A beloved tradition for faithful of the Diocese has been revived as Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., will be joined by clergy, religious and laity from throughout the Diocese’s four counties Nov. 12 on pilgrimage to “Mary’s House” – the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

Reflecting the theme, “In Communion with Jesus – A Pilgrimage to Mary’s House,” the day will incorporate a focus on the Eucharistic Revival that will allow participants to experience both from national and diocesan perspectives.

The pilgrimage begins early that morning as buses depart from more than two dozen parishes of the Diocese; interested pilgrims should contact their local parish for more information. Prayer and fellowship begin on the bus ride to Washington as pilgrims will be encouraged to pray Morning Prayer and recite decades of the Rosary.

Once at the Shrine, pilgrims will have an opportunity to attend a catechesis session and question-and-answer period with the Bishop, and tour the Byzantine-Romanesque Basilica, the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America. Opportunities for prayer abound, including the Angelus at noon; Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the recitation of the Rosary; receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation in the Crypt Level Church, and veneration of the Blessed Carlo Acutis relic in the Upper Church. As a way to engage children in the pilgrimage experience, a special "Pilgrim Passport" activity is available just for them. All children can receive a "Pilgrim Passport" and after visiting certain chapels throughout the day, the children can have their passport stamped. Catechists from the Diocese will be assisting with the activity by providing brief teachings at each of the chapels.

Pilgrims are invited to browse the bookstore and gift shop but are reminded to bring a bag lunch since the Shrine cafeteria is closed to the public.

Mass will be celebrated at 2:30 p.m. in the Basilica’s Great Upper Church with Bishop O’Connell as principal celebrant and 20 members of the Diocesan Scola supplying the music.

“With God’s grace, we will be able to finally gather as a Diocese at the National Shrine,” said Carolyn Norbut, diocesan director of pilgrimages, noting that in recent years the pilgrimage had been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. She is coordinating plans with the parishes and has asked them to encourage their parishioners “to attend this beautiful day.”

The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception holds great historical and ecclesiological significance as the pre-eminent Catholic church in the nation and the spiritual home of every Catholic in the United States. Construction on the Shrine, whose interior measures 129,910 square feet and built in the style of a medieval church, began Sept. 23, 1920, and was officially completed Dec. 8, 2017, following the dedication of the Trinity Dome mosaic. The mosaic depicts the Blessed Trinity, the Blessed Virgin Mary and a procession of saints, all of whom have an association with the United States and the shrine, and the four evangelists encircled by the Nicene Creed, according to the shrine’s website.

The Basilica features 81 Marian chapels and honors the Immaculate Conception as its patroness, a designation given to this country by the Vatican in 1847.

The Basilica has also hosted three popes: John Paul II on Oct. 12, 1990; Benedict XVI on April 16, 2008, and Francis on Sept. 23, 2015. The shrine was raised to the status of a minor basilica by Pope John Paul II following his 1990 visit there.

Although it does not have its own parish community, the Basilica serves the nearby Catholic University of America and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.