September 20, 2011 // Uncategorized

Our diocesan pilgrimage

Last week, I attended several meetings of committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops on which I serve. The meetings took place in Washington, D.C., so it was convenient that the meetings began immediately following our diocesan pilgrimage to Washington and Emmitsburg. On Wednesday, approximately 70 bishops concelebrated a Memorial Mass for the recently deceased Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, Archbishop Pietro Sambi, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. You may recall that Archbishop Sambi was in Fort Wayne for my installation as bishop here. He was a man of deep faith and served the Holy Father and the Church with joy and selfless devotion. Before serving as nuncio to the United States, he had served as nuncio in the Holy Land as well as in the diplomatic service of the Holy See in many other countries. May God grant him eternal happiness and peace!

Our diocesan pilgrimage was a wonderful experience of faith for our over 150 diocesan faithful who participated. On Friday, September 9th, we visited the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. As you probably know, the Blessed Mother, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness both of our diocese and of our country. The Basilica of the National Shrine is the largest church in the Western Hemisphere.

We began our visit with the recitation of the sorrowful mysteries of the holy rosary in the beautiful crypt church. After the rosary, we had a few hours to visit the upper church and the dozens of side chapels and oratories, most of which honor Our Lady under various titles from different countries and cultures. There was also the opportunity to receive Our Lord’s grace and mercy in the sacrament of Penance.

We concluded our visit with the celebration of Holy Mass in the crypt church. I celebrated the Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Gate of Heaven. It was an opportunity to reflect on the theme of “pilgrimage,” our life on earth as a pilgrimage of faith, hope, and love. Of course, the destination of our earthly pilgrimage is heaven. I invited our pilgrims to contemplate the Lord Jesus at the school of Mary. The Blessed Mother is like a bright star who enlightens our way along this pilgrimage and accompanies us on our journey to the Father’s house. Mary helps us to stay on the road that leads to the gate of heaven. We asked for our Blessed Mother’s prayers for all the people of our diocese, especially for the sick and suffering. We also remembered in our prayer intentions throughout the weekend the cause of peace as our nation commemorated the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

From the National Shrine, we rode about a mile to the Franciscan Monastery with the famous church replicating the shrines of the Holy Land. There we prayed Vespers, the Evening Prayer of the Church.

On Saturday, September 10th, we continued our pilgrimage with a visit to Emmitsburg, Maryland. We began the day with the celebration of Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, our first American-born saint. In the homily, I reflected on the heroic sanctity of this incredible woman: wife, mother, widow, convert, religious foundress, and pioneer of the Catholic school system in the United States. Despite many hardships and adversities throughout her life, Mother Seton persevered in faith and spread the love of Christ. Her deep prayer life and her devotion to the Blessed Sacrament sustained her as she carried the cross: the death of her beloved husband and two young daughters, the rejection of family and friends because of her conversion to the Catholic faith, and her own suffering with tuberculosis. Many pilgrims shared with me their amazement at all that Mother Seton accomplished in just 46 years of life on earth. She is truly an inspiration for us on our pilgrim journey.

After visiting the two houses where Mother Seton lived and the cemetery where she was originally buried, we went from Saint Joseph’s Valley to Mary’s mountain a few miles away. There we ate lunch in the dining hall at Mount Saint Mary’s University. Following lunch, we celebrated a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament in Saint Bernard’s Chapel of Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary. Our pilgrims were happy to see where several of our seminarians live and pray. Our nine seminarians at “the Mount” were happy to host us and our pilgrims were happy to meet our seminarians and to encourage them in their vocations.

After the visit to the seminary, we went up the mountain to the National Shrine of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. It was a sunny, warm day and we had a beautiful view of the seminary and valley below. At the grotto, we had time for individual prayer and to walk along the pathways of the Stations of the Cross and the mysteries of the rosary. We finished our visit with Vespers in the glass chapel near the grotto. We then enjoyed a festive dinner in the parish hall of Saint Joseph’s Church in the town of Emmitsburg.

On Sunday morning, September 11th, we celebrated our final Mass together in the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at Mount Saint Mary’s University, which was recently beautifully renovated. After Mass, I bade farewell to our pilgrims as they boarded the buses for the long ride home to Indiana. I then returned to Washington for the USCCB committee meetings which began the next day. I did have some free time on Sunday, so friends came down from Pennsylvania and we enjoyed watching a Philadelphia Eagles game together!

I thoroughly enjoyed the diocesan pilgrimage, especially witnessing the faith and joy of our pilgrims. It was a spiritually enriching weekend. I especially enjoyed sharing with people of our diocese places that have been important in my own life and journey of faith.

Many thanks to all who helped plan and organize the pilgrimage, especially Natalie Kohrman, Mary Glowaski, Brian MacMichael, and Jeff Krudop! I also wish to thank seminarian Bob Garrow for coordinating our visits to the Mount and the Seton Shrine. I thank Deacon Jim Kitchens and all our seminarians for their service at the liturgies. And special thanks to the priests who accompanied our pilgrims and heard confessions: Father Jim Shafer, Father Chuck Herman, Father Glenn Kohrman, and Father Bob Van Kempen.

May God bless you! May our Blessed Mother and Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton intercede for you!

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