Parishioners from St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, perform a skit of the Blessed Mother's visit to the young pilgrim Juan Diego as children listen attentively in the Basilica's Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine. Ken Falls photo

Parishioners from St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, perform a skit of the Blessed Mother's visit to the young pilgrim Juan Diego as children listen attentively in the Basilica's Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine. Ken Falls photo

By Lois Rogers | Correspondent

Among the faces greeting the hundreds of pilgrims as they stepped off buses that had departed the Diocese of Trenton early Nov. 4, was Cara Trost, greeting the faithful and handing out information on the Basilica and day’s schedule of events.

As a pilgrim, volunteer and recent convert to the faith, the journey, said Trost, opened her eyes to the worldwide witness of the Catholic faith.

“I loved [the pilgrimage] in that you learned something new” at every turn, said Trost, a former Baptist who is now part of Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Hainesport.

Trost was one of two dozen volunteers, diocesan staff and deacons who pooled their energies throughout the diocesan pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., as parish organizers, team leaders, bus captains, shrine presenters or helpers in distributing worship aids and translation devices during Mass.

All of the volunteers, Chancery staff and deacons won the thanks of Terry Ginther, diocesan chancellor and executive director of pastoral life and mission.

“So many people helped,” she said, praising one and all. Included among them were members of St. Mary Parish, Barnegat, who performed historical skits in the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine, which housed the Diocese’s “Antorchas Guadalupanas,” the seven traveling torches dedicated to the Blessed Mother who appeared in Mexico in 1531.

Ginther also praised the “Pascua Juvenil” ensemble from St. Rose of Lima Parish, Freehold, who performed in traditional mariachi clothing on the steps of the basilica as pilgrims arrived. Their music was heard again during the recessional after Mass.

Speaking of the 10 deacons who helped lead presentations at various shrines for children to earn “passport” stamps, Ginther said, “It was essential to have the help of the deacons in manning the passport stations this year. They really … brought a wonderful pastoral touch.”

Trost, too, was struck by the shrines, especially the fact that there were so many dedicated to the Virgin Mary. In addition to greeting new arrivals, Trost spent a large part of the day placing stickers on hundreds of “passports” given to children, specifically those brought to the Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe. 

Though the demand for passport stickers kept her too busy to explore the Basilica on her own, she said she enjoyed volunteering.

Marveling at its dimensions and breathtaking sacred art, Trost said the Basilica was “something I have never seen before.”

“It is a beautiful church,” said Trost, who regularly volunteers for the diocesan Department of Evangelization and Family Life. “I would volunteer [on the pilgrimage] again. It was great that there were so many people.”