The village of Walsingham, four miles inland from Wells on the north coast of Norfolk,was revived as a place of pilgrimage in honour of Our Lady during the 20th century. Its story began in 1061 when a noble lady called Richeldis experienced a vision in which she was asked to build a replica, in England, of the Holy House in Nazareth. The shrine was a major pilgrimage centre in medieval times until its closure and near-destruction at the Reformation. The old Slipper Chapel outside the village was rescued in the late 19th Century by Charlotte Boyd who presented it to Downside Abbey; the monks subsequently handed it into the care of Northampton Diocese. It was proclaimed the National Shrine of Our Lady in 1934 and the annual "Student Cross" pilgrimages began in 1948. Walsingham was in our Diocese until 1976 when the Diocese of East Anglia was separated off. In 1981 a larger chapel was built nearby for the use of increasing numbers of pilgrims, and in 2006 the little Catholic church in the village itself was rebuilt.
As well as hosting numerous pilgrimages for Dioceses,Orders, Societies and language-groups, Walsingham is the venue for two major camping conferences, New Dawn and Youth 2000, both in August.
Walsingham remains an almost-unspoilt rural village of great peace and beauty, with an emphasis on religion which is highly unusual in the UK, and is well worth a trip even if you are not part of an organised pilgrimage.
The 2018 Pilgrimage was on Saturday 9th June.
Here is a report from Marguerite Cook - many thanks for sending it so promptly !
"On Saturday 9th June 2018 the Northampton Diocesan Pilgrimage to the shrine of Our Lady Walsingham was led by Bishop Peter. The title of this years pilgrimage was, " Woman who followed Him" (a line from the Walsingham Litany)
Bishop Peter had, the day before, celebrated 50 years as a priest, so this was a very special weekend. A large number of parishioners from the Diocese of Northampton flocked to Walsingham by coach and car, to give honour to Our Lady, on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.A lovely Mass was said by Bishop Peter, and his fellow priests, at midday in the Chapel of Reconciliation. The Chapel was packed with parishioners, with many having to use the seating in the outside space. I
In the afternoon at 3 pm; the pilgrims walked along the processional route. The statue of Our Lady of Walsingham, adorned with beautiful flowers, was carried at the head of the procession leading the way to the Priory Grounds. Along the route the rosary was said, and hymns to Our Lady were sung.
The Priory Grounds is the site of the 11th century Anglo-Saxon shrine of the Holy House of Nazareth.
Walsingham is a place of prayer, and a special service was said by Bishop Peter close to the remains of the imposing ruin of the Priory arch in the Priory Grounds; and so a wonderful day concluded."
As the time for each year's pilgrimage draws near, watch out for posters and announcements, and enquire within your own parish first to see if there is an organised trip. For other enquiries, e-mail Deacon Michael Fleming at St Gregory's, Northampton, or ring their parish office 01604 713015 to be put in touch with him.
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The 2017 Pilgrimage took place on 10th June. Here is the Report from the August Vine.
"It felt like a gathering of old friends. Despite a three hour coach journey for many of them they settled into the annual routine.
But the routine is changing. The Slipper Chapel site is developing. The car park has been banished across the road and the site has become the coach park, with a smart new amenities block. There are numerous illustrations and diagrams showing the history and spirituality of the shrine.
Even the pilgrimage programme has been turned topsy-turvey. The pilgrimage began with Mass at noon, allowing time for lunch and then the procession to the priory in the village.
Tradition still had its place, though. The Angelus was recited before Mass began, and the Knights of St. Columba were still directing the crowds.
The Chapel of Reconciliation was full and a fortunate few knelt in the sunshine outside.
‘It's wonderful to welcome so many from the diocese and elsewhere’, said Bishop Peter. ‘We seek Mary’s prayers for the church and the world. We pray for an increase in vocations, and that parishioners may respond faithfully to the changes that must be made’.
In his sermon the bishop reminded everyone that its our mission to be vehicles of God’s love, especially to those we find difficult.
‘During our pilgrimage walk we shall recite the joyful mysteries of the rosary. We live in a beautiful but fallen world. Mary gave birth to one who has conquered death and sin. We are a people of hope. We
ask Mary to help us to see what God wants of us. As Pope Francis reminds us: we accompany one another’.
The Mass came to its traditional conclusion. Bishop Peter was presented with a gift. If the pilgrimage doesn’t take place during the weekend of Father’s Day, the gift becomes a little something to mark his ordination anniversary.
He let slip that Walsingham day next year will be his golden jubilee.
The pilgrim walk ended with prayer in the priory grounds. Then all the options were open; relaxing in the sun, quiet sight-seeing, shopping or a trip to the seaside nearby, with the inevitable fish and chips."
A recording of the live-streamed Mass can be viewed here, though the quality leaves a little to be desired (as the Shrine is well aware). More photos are on the Diocese Facebook page and on the Flickr site.
Some of Peter Frost's 2016 photos are below