“What are you looking for? What is it that you see?” the Bishop said to begin his homily, noting that it was a question that Jesus asked his disciples.
“It is a question that roots each of our lives and one we bring to this sacred space,” the bishop said, reassuring worshippers that the Blessed Mother opens a path to the Lord.
On Saturday, September 23rd, Bishop Frank Caggiano echoed those words in his homily to a packed house of more than 4000 pilgrims from the Diocese of Bridgeport, New York City, China and the Philippines at the Basilica at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. The Mass was held in tribute to the Rosary Walk dedicated to 100th Anniversary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima to three shepherd children by Bishop Caggiano’s private foundation and other donations.
More than 1500 pilgrims boarded buses in the early morning from all over Fairfield County with an additional 500 who drove down on their own. Three Knights of Columbus members from Knights of Columbus Council 14360 and Bishop Fenwick 4th Degree Assembly 100 in Norwalk represented the Knights of Columbus in the Mass and procession. The 3 Knights, Faithful Navigator George Ribellino, Color Corps Commander, Scott Criscuolo and Faithful Pilot Anthony Armentano travelled on a bus which left St. Matthew Parish (Norwalk) that morning at 7am.
Being a Knight is an honor by itself; having the opportunity of representing my council and assembly in such a storied setting was a humbling and joyful experience,” said Armentano
On the ride down on the bus from St. Matthew, Parochial Vicar Father Tomi Thomas led 2 rosaries praying not only for the intentions of those on the bus, but for all those making the pilgrimage. They even has some fun by playing trivia about Our Lady of Fatima.
The Knights led the procession for the Mass and were part of the procession to the Rosary Walk and dedication outside the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Mass also included Knights of Malta, Knights of the Holy Sepulchre and 60 members of the Diocesan Youth Choir.
“It was such a humbling experience to be a part of the spiritual day and to see the youth of our Diocese bring such spirit to the day was so inspiring, “said Ribellino. “I want to thank Bishop Frank and the Diocesan staff for making this day possible and to the wonderful ushers, clergy and staff at the Basilica for their hospitality.”
The Mass and procession was broadcast live on EWTN and covered by Catholic TV of Boston and NET-TV in Brooklyn, NY.
Criscuolo who led the Knights Honor Guard went on to say, “Not only do I think we represented our council, parish and city well but I’d like to think Catholics around the world watching on TV felt that we added a little reverence to an already spiritual experience.”
The Byzantine Romanesque basilica, which opened in 1959 after decades of construction, is a massive testimony to the faith of the American Catholic Church. It is largest Church in the U.S. and one of ten largest in the world.
More than one million people a year make pilgrimages to the site, which shares the campus of Catholic University of America. The ushers at all Masses volunteer their time and are all members of Knights of Columbus Councils from Washington DC, Virginia and Maryland.
Bishop Caggiano said that those who go on pilgrimage are also “carrying others in their hearts,” a family member or friend who is struggling spiritually.
He said that those who live entirely by the secular values of materialism and relativism often end up empty and lost with nothing to sustain them.
“We bring them to Our Lady so they can ask the questions,” he said, praying that they find love and peace in the answer that, “Christ is the desire of every human heart. “
When the Mass concluded the entire congregation formed a procession to the new Rosary Walk and Garden near the side entrance of the Basilica while reciting the rosary.
Contributions from the Diocese of Bridgeport Fairfield County Catholic
Photos by Amy Mortensen