On Saturday 17 September the Bishop led the annual Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham, England’s National Shrine to Our Lady. The village of Walsingham in North Norfolk, sometimes referred to as ‘England’s Nazareth’ has been a place of pilgrimage for over 900 years. It was one of the most notable shrines in Medieval Europe and at that time its importance as a pilgrimage site was exceeded only by Rome and Jerusalem.
This year the number of Leeds pilgrims, with laity accompanied by clergy and religious from the Diocese, was back to a pre-pandemic level, and well over 200 people were able to enjoy a mostly sunny, if rather cool late summer’s day after a late morning arrival in Walsingham.
The Pilgrimage proceedings began with Mass in the Chapel of Reconciliation and words of welcome from the Rector of the Shrine, our own Mgr. Philip Moger. During Mass prayers were said for the repose of the soul of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Bishop Marcus remarked on how her death and the events of the past week had created a unique context for this year’s pilgrimage. The homily was preached by one of the Diocese’s newly-ordained priests, Fr Sean Elliott, from the Holy Redeemer parish in Huddersfield.
After Mass there was time to meet and make friends and have lunch, and an opportunity to visit the Slipper Chapel where the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham is to be found, and where people may leave their petitions and prayer requests. The pilgrims then gathered in front of the Chapel of Reconciliation, in readiness for the procession along the Pilgrim Way into Walsingham itself. During the procession, the Mysteries of’ the Rosary were prayed. This year some of our Catholic High Schools were represented on the pilgrimage. and helped to carry the statue of Our Lady.
Seventy-four years ago, the great Cross Carrying Pilgrimage of Reparation took place. Fourteen crosses were carried across England and Wales. and carried to Walsingham in 1948. These are the Stations of the Cross that you find in front of the Chapel of Reconciliation. The Thirteenth Station was the Cross carried from the Leeds diocese. Next year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of this event and this commemoration will be reflected in the 2023 Diocesan Pilgrimage, which will take place on Saturday 30 September.
Upon arrival in the village our pilgrims processed into the Priory Grounds (“Walsingham Abbey”). The Blessed Sacrament was then brought to the open-air altar set up on the site of the Pre-Reformation Holy House and Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham and the celebration of Evening Prayer (Vespers) commenced. This was followed by Benediction, given by the Bishop.
By 5.00pm our pilgrims began to set off on the return journey to Yorkshire, having spent a special day at one of English Christianity’s most historic and holy sites.
A gallery of photographs from the Pilgrimage can be viewed at https://www.patricksicephotography.co.uk/blog/walsingham
For more information about the National Shrine go to https://www.walsingham.org.uk/