On March 19 Annunciation Catholic Church, a Capuchin-led parish in Denver, embarked on their annual pilgrimage to Mother Cabrini Shrine and the Shrine of St. Anne. The pilgrimage was part of the novena anticipating the Solemnity of the Annunciation on March 25.
Among the hundreds of pilgrims were three Capuchins: Fr. Francisco Ramirez, pastor; Br. Joseph Mary Elder and Br. Anthony Monahan, catechists and youth ministers.
Large crowds began gathering outside the main parish office as early as 7:30 am, feasting on pastries, jelly rolls, and steaming-hot coffee. By the 8:15 am departure time, hundreds of people were gathered around Fr. Francisco and Deacon Jim Blume to receive a blessing at the start of their journey.
Four large tour buses, as well as several vans and passenger cars were required to accommodate the large number of pilgrims. Among them were four high school Confirmation classes, the Amigos de Jesus youth group, members of the Jovenes Para Cristo young adult group, the Encuentro Matrimonial, the Hombres de Nazaret men's group, several of the parish choir teams, and many, many more.
First stop was Cabrini Shrine in Golden, Colorado. The vast crowd of pilgrims formed a steady stream as they persevered up the steep climb of 373 steps. Reaching the top they were greeted by the crisp air of a bright blue morning as they huddled together to pray in the long shadow of the 22-foot statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
At 10:00 am the Spanish-speaking parishioners gathered together in the small chapel to recite the Rosary. The English-speakers followed directly afterward. By 11:15 am, the large crowds were on the road, bound for the Shrine of St. Anne in Arvada, Colorado.
At the shrine, the pilgrims celebrated a noontime, bilingual Mass. During his homily, Fr. Francisco reminded the parishioners that as pilgrims they come together to pray with their voices in song, to pray with their feet as they journey along the way, and they pray with their laughter as they celebrate their fellowship of faith. In addition, Father thanked the Shrine of St. Anne and their pastor, Fr. Piotr Mozdyniewics for their generous financial support over the years. Without such a generous tithe, said Deacon Jim, Annunciation parish simply could not get by.
Following the Mass, a long line gathered at the entrance to the cafeteria where the Jovenes Para Cristo group was waiting with hot burritos, pan dulce (sweet bread), and bottled water. As the hungry crowd of pilgrims packed the cafeteria, the Matachinas (native Mexican dancers) began their rhythmic march. As the meal came to a conclusion, Fr. Francisco again thanked Fr. Piotr and the people of St. Anne's for their generous support. As a token of appreciation, members of the youth group brought forth a banner signed by members of the parish thanking St. Anne's for their generous charity. Deacon Jim brought the meal to an end by leading the choir in a rendition of Las Mananitas (Happy Birthday) for Br. Joseph Mary who was celebrating his 34th
The pilgrims returned to their home parish of Annunciation around 3:00 pm, tired and foot-sore, but filled with the peaceful satisfaction that is the fruit of a shared experience of faith.
It was only fitting that three Capuchins should have taken part in the pilgrimage. The day's journey was marked with a uniquely Capuchin feel - the journeying and climbing recalling the Capuchin emphasis on itinerancy; the communal Rosary, shared meals, and holy Mass all marks of Franciscan brotherhood; and the easy laughs, simple pleasures and shared joys, each at the heart of the Capuchin charism of joyful simplicity.
Photos of the pilgrimage online