The Diocesan pilgrimage to Walsingham saw more than 1,000 people from across the diocese join Bishop Alan Williams sm at the Marian shrine. Pilgrimage organiser Fr Daniel Kelly was delighted with the turnout which was much higher than expected. “We were expecting around 600 but the Shrine estimated the numbers were closer to 1,200,” he says. “This was the first one since 2019 and I think there is a great desire for people to get together to do things, post-pandemic.”
The pilgrimage was designed to be particularly family-friendly to dovetail with the X World Meeting of Families in late June, says Anna McCormick, project officer for Marriage and Family Life in the diocese. “Many families responded to the invitation with people coming from parishes throughout the diocese,” she says. “I was surprised by the numbers who brought children with them. The Basilica was packed and it was hard to get a seat outside. I had printed 500 order of service leaflets and I had to ask people to share. The weather was kind and it was lovely to see so many families having picnics after Mass. The Bishop is so accessible and many people had an opportunity to speak to him. For the young children it was a lovely first experience of pilgrimage.” Fr Daniel agrees. “The Bishop stops to talk to people. He always remembers those he has met previously – it is his warmth that people love.”
Bishop Alan himself says that he enjoyed the day hugely. In his homily he talked about Mary as our mother, Mary at the Cross and the annunciation, tied in with the history of Walsingham. He says: “I asked pilgrims to bring all their prayers and anxieties to Mary. Not to be embarrassed but to be utterly honest, walking in silent prayer on the Holy Mile.” And that silence was appreciated. Says one pilgrim: “The silent procession gave you the chance to pray. I am so pleased I went on the pilgrimage – it was lovely.”
Anna agrees. She and her family made a weekend of it. And while her son was one of the servers, her daughter walked with her on the Holy Mile. “It was the first time we had been to Walsingham and we had a lovely time. It was great for everyone to be back together again and life to be more normal.”
Jonathan Dwelley from the parish of Our Lady of Grace and St Teresa of Avila in Chingford took many photos during the pilgrimage. He summed up the day in Walsingham as one of ‘togetherness’ – unity and fraternity. “I met so many people and had great conversations – there was a feeling of joy that lasted the whole day from the Mass near the Slipper Chapel, the procession to the village, to the blessing at the Priory. And everything was so well organised by the stewards and volunteers. The clergy at the event, including Bishop Alan, were very approachable and friendly – once again engendering a feeling of togetherness and unity. It was a special day for me – and for others on my coach returning to Chingford. I will treasure it for a long time to come – the atmosphere was amazing.”
Later this month the X World Meeting of Families will feature a number of livestreamed events from 22-26 June. Says Anna: “The original intention was for people to travel to Rome but the uncertainties around COVID meant that families have been asked to mark it remotely in their dioceses.”
Find out more about the X World Meeting of Families here: X World Meeting of Families – Brentwood Diocese (dioceseofbrentwood.net)
Many thanks to Jonathan Dwelley and Christabelle St John for their pictures. Click to enlarge.