First annual Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage draws thousands to national shrine

The Dominican Schola Cantorum, led by Dominican Father Michael O'Connor, sing during the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Sept. 30, 2023. (OSV News photo/courtesy George Goss)

WASHINGTON (OSV News) — Over 3,000 pilgrims from across the United States filled the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington Sept. 30, drawn by a shared love of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the rosary. The first annual Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage included a day of preaching, confessions and music, culminating in a chanted rosary procession and the celebration of Mass.

Nine months ago, when the Dominican friars of the Province of St. Joseph first issued an invitation to “unite … to confidently seek the intercession of Our Lady,” American Catholics responded in force. Pilgrims of all ages and cultures filled the largest Roman Catholic church in North America to standing room only, and even more joined virtually via its livestream.

One man decided to trek from Providence College in Rhode Island to Washington — on foot.

“I’d walked the Camino (de Santiago) last summer, and thought if I could do that, why not walk the 600-plus miles to Our Lady’s shrine?” said Glenn Dupont, a lay Dominican. During his 34-day trek, Dupont met a variety of people, adding each person’s prayer intentions to the list he carried on his phone.

“We need a Marian renewal,” Dupont told OSV News. “My personal apostolate is to promote the rosary, to do whatever Our Lady wants from me.”

Dupont was one of many who made a long journey to the national shrine. Rodrigo and Marie Hinke of Sugar Land, Texas, attended the event with their two sons, 3-year-old Rafael and Anthony, 15 months. Their favorite part of the day was the newly composed Dominican Rosary Litany by Dominican Father Michael O’Connor.

“The chanted rosary was pretty epic,” said Marie Hinke, who usually puts the boys to sleep by praying the rosary. “We weren’t sure what to expect when we heard they’d written a new setting, but it was absolutely beautiful.”

Thom Addington traveled to the event from Loyola University of New Orleans. Addington, who is currently enrolled in the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults, was led to the church through discovering the rosary.

“I found my great-grandmother’s rosary beads in the attic a few years ago,” Addington said. “I felt drawn to learn more, so I read St. Louis de Montfort on the rosary. I was raised Southern Baptist, but I ended up at a bunch of different churches — I just recognized this great need in my life that nothing else would fill.”

He started to pray the rosary, and it wasn’t long before he found himself in a Catholic church and talking with a Dominican priest.

“I came to this pilgrimage because I love the rosary,” Addington said, a sentiment echoed by many attendees.

After deciding just a week beforehand to attend, Kyle Myers packed his car and set out from Los Angeles. Asked why he drove instead of flying, Myers explained that “if I was going to go, I wanted to experience a true pilgrimage. I wanted it to be a real journey, and I wanted to make an act of penance.”

Also in OCIA, Myers — a former atheist — read his way to the faith through the writings of Søren Kierkegaard, St. Augustine and the church fathers, and has attended around nine Thomistic Institute retreats. He credits the rosary with getting him through his travels to the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage.

“The first two days were fine, but by the third day I started wondering what I’d been thinking. I stayed with the Fathers of Mercy in Auburn, Kentucky, and prayed the rosary with them before setting out,” he said. “But I didn’t have anywhere to stay when I got to D.C., because the Thomistic Institute retreat was full.”

Myers kept driving, stopping at the Dominican-served parish of St. Louis Bertrand in Louisville, Kentucky, where he walked in to find another rosary being prayed.

“I thought, ‘I’ve already prayed one, do I really need to pray another?’ But I did, and it was the most intense prayer experience I’ve ever had,” he said.

Shortly after, Myers got a call that a place had opened up for him on the retreat, a concurrent event for students held at the Dominican House of Studies across the street from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the adjacent campus of The Catholic University of America.

But by the end of that day, after 14 hours of driving, Myers found himself exhausted and anxious driving through the mountains of West Virginia in pouring rain.

“I grabbed my beads and held them on the steering wheel, and I started praying a third rosary, almost shouting over the rain. I mean, I was loud,” he said. “When I finished, I was absolutely flooded with peace. I knew Our Lady had me.”

Lay pilgrims were joined by more than 80 Dominican friars and over 50 religious sisters from communities across the U.S. Dominican Father Patrick Mary Briscoe helped plan the pilgrimage and served as master of ceremonies for the day.

“I was completely overwhelmed by the joy and enthusiasm demonstrated by pilgrims,” said Father Briscoe, who also serves as editor of Our Sunday Visitor, the weekly national Catholic newspaper that shares OSV News’ parent company, OSV. “One of the best parts of the day was the demand for confessors. Many, many people sought access to the sacraments. The praying of the rosary, which included the newly composed Dominican Rosary Litany, was another highlight. Pilgrims were evidently moved by the experience.”

The graces of the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage are not a one-time occurance, Father Briscoe said. He noted that next year’s pilgrimage is scheduled for Sept. 28, 2024.

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