Annual Marian Day
On May 1, 1966, the chapel of Mary Help of Christians in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., was dedicated in the presence of a large crowd of Salesian pilgrims from East and West, North and South: SDBs, FMAs, aspirants, students, parents, parishioners, friends and supporters of the Salesians, a cardinal (Raul Silva, SDB), and several bishops.
|Salesian Family pilgrims after Mass at the National Shrine on May 22|
Marian Day is usually celebrated on the Saturday closest to May 24, solemnity of Mary Help of Christians.
|Fr. Tim Zak offering grace before the pilgrims' dinner at the JPII Center on May 21|
A good number of pilgrims had much shorter trips: some parishioners from Nativity Church in the District—who very much miss their former Salesian priests and brothers; students, alumni, and staff from Don Bosco Cristo Rey; and Salesian Cooperators from Washington’s fledgling unit.
Dinner, Eucharistic adoration, and Reconciliation
Altogether, some 101 Salesian Family members came to the St. John Paul II Center on Saturday evening to enjoy a catered buffet dinner and each other’s company—with a minimum of speech-making (no one complained about that!). There were representatives from the SDBs, FMAs, Cooperators, ADMA, Volunteers with Don Bosco (a male secular institute), the Salesian Youth Movement, alumni, and parishioners, and besides Canada and the D.C. area, they came also from New York, New Jersey, and even Mexico.
|Some of the Salesian Cooperators at dinner: Jim & Paula Dolan,|
Bro. Wilgintz Polynice, SDB, Salvador & Ana Alvarado,
Sofia Alvarado, Erin Panken, & Fatima Alvarado
The service included exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, personal testimony, Scripture, public and private prayer, songs of praise, the opportunity for the sacrament of Reconciliation (five confessors on hand were kept busy), and benediction.
Cooperator Theresa Notare from D.C. found the service “inspiring and nourishing.” The pilgrims from Etobicoke liked its “good mix of quiet, readings, and praise music.”
Mass of the Holy Trinity with a Marian flavor
Sunday brought gray skies, intermittent rain showers, and a couple of hundred additional Salesian pilgrims. The prominence of umbrellas sheltering the crowd in front of the Basilica’s main doors were suggestive of those at Don Bosco’s canonization celebration in Turin in 1934—but much more colorful!
At 11:30 a.m. Fr. Tim Zak, vice provincial, and members of the Salesian Family Commission led a brief prayer to celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy, and then the pilgrims processed into the Basilica’s vestibule, through the Holy Door, and into the nave of the church. There was some time to be awed by the majestic mosaics and admire the other art, and to bemoan the canvas and scaffolding at the west transept—the necessities for the great upper church’s last construction project, viz., the mosaic work of the Trinity Dome over the head of the nave. The Basilica’s staff graciously made an opening in the works so that the pilgrims could access the altar of Mary Help of Christians on this special day.
|Fr. Tim Zak (at left) presiding at Mass in the National Shrine,|
while Bro. Tom Sweeney does the 1st reading (in pulpit)
The estimated 300 Salesian pilgrims were seated close to the sanctuary on both sides of the center aisle, and an ample congregation joined them in celebrating the Trinity and the Help of Christians.
At the end of the Eucharistic celebration, the celebrants and ministers processed into the narrow space in the chapel of Mary Help of Christians, where Fr. Tim led the entire congregation in a prayer of entrustment to Mary.As the celebrants returned to the sacristy, most of the rest of the Salesian Family participants, with the assistance of the Shrine’s director of liturgy, gathered on the steps leading into the sanctuary for a group photo. Their happiness with the day’s celebration and their own fellowship inspired by Don Bosco under Mary’s maternal care was evident.
For the rest of the day the pilgrims were invited to repair to the Shrine cafeteria for lunch, then to tour the upper and lower churches of the Basilica or the nearby St. John Paul II Center. The Shrine’s gift shop and bookstore also had numerous visitors.