Skip to main content

Pilgrimages Important Part of Year of Faith


In announcing the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI encouraged every Catholic to form, witness and celebrate faith through the Sacraments and to renew and deepen their relationship with Jesus Christ and His Church. Making a pilgrimage to a holy shrine is one way to do that.

A plenary Indulgence is bestowed on Catholics who make a pilgrimage to a holy location or even back to the site where they received the Sacrament of Baptism. (A plenary indulgence removes all of the temporal punishment due for sins.)

In Porta Fidei, his apostolic letter proclaiming the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that the faithful secure an indulgence “each time they visit, in the course of a pilgrimage, a papal basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church or a holy site designated by the local ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, minor basilicas and shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Apostles or patron saints), and there participate in a sacred celebration, or at least remain for a congruous period of time in prayer and pious meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, and invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary and, depending on the circumstances, to the Holy Apostles and patron saints.”

Every three years the Bishop and hundreds of faithful from the Diocese of Raleigh make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. The next Diocesan pilgrimage will take place April 4-5, 2014.

“At the request in 1945 of the third Bishop of Raleigh, the Most Reverend Vincent S. Waters, Pope Pius XII placed our Diocese under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary,” Bishop Burbidge explained in a letter to the faithful. “Thus it is only fitting that we make this pilgrimage to Her National Shrine.”

Many parishes offer opportunities for group pilgrimages to international shrines. “Walking through the cobbled streets of Assisi gave me a deep appreciation for the atmosphere that formed and influenced this revered saint and reformer,” said Cathy Rusin, Adult Faith Formation Director at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish in Apex.

This April, parishioners from St. Andrew will travel to Ireland. They plan to celebrate Mass at Ballintubber Abbey, the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, the Cathedral of the Most Holy Trinity as well as several other locations on their 10-day pilgrimage. St. Thomas More, Chapel Hill, and St. Bernadette in Fuquay-Varina are also planning pilgrimages this year.

On July 23-28, 2013, thousands of youth will travel to World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On a recent planning trip with 14 other youth ministry directors, Ms. Katherine Angulo, Diocesan Director of Youth Ministry, reflected, “We are especially looking forward to World Youth Day this year. It is clear that with a visit from our new Pope, this journey will be special.”

Not all pilgrimages require a passport. There are many pilgrimage sites located within the United States and even in North Carolina. Sacred Heart Cathedral recently invited choirs from every parish in the Diocese to make a pilgrimage to Sacred Heart. Cindy Fitzgerald, Director of Liturgy, created a Guest Choir and Visiting Choir program. Guest Choirs have the opportunity to sing at one of the scheduled Masses of the parish. Visiting Choirs will offer a mid-day concert at the Cathedral.

Other Catholic Shrines and Places of Pilgrimage in North Carolina:

St. Mary Church
5th Avenue at Ann Street
Wilmington, NC 28401 

Basilica of St. Lawrence
97 Haywood Street, Asheville NC 28801

Basilica of Our Lady of Help of Christians
100 Belmont-Mt. Holly Rd, Belmont NC 2801

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
1621 Dilworth Road, East, Charlotte NC 28203

Above: Parishioners on pilgrimage to Rome following Mass at St. John Latern Basilica. Pilgrimage was sponsored by St. Andrew Catholic Church in Apex. Pictured: St. Andrew pastor Fr. David Fitzgerald, SA, front right; Fr. John Forbes, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Raleigh, back row, presided at Mass.