Thousands of NJ Catholics participate in Archdiocesan pilgrimage to National Shrine

More than 2,500 Catholics from across North Jersey journeyed on almost 60 buses to Washington, D.C., on September 16 to partake in the 50th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Newark’s triennial pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

The pilgrims were individuals and groups from the Archdiocese’s 212 parishes, including families, students, parishioners, clergy, religious, and seminarians. The historic Basilica is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the nation’s patroness, and is the largest Roman Catholic Church in North America. It is also one of the 10 largest churches in the world. 

Upon arrival, the thousands of pilgrims explored the Basilica’s multiple church levels to visit more than 80 chapels and oratories that honor the Mother of God. They offered devotions and prayers and had an opportunity to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) provided in multiple languages by dozens of archdiocesan priests who joined the pilgrimage. An afternoon music recital featuring three Möller organs brought prayerful joy to the standing-room-only crowd.

The full-day program culminated in a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., Archbishop of Newark, and concelebrated by three archdiocesan auxiliary bishops and more than 60 archdiocesan clergy. The Basilica’s pews were filled to maximum capacity, prompting countless visitors to occupy aisles, side chapels, and marble steps throughout the grand church.

“Pilgrimages are a powerful reminder that we are God’s Holy People traveling through time and space to our heavenly homeland,” Cardinal Tobin said in his homily. “As pilgrims, we journey together to holy places like this National Shrine to encounter the Lord Jesus in and through our sisters and brothers — those who are traveling with us, those who are waiting for our return, and all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith.

“While we are here today in this great Basilica, let’s be sure to pray that the Synod next month will be a time of outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and that God’s grace will accompany us when the time comes to put the Synod’s fruits into action in the daily life of Christian communities throughout the world,” he added. To learn more about the Archdiocese’s 50th anniversary pilgrimage, visit