They came from large parishes and small, from across the Diocese of Raleigh, for the Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Basilica officials estimate approximately 2,000 men, women and children attended the one-day pilgrimage on Saturday, April 2, joining with the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge for a day of prayer, Rosary, a Holy Hour and Holy Mass.
More than 400 Diocesan faithful began the journey on Friday, April 1, with most taking buses from seven locations throughout the 32,000-square mile Diocese. Others traveled by personal vehicle. The Friday group had overnight accommodations at a hotel in suburban Virginia, joining together for Friday dinner followed by Evening Prayer, with Bishop Burbidge presiding.
In his remarks at the Prayer Service, Bishop Burbidge asked the faithful to remember that on “this Lenten journey, we are sinners and in need of God’s forgiveness. Acknowledge the sins in your life,” he continued, “that are weighing on you, keeping you from the closeness to God that He wishes for each of you.” Bishop Burbidge added, “We have profound trust in God’s promise that no sin is greater than His mercy.” He encouraged the people as they brought their day to a close to reflect on the question Jesus posed in the Gospel: “What is it that you want me to do for you?” Bishop Burbidge asked, “How would you answer that question?”
On Saturday morning, another group of buses left from parishes in the Diocese, once again with hundreds of other Catholics driving in personal cars. All came together at 10:00 a.m. at the Shrine for Morning Prayer, with Bishop Burbidge presiding. That was followed by a history and description of the Shrine by Father Vito A. Buonanno, Director of Pilgrimages. Father James F. Garneau, V.F., Pastor of Saint Mary Church in Mount Olive, led the Recitation of the Holy Rosary.
The afternoon began with Holy Hour, with Msgr. David D. Brockman, Vicar General of the Diocese, presiding with Bishop Burbidge in choir.
The Pilgrimage concluded with the celebration of Mass with Bishop Burbidge the Celebrant and Homilist. In expressing his heartfelt gratitude to those who sacrificed to make the journey, Bishop Burbidge noted that, “In a special way, we are united today in prayer with all the faithful in our Diocese, especially those who are unable to be with us due to illness and hardship.”
Reminding those gathered that, when established, the Diocese of Raleigh was placed under the patronage of the Virgin Mary, he said, the Pilgrimage Mass was dedicated to Mary, the Mother of Reconciliation. “My brothers and sisters in Christ,” Bishop Burbidge said, “throughout this day and especially at this Mass, we ask our loving Mother to intercede for us so that we may be ‘reconciled to God.’”
Father Justin Kerber, C.P., V.F., co-chair of the Pilgrimage Committee, said he was very pleased with the attendance, especially with the commitment so many people made by coming from far and wide across the large Diocese. Ms. Reginna Ford, a parishioner at Immaculate Conception Church in Rocky Mount, explained the spirituality she experienced coming together in “this space.” She said three non-Catholic friends joined her, each in need of the religious dimension the Pilgrimage offered.
Sophia Figueroa, a youth leader at St. Mark Parish in Wilmington, said her purpose in attending was to grow closer to God so He would help her in spreading her faith to others. Sr. Arcadia Rivera Gutierrez, D.S.M.G., Pastoral Administrator of St. Joan of Arc in Plymouth, said 27 parishioners made the journey representing the 62 families in her small community. Mr. Bob Troy, a parishioner at St. Thomas More Parish in Chapel Hill, explained his reason for making the Pilgrimage was part of his faith journey. Mr. Troy is in his second year of formation in the Diocesan Diaconate Program. He commented that the feeling of being with so many Catholics from so many parishes in the Diocese was inspirational, adding that the Diocese lacks a worship space where Catholics can come together as one.
Next week’s Catholic Perspective TV program will feature more on the Diocesan Pilgrimage.
- View photo gallery
- Watch Bishop Burbidge's homily (Windows Media)
- Read Bishop Burbidge's homily
- Watch interview with Sr. Arcadia Rivera Gutierrez, DSMG, Pastoral Administrator, St. Joan of Arc, Plymouth (Windows Media)
- Watch interview with Reginna Ford, parishioner - Immaculate Conception, Rocky Mount (Windows Media)
- Watch interview with Sophia Figueroa, youth leader - St. Mark, Wilmington (Windows Media)
- Watch interview with Bob Troy, parishioner – St. Thomas More, Chapel Hill (Windows Media)
- Watch interview with Father Justin Kerber, C.P., V.F., Pastor-St. Peter, Greenville, co-chair of Pilgrimage Committee (Windows Media)
- Watch interview with Gerard Hall, Director of Worship (Windows Media)
- Watch interview with Rev. Mr. Brendan Buckler, Diocesan Seminarian (Windows Media)
Above: Part of the approximately 400 gathered for dinner at suburban Washington, DC, hotel on the eve of Diocesan Pilgrimage.
Above: Father John McGee, O.S.F.S., V.F., Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Wilmington and co-chair of Diocesan Pilgrimage Committee, at dinner.
Above and below: Diocesan faithful, estimated at approximately 2,000, during Morning Prayer at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.
Above: Father James F. Garneau, V.F., Pastor of Saint Mary Parish in Mount Olive, leading faithful on tour of Shrine.