beauty all around me. It’s been a pretty amazing day,” said Emily, a sophomore.

Sister Michele DiGregorio, principal at Saint Margaret’s Regional School in Woodbury Heights, appreciated the diversity seen throughout the day and called it “heartwarming and encouraging.”

“It’s so much of who we are as a church,” she said.