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6/30/2014 2:18:00 PM
Hundreds gather to honor Mary at annual National Filipino Pilgrimage
Catholic News Service photo
Pilgrims gather at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington June 28 for the 17th annual National Filipino Pilgrimage.
Catholic News Service photo
Pilgrims gather at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington June 28 for the 17th annual National Filipino Pilgrimage.
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — Hundreds of pilgrims filled the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington June 28 for the 17th annual National Filipino Pilgrimage.

Juan Abello of Jersey City, New Jersey, along with his wife, daughter and niece, posed for a photo alongside a cardboard cutout of Pope Francis in the lower level of the shrine shortly before Mass began.

"This pilgrimage is a pilgrimage in honor of Mama Mary," said Abello in an interview with Catholic News Service. He and his family made the pilgrimage for the second year in a row with a prayer group to express their devotion to Mary. Abello's niece, Julianne, explained how her mother sewed a necklace of flowers to place on a statue of Our Lady of Antipolo at the shrine.

Devotion to Our Lady of Antipolo, also known as Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, is popular among Filipino Catholics.

Abello and others were looking forward to the afternoon Mass celebrated by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines. "Cardinal Tagle is famous in the Philippines. ... It's a big honor for us to be present and see him in person," said Abello.

In his homily, Cardinal Tagle said that a pilgrimage has two components: the obvious physical movement from one place to a sacred site, but also the "change of mind and heart, the conversion experience" that occurs when one encounters God.

The cardinal noted how the Holy Family made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem each year for Passover. "I believe it was this yearly pilgrimage that led Jesus to a deep realization of who he was. ... It led the child  Jesus on a journey in faith and identity as the son of God," said Cardinal Tagle.

Likewise, when they discovered the 12-year-old Jesus was missing, Mary and Joseph embarked on a second pilgrimage in their return to Jerusalem to search for him.

"This is an important pilgrimage that all of us must undertake, a pilgrimage in search of Jesus," the cardinal said. "Is Jesus the one that is paramount in our minds and our hearts? Engage in a pilgrimage looking for Jesus. ... Every moment can be a pilgrimage if you're looking for Jesus."

Cardinal Tagle continued, saying that after Mary and Joseph found Jesus in the temple with the teachers, he obediently returned to their home "to prepare for that day when he would engage in a long pilgrimage of public ministry, leading to Calvary, the tomb, and then waking up in the presence of the Father."

"This too is the pilgrimage that we all must take, the pilgrimage of mission. Mission is a never-ending pilgrimage that gives meaning to our lives. What is your mission in life? What does God want you to do?" he said.

"Life is a pilgrimage," Cardinal Tagle concluded. "It is a pilgrimage of mission. And for those of us who are not yet clear about our mission, don't worry. The Blessed Mother and St. Joseph, who brought Jesus a number of times to Jerusalem, will find us and bring us to the Father."

Every pew in the Upper Church of the shrine was filled with pilgrims, many others had to stand. Parts of the Mass were celebrated in Tagalog, and the prayer of petition was said in various Filipino dialects.

Prior to Mass, attendees participated in a novena to Our Lady of Antipolo. Prayer groups processed into the church with Marian images that later lined the front of the church as attendees prayed the rosary.

Ben Manalaysay of Ashburn, Virginia, and his prayer group processed into the church with their image of Our Lady of the Pillar.

"It's a way of evangelizing, having devotion to Our Lady," Manalaysay told CNS while waiting to join the procession. "Our aim here is to deepen devotion to Our Lady and, through Mary, to Jesus."

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