Faithful Turn Out in Large Numbers for Diocesan Pilgrimage

WASHINGTON, D.C.—“We come here 1,500 strong,” Bishop Frank J. Caggiano said to diocesan pilgrims who gathered around him for the dedication of the new Rosary Walk and Garden outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The bishop’s final words capped another extraordinary moment in the odyssey of prayer and renewal that he has brought to the diocese since his installation in 2013.

The bishop called for the pilgrimage to celebrate the power of prayer and to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the apparition of Our lady of Fatima to three shepherd children in 1917.

“That message is just as important now as ever,” the bishop said, noting that the world is still in conflict and in need of peace and reconciliation.

While more than 1,500 people boarded buses in the early pre-dawn hours in Fairfield County for the one-day pilgrimage to the basilica, an estimated 500 more faithful from the diocese made their own way to the national landmark to participate in the drove to participate in the Solemn Mass.

They were joined by pilgrims from New York City, China and the Philippines for the Solemn Mass, which began at 2 p.m. and drew almost 4,000 people. It was broadcast live on EWTN and was also covered by Catholic TV out of Boston and NET-TV of Brooklyn.

In his greetings before Mass, Basilica Rector Msgr. Walter R. Rossi welcomed those who traveled from the diocese and noted that it was the first pilgrimage from the Diocese of Bridgeport to the Basilica in more than 15 years.

“Thank you for brining so may young people with you, and thank you for bringing us hope,” Msgr. Rossi said, nodding to the 60 members of the Diocesan Youth Choir who were gathered behind the altar to sing throughout the Mass.

The Byzantine Romanesque basilica, which opened in 1959 after decades of construction, is a massive testimony to the faith of the American Catholic Church. It is largest Church in the U.S. and one of ten largest in the world.

More than one million people a year make pilgrimages to the site, which shares the campus of Catholic University of America.

During the general intercessions, which were read in English Spanish, Vietnamese, Creole and Portuguese, the refrains from the faithful seemed to ripple through the space on a time delay as they made their way from the front to the back of the huge basilica.

“What are you looking for? What is it that you see?” the Bishop said to begin his homily, noting that it was a question that Jesus asked his disciples.

“It is a question that roots each of our lives and one we bring to this sacred space,” the bishop said, reassuring worshippers that the Blessed Mother opens a path to the Lord.

“We ask her intersession that she may lead every human heart to answer the question.”

The bishop said that those who go on pilgrimage are also “carrying others in their hearts,” a family member or friend who is struggling spiritually.

He said that those who live entirely by the secular values of materialism and relativism often end up empty and lost with nothing to sustain them.

“We bring them to Our Lady so they can ask the questions,” he said,, praying that they find love and peace in the answer that, “ Christ is the desire of every human heart. “

After Mass the entire congregation formed a procession to the new Rosary Walk and Garden alongside the main entrance of the Basilica, completing the entire rosary in the time it took to empty the Church.

“The Rosary is a mirror into the mystery of her son,” the Bishop said, praying that the new Rosary Garden “stand as a symbol of hope that the world can find peace, happiness and joy, and that the road will never lead to Christ.”

“Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us. Pray for the whole world!”

The new garden is meant to be an oasis of beauty and calm and an invitation to pray the rosary while visiting the shrine. The walkway is a symbolic thread of the rosary as the path winds its way through five granite arches each with four mysteries. A sculpture of Christ crucified marks the beginning and end of the path.

Homily from Sep 23, 2017, by Bishop Frank Caggiano, Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport

This homily is from Holy Mass for the Dedication of the Rosary Walk at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Bishop Caggiano began with the question, “”What are you looking for?”” Jesus asked his disciples this question, with the answer ultimately being Christ himself. Many we know, including ourselves, are lost, suffering and alone. But he said that asking the intercession of Our Lady, she can touch hearts in ways that we cannot do. She will help us find the answer, and that answer is Christ. LENGTH: 0:15:13

Photos by Amy Mortensen