Medjugorje Pilgrimage 2015
‘Mary Queen of Peace School of Prayer’
by Fr Jeffrey Dodds
Each year, Medjugorje North East organises a pilgrimage to a Marian Shrine that has become one of the most popular places to visit in Europe. On Wednesday 20th May, nearly fifty pilgrims from our diocese travelled to Medjugorje together with four priests as their guides – Father Martin Morris, Fr Michael Corbett, Fr Michael Whalen and Fr Jeff Dodds. We were to spend a week experiencing what it means to be Church with thousands of other fellow pilgrims from all over the world.
The town of Medjugorje is a town located in the Herzegovina region of Bosnia and Herzegovina, around 16 miles southwest of Mostar and close to the border of Croatia. On the 24th June 1981, Mary Mother of God, was reported to have appeared to six local children with a message of peace to the world. Our Lady of Medjugorje continues today to offer messages to some of the visionaries, inviting us to stay strong in loving prayer, the celebration of the Sacraments and faith in God. Mary reminds each one of us – ‘I have come to tell the world that God exists and that He loves you.’ As a pilgrim to Medjugorje, you soon realise that this shrine is a ‘School of Prayer’, where you learn to pray with the heart. For some people this is an amazing experience that is often life transforming. There is a joyfulness of spirit as you enter the daily programme of events under the guidance of the Franciscan priests and brothers who run the local parish. Each year an estimated one million people visit this place of pilgrimage.
During our groups stay in Medjugorje we were blessed to lead the parish morning Mass on the Thursday in St James’ Church. Fr Martin Morris was the main celebrant and reminded the full church that they had been called to this place not by chance, but by Mary Mother of God. The music during the Mass is always inspiring and helps to lift heart and mind to God. The Taize style chants with violins and flutes create a deep prayerful atmosphere. Pilgrim talks during the week by Jakov and Vicka were a highlight in reminding us about the reality of God’s mercy and the need for the Church to guide us along the pathway to heaven. The importance of supporting vocations to the priesthood and religious life was explained. We were encouraged to return home and make our families and parishes places where all vocations could grow and mature.