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3,000 Catholic pilgrims from LI pray, commune at D.C. basilica

Diocese of Rockville Center at The Basilica of

Diocese of Rockville Center at The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. Bishop William Murphy greets parishioners from Long Island on the steps of the Basilica. Photo Credit: Charlie Archambalt

Bishop William Murphy and more than 3,000 faithful Roman Catholics from Long Island converged in prayer and communion at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on Saturday — the largest such pilgrimage from the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

It also drew the greatest number of high school students ever to attend the diocesan pilgrimage to the nation’s capital.

Murphy said the day’s gospel, the story of the good Samaritan, is one that Catholics can use as a modern guide to help them live out the example of what it is to be a good person of faith, but even more importantly, to be a good human. “In the story of the good Samaritan, the scholar asks, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ But the answer is for whom can you be a neighbor?” And, Murphy explained, this story really gets to the heart of what Pope Francis is asking.

The pilgrims, and Catholics around the world, are celebrating an “Extraordinary Jubilee” that began in December and will continue until Nov. 20. Jubilees are holy years, usually celebrated every 25 years in the church. Pope Francis called this year out of the usual schedule to emphasize the need for Catholics to reflect upon mercy and also for the lives of the faithful to illustrate that the love they feel for their God can be shared with their fellow humans.

For seminary student John Crozier of St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, which serves the Rockville Centre diocese, the pope’s instruction means a more deliberate way of living and being with others.

“Pope Francis’ book is called ‘The Name of God is Mercy,’ ” he said. . . . “[The book encourages that] I try to help people to understand what it is to be more fully human. In our daily lives we can bring a sense of mercy to every situation.”

The Rev. Joseph Fitzgerald, the diocese’s director of vocations, said the heart of the matter is that the pope asks for something that should actually remind people about how to live and treat others.

“This is not a new message,” he said. “But it’s a message that calls for mercy to be tangible in actions. In the house. In the world. We can go into the world and volunteer — give of ourselves — so that we can make life better. When we do these things, volunteer, consider people with physical issues and mental health issues, when we visit the sick, Jesus becomes flesh in us.”

At least one pair of siblings celebrated the pilgrimage.

Freshman Kryston Whyte, 14, attends Kellenberg Memorial High School in Uniondale. He said he answers the call to live his faith daily. “As a follower of Christ, I ask the saints to intercede. Or I express my faith through song or prayer or worship.”

Senior Keon Whyte, 17, says his faith is what gives him direction. “My faith is a compass that guides me. And as I can go in the direction of God, I trust that the pope will lead me and lead others up to God.”

Cindy Sanchez brought her daughter, Vanessa, 14, to the basilica because she said her faith helps her share her love of God with her child. “It’s so important that I teach her what I was taught and that we try to live a good life. A life in Christ.”

Murphy reminded believers that the call to be merciful and to think about how to bring that idea into one’s daily life is possible in relationships of every level. “We have to thank the pope for this inspiration! For we who have received so much, we must be merciful. Families fight, but they get over it. We have to forgive one another. And it spans from family to community to the state and even for the entire nation to embrace.”

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