Brooklyn Diocese Makes a Major Pilgrimage for Blessed Mother

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By Katie Engesser

Around 2,500 Brooklynites pray to the Blessed Mother. Led by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio, the Catholics journeyed to the nation’s capital; a long trip on a stormy Saturday.

“Pilgrimage is meant to be difficult,” Bishop DiMarzio said, “we have to go out of our way to find God and Our Lady.”

The destination is America’s foremost site dedicated to Our Lady: The National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Every 2 years, Catholics from the Brooklyn Diocese make the trip, with Bishop DiMarzio leading the way. It’s a tradition.

“Since 1923, before the edifice was even built, Brooklyn was on pilgrimage here,” the Basillica’s pilgrimage director, Monsignor Vito Buonanno, said.

The basilica is America’s largest Catholic church and a national sanctuary of prayer and pilgrimage. Nearly a million faithful visit each year and that includes some big figures in the church. The past three Pontiffs- Pope Francis, Pope Benedict, and Saint John Paul II- as well as Mother Teresa, have all been to the shrine.

The shrine was built brick by brick by donations from the faithful. The church’s latest masterpiece, The Trinity Dome, was completed with help from the Brooklyn Diocese: over $100,000 contributed. Monsignor Vito Buonanno is a Brooklyn priest who’s now the basilica’s pilgrimage director. He understands what makes this shrine so special.

“This is a place of prayer, this is a place that is sacred,” Monsignor Buonanno explained.

The Shrine isn’t the only reason why Brooklynites travelled 5 hours by bus through a nor’easter.

“She’s done so much for us, it’s the least we could do for her,” said first time visitor, Edward Pena.

For the pilgrims, the Shrine is a source of great comfort.

“We come with joys, with sorrows, with suffering… we come here with the pain of what the church is going through, the joys the church is going through, we come to our mother.” Father Gerard Sauer, the Diocese’s director of pilgrimages said.

Arnold Valle, another first time visitor to the shrine, proudly said: “She’s the first person I turn to.”