A screen capture of Pilgrimages to Our Lady featuring a photo of the revered Salus Populi Romani (Latin for Salvation of the Roman People) icon located at the the Major Papal basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, with an inset photo of the family leading the praying of the Rosary.

Amid the continued strict quarantine restrictions to combat the spread of Covid-19, a lay group launched an online pilgrimage to pray for an end to the pandemic.

Called Pilgrimages to Our Lady, the online pilgrimage, was launched on May 24, 2020 to commemorate the feast of Mary, Help of Christians.  It recently celebrated its first year anniversary with the simultaneous online praying of the Rosary in line with Pope Francis’ plea to pray the Rosary daily in May for the end of the pandemic.

Pilgrimages to Our Lady live-streams via Facebook a pre-recorded Marian pilgrimage every first Saturday of the month at 5PM, Philippine Standard Time (UTC+8). This premiered during the pandemic to allow what many Catholic families would traditionally do during the month of May: a pilgrimage to a shrine or church dedicated to the Blessed Mother.

The idea of developing an online platform for pilgrimages was developed by DM and Noemi Marasigan’s family during one of their meals together.

The project has a core of 22 families who contributed the audio recordings of their families praying their assigned portions of the Rosary accompanied by a high-resolution of their family photo. Hundreds ended up watching and praying the Holy Rosary during the Saturday live streams.

The Marasigan family during a recording session.

All four mysteries of the Holy Rosary (Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious) are prayed during these virtual pilgrimages. Each mystery features a Marian shrine and a short narration of its history and other relevant information, along with images of the place. Marian shrines and basilicas from Asia, Europe and the Americas are featured.

The participating families and viewers have given positive feedback on the cultural inputs and the images.  Some are planning to visit those shrines when the pandemic is over.

The Marasigan couple said they are pleased that the online pilgrimage has touched the lives of the participants in one way or the other.

Some participants said the pilgrimage gave them some time to ‘pause’, “especially during this time of uncertainty, and an opportunity to reflect as a family as well.”

“We were thrilled at how many families can come together from around the world at once to pray,” read one comment.

 “It has helped our children realize that there are also many families like us who pray the Rosary to keep their family together,” another comment read.

Others said the pilgrimage gave them the opportunity to join other families to pray the Rosary online and show their children that “we are part of a bigger family.”

“And that what we do as a family is what other families do.”

Last October 2020, the month of the Holy Rosary, Parañaque Bishop Jesse Mercado, Antipolo Bishop Francisco de Leon, Opus Dei Regional Vicar Msgr. Carlos Estrada, and Fr. Roque Reyes, chaplain in the University of Asia and the Pacific, joined the virtual pilgrimage. Each gave a short reflection of the mysteries of the Rosary, relating them to the four popular Marian shrines that were featured that day: Lourdes, Guadalupe, Fatima and Torreciudad.

The organizers said the pilgrimage is a “moving experience” seeing how members of the same family living in different places or countries work out a plan to enable them to pray together despite physical separation and technological challenges.

“This is a very nice bonding activity for the family,” a participant commented.

One thing that participants have appreciated the most in the Pilgrimages to Our Lady was the communion of saints being brought to life.

During the live stream on Facebook, online participants often post their special intentions and ask other participants to pray for them. Most of the prayer requests are for the protection of their families from the pandemic, healing of loved ones, the eternal repose of their beloved departed, and thanksgiving for God’s blessings.

In the words of one of the participants: “Our family, most especially our children, are inspired to pray the rosary, seeing other families praying the rosary with them.”

Those who wish their family or others to lead the recitation of the Rosary may send an email request to pilgrimagestoourlady@gmail.com. –   Rommel F. Lopez