A Pilgrimage of Mercy

12-18-2016Parish LifeMonika Szmul

On November 19, 2016, over 3000 people from the Diocese of Metuchen joined Bishop Checchio to celebrate the 35th anniversary of our diocese at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Forty people from St. Magdalen's took a bus for the all day trip. The pilgrimage was extra special because it was on the eve of the closing of the 'Year of Mercy'.

We all walked through the 'Holy Door of Mercy' to enter the basilica and enjoyed a busy afternoon with lunch, confession, gift shopping, music, prayer, and touring. The pilgrimage concluded with Mass celebrated by many of our diocesan priests, including Fr. Tim, Fr. Joseph, and Fr. Mauricio. Deacon Steve, the Diocesan Administrator for Deacon Formation, assisted at Mass as Deacon of the Word and our seminarians, Andrew and Gilbert, served on the altar. Bishop Checchio celebrated Mass, and the Most Reverend Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Apostolic Nuncio to the US (the Pope's representative to the US) was the main celebrant and homilist. The trip was made even more special because this was the first time any Nuncio has been part of a diocesan event!

The basilica is magnificent. The best way to experience it is to walk around the huge church and through the chapels with a crowd moving around you, drawing you along. The main altar on the upper level is stunning and the side chapels are beautifully dedicated to Mary, by her many titles. Downstairs is a giant crypt church, surrounded by mosaic altars and prayer spots. My favorite is the Hope Chapel, dedicated by Bob Hope's family in his memory when he died. To be in a packed congregation mostly from our diocese, to see so many of our priests on the altar, to hear the phenomenal sound of the giant pipe organ, to wave and cheer as our bishop processed by after Mass was exhilarating. It was an experience beyond words, filled with peace and joy.