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October 21, 2016
PISCATAWAY – Thirty-five years to the day of the Diocese of Metuchen’s founding by then Pope, now St. Pope John Paul II, Catholics who live, work and worship in the diocese will commemorate the occasion by making a pilgrimage to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
The Nov. 19 pilgrimage marks the 30th anniversary of the diocese’s first pilgrimage to the basilica, led by then Bishop, now Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, archbishop emeritus of Washington. It will be the diocese’s 11th journey to the site since it was founded in 1981 and its first lead by Bishop James F. Checchio, who was ordained and installed as the fifth shepherd of the diocese May 3.
Hundreds of clergy, religious and lay faithful from the counties served by the diocese – Middlesex, Hunterdon, Somerset and Warren – are expected to attend by bus, rail and car.
At the invitation of Bishop Checchio, the new Apostolic Nuncio, Pope Francis’ ambassador to the United States, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, will serve as the principal celebrant and homilist at Mass, which is scheduled to begin at 2:15 p.m.
A French native, who most recently served as apostolic nuncio to Mexico, Archbishop Pierre in April was appointed as the Holy See’s liaison to the U.S. by Pope Francis this year and began his work in the U.S. in mid-June. He succeeds Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, who had reached retirement age in January.
Bishop Checchio and priests from the diocese will concelebrate the Mass.
“What a joy and a privilege it will be to gather as a faith community at the largest Marian Shrine in the country to give thanks to God for the many gifts He has showered down upon the faithful here in Metuchen for the past 35 years,” the bishop said. “As grateful as we are, of course, we will carry lots of petitions in our hearts and present them through Mary’s intercession too, confident that God will hear us.”
Mary is honored at the Basilica as the Patroness of the United States. She is also the Patroness of the Diocese of Metuchen.
The bishop noted that the diocese’s anniversary comes, “As together we celebrate the final days of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy proclaimed by Pope Francis, which concludes Nov. 20.”
Pilgrimage highlights include the ability for individuals to tour the shrine and its chapels, receive the sacrament of reconciliation, engage in personal prayer and reflection, and enjoy a music prelude prior to the start of Mass. Pilgrims also will have an opportunity to enter through the Basilica’s Holy Door and receive the Holy Year Indulgence. Conditions for receiving the Indulgence are available at http://diometuchen.org/mercy.
With the pilgrimage date reserved a year in advance, excitement surrounding the pilgrimage has been building since an information session for parish pilgrimage coordinators was held Sept. 11 at the St. John Neumann Pastoral Center.
Parishes and schools in the diocese are organizing individual or shared buses to transport clergy, religious and parishioners to the shrine. Ample parking is available around the area of the shrine for those who drive; and the train is an excellent option for those who prefer rail service over highway travel.
“I am looking forward to my first diocesan pilgrimage as Bishop of Metuchen and I invite all the faithful to join me for this special occasion,” said Bishop Checchio. “I sincerely hope many of you can participate in this historic and grace-filled day in the life of the Church of Metuchen.”
For more information, contact your local Parish Pilgrimage Coordinator or Susan Kovach in the Chancery at (732) 562-2439 or firstname.lastname@example.org. To find a list of Parish Pilgrimage Coordinators, visit the diocesan website at http://diometuchen.org/pilgrimage. Follow the Diocese of Metuchen on Facebook [DioceseofMetuchen] and Twitter [@diocesemetuchen] for pilgrimage updates and coverage.
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