Despite the Feast of the Assumption's falling in the middle of the week, the pilgrims still arrived in great numbers for the candlelight Rosary Procession and the Vigil Mass in Shrine Park. The crowds grew hour by hour on Tuesday, and by 9 pm people filled the streets and followed the float carrying the statue of Our Lady of Consolation to the park.
Bishop Leonard Blair of Toledo led the recitation of the Rosary and presided at the Mass. Once again, he was accompanied by many of the Diocese of Toledo's seminarians.
After the Mass, the celebration continued in the campground adjacent to Shrine Park. With music, dancing, fellowship, and food, the pilgrims, many of whom are Chaldean Catholics with roots in Iraq, welcomed the Conventual Franciscan Friars who have been serving during the Novena.
The celebration ends today with Masses being celebrated in different rites and several languages and pilgrims from across the region still arriving to take part.
Fr. Tom Orians, S.A., and the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation go back a long way. Born in Carey, Ohio, Fr. Tom and his family were parishioners until they moved to Tiffin when he was nine years old.
"I had my baptism, first communion, and confirmation all right here in this church," he said. "On the baptism rolls I'm only six or seven lines below Marlo Thomas. Although her real last name was Jacobs. But Danny Thomas and his family used to come to the Pilgrimage here every year."
As did Fr. Tom and his family, even after moving a few towns away. Now Fr. Tom is an Atonement Friar, a member of the Society of the Atonement, based at Graymoor in Garrison, New York, and this is his 18th consecutive year serving at the Pilgrimage as a priest.
But this year is even more special for Fr. Tom. He is preaching the annual Novena leading to the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. Each night he has taken the prayer to the Blessed Mother and expanded on it, reaching deeper into the various roles Mary plays in the Church and in our lives.
"Our Lady of Consolation, Queen of Peace, Queen of Heaven — I take each one and examine it, what it means for us and our relationship to her and to God," he said. "It's a tremendous honor in so many ways to preach the Novena. I've been coming here so long. But the Friars felt I had something to say, a message to share. I treasure that greatly."
And the pilgrims continue to inspire Fr. Tom.
"The tremendous faith of the pilgrims is unbelievable," he said. "That's another thing I'm trying to get across each evening. Here in this "Year of Faith" the real level of faith of the pilgrims is a gift for us who serve them and for the Church."
And preparing for the Novena has given Fr. Tom a chance to examine his own view of Mary.
"It has deepened my understanding of her and how important her role is in building up the faith of people," he said. "There's no better mother. It has made me understand how much her "Yes" meant to her, and how much it cost her. Everything you can go through, she went through.
"Her life, her role in the life of Christ, is an inspiration for us, if we want to accept it."
Keep checking back for the latest information, including pictures and quotes from the pilgrims, and from the Conventual Franciscan Friars who have gathered here from around the country.
The following video shows some of the highlights from the 2012 pilgrimage.
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