By Peter G. Sánchez
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In his homily during the solemn Mass here at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Oct. 11, as part of the Diocese of Camden’s biennial pilgrimage, Bishop Dennis Sullivan made sure to note the devotion of those gathered in the great upper church.
Some 1,500 pilgrims braved the cold, driving rain in traveling from South Jersey to D.C. to pay homage to Mary, “with faith, devotion, and charity,” the bishop said.
In particular, pilgrims honored Mary under her title as “Our Lady, Undoer of Knots,” asking her to untie the spiritual and personal knots that prevent them from truly being what God asks them to become. In their own parishes, and at the shrine, pilgrims were invited to share their “knots” on pieces of paper, and place them in baskets that would be placed before the Blessed Mother.
“Mary plays an extraordinary role in our salvation,” Bishop Sullivan continued in his homily. “What Eve had bound fast through unbelief, Mary has set free through faith,” he said.
“Let us pray that Mary might be a beacon of hope in our lives, and, like her, let us pray that we might give God permission to enter into our own lives.”
Arriving at the national Marian shrine Saturday morning via parish bus, personal automobile, or D.C. metro, pilgrims had time to explore the gift shop or pray in front of the many crypts (such as “Our Lady of Hope,” “St. Joseph,” “Our Lady of Charity,” and “St. Therese of Lisieux”), before receiving a welcome in the upper church from Msgr. Vito A. Buonanno, director of pilgrimages for the Shrine.
Next, the diocesan combined choir, with the high school choir of Paul VI (Haddon Township), treated the attendees to a concert of sacred music, complete with individual songs emphasizing the brass quartet, the voices of the choir, or an organ solo.
After time for lunch, exploring or prayer, pilgrims made their way back to the Great Upper Church, where they were welcomed by the shrine’s rector, Msgr. Walter Rossi. Next came the procession of parishes. As each diocesan parish’s name was called by Father Michael Romano, director of vocations, representatives carried their respective parish banners into the sanctuary.
A multilingual rosary was begun, with the five decades said in English, Spanish, Korean, Tagalog and Vietnamese, to pray for an increase in the number of priests, deacons
and religious for the Diocese of Camden.
Bishop Sullivan then led the crowning of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and led the faithful in prayer to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, before the diocese’s baskets of “knots,” asking her to “take into your hands the knots we have entrusted to you on this pilgrimage today.”
“This is Mary’s house,” said Father Michael McCue, OSFS, associate pastor of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Camden, who travelled to D.C. with parishioners.“It’s nice to connect, with the larger church,” he said.
“A pilgrimage is unlike any other way to improve our relationship with God,” said Deacon Joseph Kain, from the Church of the Holy Family in Sewell.
While assisting at the Mass, he found himself “praying all for mankind but especially for those who ask me to pray for them, and for the folks currently attending our grief support group at Holy Family. God freely gives us his love and now, each one of us on pilgrimage acknowledge his love in our hearts and let him know that we love him too.”
Jaquelin Wang, a member of the Diocesan Choir, called the pilgrimage a “miracle, to share in the faith and in celebrating our Blessed Mother Mary, who loves us.”