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A day of firsts as Diocese of Wilmington pilgrims are welcomed at Shrine of Immaculate Conception — Photo gallery

Bishop Koenig at Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception Sept. 25.

WASHINGTON — With the COVID-19 pandemic slowly getting under control, parishioners of the Diocese of Wilmington were once again welcomed back to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for their biannual Marian Pilgrimage.

The Sept. 25 pilgrimage included a myriad of firsts for the diocese to celebrate. First, it was Bishop Koenig’s first Marian Pilgrimage as 10th bishop of the Diocese of Wilmington. In addition, it was the first pilgrimage by any diocese to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception since before the pandemic.

Monsignor Vito Buonanno, associate rector and director of pilgrimages at the shrine, greeted pilgrims during introductions in the Great Upper Church of the Basilica. “Welcome back! We are so happy to have you here,” he said

Father Brian Lewis, pastor of St. Jude the Apostle in Lewes and coordinator of the annual pilgrimage for the diocese, spent part of the day welcoming parishioners and thanking them for making the roughly two-hour trip to the nation’s capital. Father Lewis said about 500 people from the diocese were in attendance.

Bishop Koenig delivers the homily Sept. 25 at Mass during the Diocese of Wilmington Marian Pilgrimage in Washington. Dialog photo/Bob Krebs

Preceding the Holy Mass held in the Crypt Church, Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the shrine, thanked Bishop Koenig for agreeing to go on with the pilgrimage this year. He said it was 50 years ago in 1971 that members the Diocese of Wilmington made their first Marian Pilgrimage. The crowd erupted in applause and smiles as most pilgrims were unaware of the milestone anniversary with which they were taking part.

Among the congregants, Connie Kerwin, a Washington native who vacations and attends Mass at St. Ann’s Parish in Bethany Beach, said the pilgrimage “… brings the community together.”

The day concluded with a blessing from Bishop Koenig, and a promise to celebrate there with the group again in 2023. The pilgrimage alternates sites each year, rotating between the diocesan shrine of Our Lady Queen of Peace at Holy Spirit Parish in New Castle and Washington.

Bishop Koenig’s homily from the Mass can be found here.