Dominicans Call Catholics Nationwide to Join Rosary Pilgrimage

From your own home, or wherever you are, you can easily participate in the national Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage that can bring great graces to you, to others and to this nation.

Father John Paul Kern (l) and another Dominican friar walk with three New York University students.
Father John Paul Kern (l) and another Dominican friar walk with three New York University students. (photo: Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph)

It’s never too late to start praying the Rosary — or in this case to join the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, which is a national event, from home or wherever you are. This spiritual journey is quite simple and definitely necessary in this day and age.

The pilgrimage continues until Sept. 30 — the vigil of Rosary Sunday — when a full-day event will take place at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC.

Dominican Father John Paul Kern, executive director of the Dominican Friars Foundation and spokesperson for the Dominican Rosary Pilgrimage, spoke to the Register about this event.


Why this Rosary Pilgrimage?

Our Lady asked us to pray the Rosary with great frequency, including at Fatima. She specifically asked for people to pray the Rosary daily, and also for people not only to pray on their own, but for people to come together to pray the Rosary.

The Dominicans in France organize an annual Rosary pilgrimage to Lourdes as one beautiful way where they help everyone in their country come together to pray the Rosary. We [Dominicans of the St. Joseph Province] were inspired by that and said, this would be a Rosary event to have in the United States as well. And what better time than to do this on Rosary Sunday?

So our event is actually going to be on the vigil of Rosary Sunday to kick off October, the month of the Rosary. Just as the Dominicans have in France, we said, Well, part of the mission that we’ve been given to do by God is to promote the Rosary. So let’s host a Dominican Rosary pilgrimage here in the United States at Our Lady’s national shrine in Washington, DC, to bring the Church together to pray the Rosary together on the month of the Rosary.


How are people responding?

A lot of people are excited. They know the Dominicans have a long tradition with the Rosary. And we’re also recognized for preaching faithfully the fullness of the gospel. It seemed to really resonate with people — they responded strongly. One woman in New England had mentioned that her husband hadn’t been practicing the faith. She had picked up some Rosary pilgrimage, prayer cards from her parish, and they started to pray together every evening. And he was really touched by this and is coming back to fully and faithfully practicing his faith. That was one grace that we had heard of.

We also heard from a gentleman in Texas who is in prison and had been connected to our Rosary Confraternity. He had heard about this Dominican Rosary pilgrimage, and was really excited to participate spiritually as he is able to from there. He wrote to the Basilica of the National Shrine asking for us to send him some Dominican Rosary prayer cards for him and to invite other people in prison in Texas to pray along with us, united in prayer for this. So we’ve seen some graces at work. We’ve seen a broad range of responses from both friends that we knew would be excited as well as other people who have really responded very energetically.


Because the novena has already started Jan. 30, with the novena prayer said on the 30th of each month, people might ask if they can still join in the middle of this novena and how does this affect their participation. Can they still join?

Yes, absolutely. People can begin in the middle of the novena. We’ve been posting monthly videos on the date that we pray the novena. We’ll be praying the novena prayer and also giving a short reflection on some aspect of the Rosary [posted on video that day]. For people who sign up, we also email them so they can participate on the way.

We absolutely invite people to join us in this novena, kind of like a pilgrimage. One of the very famous examples is the Camino over in Spain and France. You have the destination, Santiago de Compostela. But you have all these different routes where people can join in on the way. We have some routes that start very far away. Then other pilgrims join in at another point.

That’s like this nine-month novena, where some people were starting all the way back in January. As word got out, more and more people have come in. So we’re inviting people to join in this part of the pilgrimage, praying along with us as we prepare for all coming together on Sept. 30, in Washington, DC, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

[This novena includes praying the novena prayer on the 30th of each month from Jan. 30 to Sept. 30, 2023. People can pray the novena prayer more frequently during the month instead of only one time on the 30th — and to pray five decades of the Rosary together with the novena prayer.]


Why Rosary Sunday? Not everyone is familiar with the term “Rosary Sunday.”

Traditionally, the first Sunday in October, the month of the Rosary, is designated as Rosary Sunday. That’s just a traditional time that we’ve emphasized the Rosary in the calendar of the Church. So we wanted to have a full-day event for this. Saturday ended up working out well. We could have a full-day event and then it culminates with the Vigil Mass, which is that very first Mass of Rosary Sunday.


What are some things planned for that day?

It’s a full-day event that includes everything that you would want to have on a pilgrimage. There’ll be a couple of preached conferences on the Rosary with time in between for people to reflect. We’ll be offering confessions and Eucharistic Adoration during that midday period. People are also welcome to go tour the shrine to visit some of the different beautiful chapels devoted to Our Lady as she has appeared in different apparitions. In the midafternoon, Father Lawrence Lew, who is the Rosary promoter for the entire Dominican Order worldwide is going to talk about the Rosary Confraternity, which is a beautiful Confraternity that the Dominicans run, and which unites spiritually hundreds of thousands of Catholics throughout the world who are devoted to praying the Rosary daily together.

Then, of course, we will pray the Rosary together. St. Louis De Montfort beautifully says we are drawn to Jesus through Mary. After the Rosary we close the day by celebrating the Mass together in the upper church and sharing the Eucharist, which is really what Mary wants to draw us to — to her Son.


What do you hope this will accomplish, and what you would like to see result from this?

I’m hoping that this is going to be really energizing and nourish the faith of everyone that comes together, and specifically, Marian devotion to the Rosary.

I see this in a certain sense as a very important, complementary part of our faith life that fits in well with the U.S. bishops leading us in a Eucharistic revival right now. During a time when the Church was facing many challenges, Don Bosco had this vision of the pope guiding a ship, which he understood to be the Church, through rough waters which were the challenges the Church was facing, between two pillars. On one pillar was the Eucharist. And on the other pillar was Our Lady. And so these things go together.

Our Lady loves Jesus and loves the Eucharist more than any of us. So we’re really hoping that Our Lady draws us closer to her Son. The mysteries of the Rosary is the gospel presented to us in a very accessible way that prepares our hearts and nourishes our faith in Christ, so that we can really receive him well in the Eucharist and receive all those graces that he wants to give us.

Our Lady, of course, is best in leading us to her Son. Our Lady gives us the Rosary as this very accessible way of receiving the gospel and coming to know and love who her Son is.

We’re hoping that this effort really increases our Marian devotion and through this also really helps to open up the heart and soul of the Church in the United States to also be able to receive all the graces that God wants to give us, including the graces that he’s pouring out through the Eucharistic revival going on right now.


How can people get more information and get the prayer card for the novena?

We encourage people to go to RosaryPilgrimage.org, our website for this event. If they sign up and put in their email, we will send them both electronic versions of this prayer card, If they put in their address, we’ll mail them prayer cards. [A pastor of a parish and anyone leading a ministry can get a box of 100-1,000 Dominican Rosary pilgrimage prayer cards to share.


People who cannot travel to Washington for the final Sept. 30 event can take part also because it will be livestreamed. Stay tuned to RosaryPilgrimage.org for further information.

This full-day event is hosted by the Dominican Friars of the Province of St. Joseph, local charters of the Confraternity of the Most Holy Rosary, and Dominicans nationwide.

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