Wednesday, September 26, 2018 - Updated: 2:29 pm
They come for a variety of reasons: to ask the Virgin Mary to intercede for a special intention, to have fun with their friends and loved ones, and sometimes to gaze at beautiful artwork.
Whatever their motivation, faith-filled Catholics from the Diocese of Pittsburgh aren’t disappointed when they make a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
The diocesan pilgrimage to Washington Sept. 15 included Mass in the grand Upper Church with Bishop David Zubik and many Pittsburgh priests and deacons, a Holy Hour with Eucharistic adoration and Benediction in the Crypt Church, a concert by the Diocesan Choir and tours of the magnificent basilica dedicated to Mary.
The journey is organized by the diocese every two years, which means that those who normally go on the pilgrimage got their first glimpse of the inside Trinity Dome. Completed in December 2017, the dome is the “crowning jewel” of what is the largest Catholic church in the United States.
The dome mosaic depicts the Trinity, Mary and 13 saints associated with the United States or the national shrine, the four evangelists and words from the Nicene Creed.
The artwork was created at the Travisanutto Giovanni mosaic company in Spilimbergo, Italy, and was shipped to the national shrine in 30,000 sections weighing a total of 24 tons and composed of more than 14 million pieces of glass.
Mary Ann Stoopes, who was on a bus from St. John the Baptist Parish in Plum and had never been to the basilica, said the church is a must-see for anyone struggling with their faith.
“I would never have thought it had everything here,” she said. “All the chapels, statues and mosaics, the art. Oh my goodness, it’s amazing. Beautiful. I’m glad I came.”
Father Terry O’Connor led the Vicariate 2 passengers on a bus from his parish, St. Therese of Lisieux in Munhall, along with Father Emmanuel Abbey-Quaye, who is in residence at the parish.
“I think it went great. It’s beautiful to come together as the body of Christ and bring all our prayers to Our Lady,” said Father O’Connor about his third pilgrimage to the basilica. He said it’s a nice opportunity to get away and spend time in prayer with many others from the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
The shrine is set to mark the 100th anniversary of the laying of its foundational stone in 2020. The basilica was designated by the U.S. bishops as a pilgrimage church, with more than 70 chapels and oratories that relate to the people, cultures and traditions that are the fabric of the Catholic faith in the United States. It is also the nation’s pre-eminent Marian shrine.