Philippines: Baclaran Church Holds its First-Ever Pilgrimage Season

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DEVOTEE-MISSIONARIES: PILGRIMS OF COURAGEOUS HOPE

Last year, 2023, the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first Novena in Baclaran Church. In remembering the 75 years of rich devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help that started with only 70 people in attendance, we do not just celebrate the gift of faith entrusted to us Filipinos; more importantly, we look forward to a more meaningful and dynamic expression of this God-given devotion. 

In 2025, the Church will celebrate the Jubilee Year of Hope, as declared by the Holy Father Pope Francis, with the theme “Pilgrims of Hope.” In his letter promoting the Jubilee Year, Pope Francis emphasized how this year of special favor can contribute to the restoration of a climate of hope and trust amidst the suffering world.

With these two interweaving contexts, the National Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help launched the Pilgrimage Season on May 13, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, and culminated on June 27, the Feast of Our Mother of Perpetual Help.

As a fitting start of the Pilgrimage Season, the Redemptorist Baclaran community decided to bring down from the high altar the venerated Icon of OMPH in Baclaran. It was only the fourth time that this Icon had been brought down from the high altar. The first was during World War II in the 1940s for safekeeping. The second was in 1992 for the restoration of the Icon. The third was on September 5, 2019, for the renovation of the high altar. In these three instances, the Icon was brought down because it needed to be removed from the altar. The fourth instance of its descent was motivated not by a need to be restored or kept safe but by a discerned want for her to be closer to her children. The Pilgrimage Season was an appropriate time. 

For forty-five days, the Shrine welcomed devotees and pilgrims from all over the Philippines — from parishes to shrines, whether individuals or groups — they all came to honor and venerate Mama Mary while bringing their prayers of petition and thanksgiving. Hundreds of thousands came, especially during the Feast Day celebration, culminating the inaugural Pilgrimage Season. 

Almost seventy-six years since the first novena was prayed in Baclaran Shrine, the devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines has flourished beyond imagination. But this should not be a reason to be complacent in simply maintaining our devotion. Just like the mandate of Jesus before leaving his disciples to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole world,” which should not be taken lightly, the mission to “Make her Known so that Jesus be made more known” must constantly be renewed. 

The Pilgrimage Season was a special time to be intimate with Mary and Jesus while continuously striving to live out the Debo-Misyon Spirituality in the Shrine, a spirituality that calls us to transcend devotion through our missionary response while allowing our missionary actions to deepen our faith and love. 

As “Pueblo Amante de Maria” (people in love with Mary), our devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help should constantly challenge us to go beyond the ordinary norms of our devotion. The meaningful Pilgrimage Season and Fiesta Celebration is our effort for a renewed expression of devotion, mindful that, in the greater scheme of things, our life is an endless pilgrimage of faith and mission. 

Rico John Bilangel, C.Ss.R.
Superior and Rector of the Shrine.


Photos: Baclaran Church Social Communication and Media Ministry