It was a spiritual pilgrimage of faith for 150 pilgrims from the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend who spent Sept. 8-11 visiting shrines dedicated to the Blessed Mother and the first American-born saint, Elizabeth Ann Seton.
The destination was the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. on Friday, and then the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, both in Emmitsburg, Md.
Diocesan seminarians, who attend Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, joined the pilgrims. At the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, pilgrims toured the shrine. At a Mass at the basilica celebrated by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades in the Crypt Church, he spoke of how the Holy Family made pilgrimages to Jerusalem. Bishop Rhoades told the pilgrims, “We, the new people of God, the Church in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, have come rejoicing to this house of the Lord, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. We have come as pilgrims to give thanks in the name of the Lord, to pray for peace on this weekend when we observe the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and to pray for our families and friends. Many of us come here with special prayer intentions. We come with our own personal intentions to this house of the Lord and the house of His Mother Mary.” Bishop Rhoades said, “I invite you to contemplate the Blessed Virgin Mary who shines among the saints like the sun among the stars. She is like a bright star who shows us, pilgrims on earth, the way to heavenly glory. She teaches us to seek the things above with living faith, certain hope and fervent love. And she not only teaches. She also walks with us. We can feel her closeness when we speak to her in prayer, when we pray the holy rosary or the Angelus and other Marian prayers and litanies. I pray that through this pilgrimage, we will all experience Mary’s loving presence more deeply in our lives.”
There is a connection between the basilica and the fifth bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne, Archbishop John F. Noll, who was a great supporter of the construction of the basilica. A bust of Archbishop Noll is located near the crypt church.
After visiting the basilica, pilgrims visited the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land where they prayed Evening Vespers.
While in Emmitsburg, the next destination on Saturday, pilgrims vis- ited the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. Bishop Rhoades celebrated Mass at the basili- ca with the diocesan pilgrims.
The shrine is special to Bishop Rhoades who served as rector of nearby Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary from 1995-2004. Bishop Rhoades also attended college at Mount Saint Mary’s. He was a college freshman, on campus for just two weeks, when on Sept. 14, 1975, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was canonized a saint. Thousands were at the shrine that day.
“The Church in the U.S. was celebrating the canonization of the first American-born saint whose remains are kept beneath the side altar here in this beautiful basilica,” Bishop Rhoades noted in his homily.
Bishop Rhoades said of the first American saint, “We can only mar- vel when we think about the good fruit that came from the holy and vir- tuous life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton — the beginning of the Catholic school system and the first Catholic orphanage in the United States as well as the foundation of the Sisters of Charity in the United States.”
Pilgrims, many who belong to St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne, found the shrine lovely and the proximity to Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary perfect for the seminarians.
“What a beautiful place for our seminarians,” noted Kara Slocum of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne.
“It was so nice to see the seminarians in their environment. They seemed happy and full of joy in their decision,” added Pat Spoltman, another member of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish.
Nine diocesan seminarians attend Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg. The seminarians were excited to see visitors from the diocese and they assisted throughout the pilgrimage. The seminarians at Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary follow the legacy of Indiana’s pioneer priests and bishops.
Bishop Simon Bruté, first bishop of the Diocese of Vincennes, which encompassed the whole state of Indiana and parts of Illinois, was the spiritual advisor to Mother Seton. The famed Msgr. Julian Benoit, the great pioneer priest in Fort Wayne and builder of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, was ordained by Bishop Simon Bruté at Mount Saint Mary’s.
Pilgrims also visited the National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes on Saturday.
The days at these shrines were filled with Holy Mass, rosary, confessions and prayer, as well as time to enjoy tours of the holy sites.
“I enjoyed the history and understand the quote ‘The Church is always ancient and always new,’” said Rob Slocum of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Fort Wayne.
“I also enjoyed learning more of the history of the early pioneers of our Church and their connection to our diocese,” said Father Glenn Kohrman, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Elkhart.
“Experiencing the different forms of liturgy with the bishop, the seminarians and one another opened our eyes to the Catholic faith and deepened our faith,” said Chris Grogg of Immaculate Conception, Auburn, and Jennifer Kohrman, of St. Jude, Fort Wayne. Kohrman added that a highlight was “making new friends and having our seminarians pray for our intentions.”
“I have so much confidence in the future of the Catholic Church after being with our seminarians,” Grogg added.
Kit Miller of St. Joseph Parish, Garrett, said, “I’ve felt immersed in my faith enjoying friends, treasured places of our faith and meeting the young men of our diocese who are studying to be priests.” Miller was the pilgrimage give-away winner.
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