Making a Pilgrimage

01-01-2017Parish LifeBarb Urcinas

In the early morning of Saturday, November 19, I joined 40 other people for a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The basilica is the largest Roman Catholic church in the United States and North America and one of the ten largest churches in the world. On this pilgrimage we joined representatives from other parishes in our diocese to celebrate the 35th anniversary of the establishment of our Diocese of Metuchen. We would also have a final chance to walk through the ‘Holy Door’ before it closed, with the ending of the Extraordinary Year of Mercy. A pilgrimage is very different from a bus trip, although the mode of transportation might be the same. On a pilgrimage, the destination of the trip is a religious site; pilgrims travel there to receive special graces from God. We traveled to the Basilica to invoke God’s Mercy for ourselves and our diocese.

In the early morning sunshine, as our bus driver maneuvered the circles to take us out of town, Fr. Tim and Deacon Stephen Kern led us in a prayer service. As we approached Baltimore, Monika Szmul led us in a Rosary. We recited a pilgrim’s prayer as we rolled up to the Basilica. As we disembarked from our bus, we met Bishop James Checchio who stopped for a quick welcome and a group photo. We had time to eat lunch, go to confession and to wander around the 70 chapels and oratories, the special exhibits, and the gift shop and book shop before we found seats for Mass.

Mass itself was beautiful! Mary Vanacore, my co-organizer, commented to me that seeing the bishop, Fr. Tim, Deacon Stephen, and seminarians Andrew Prickel and Gilbert Starcher all in the Basilica gave us a deeper connection to the Mass. It was like watching a child at a sporting event; they are part of our family and we were so proud to see them! We left the Basilica through the ‘Holy Door’, knowing it would be closed on the following day when the Extraordinary Year of Mercy ended. We stopped for dinner under a drizzling sky, and by the time we arrived home it was snowing and sleeting. What a day!