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Washington: IACA hosts 20th annual pilgrimage to Vailankanni

News: Brian D'Souza
Pics: Ravi Raja (

Washington, Sep 16: The Indian American Catholic Association (IACA) hosted a beautiful and memorable 20th anniversary pilgrimage to Our Mother of Good Health Vailankanni at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington DC on September 9. It was a sunny and pleasant day in the metropolis, a perfect setting for pilgrimage at the magnificent Basilica. In attendance were pilgrims from the Washington DC area and other US cities including New York, Dallas, Chicago and Philadelphia, seeking peace and solace.

The pilgrimage started with prayers and rosary in the crypt church, followed by a procession of the faithful with devotional singing and prayers to the upper church. Many South Asian Catholic communities came together in a solemn and yet magnanimous procession, with pilgrims wearing colorful and traditional attire. The statue of Mother Mary was adorned in beautiful Indian saree. The procession entered the main sanctuary with small children from the Bangladesh community performing a devotional liturgical dance.

In his welcome address, Msgr Walter Rossi, rector of the shrine, introduced the eminent guests of honor and explained the significance of annual pilgrimages. He mentioned that ‘Mother of Good Health Vailankanni’ oratory in the crypt church since its establishment in 1997 was one of the most visited chapels in the shrine.

The Holy Eucharist was presided over by Fr Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay (Mumbai), India, and one of the eight advisors to our Holy Father Pope Francis. The Holy Eucharist was concelebrated by Fr Leo Cornelio, Archbishop of Bhopal, India and Fr P Thomas Paulsamy, Bishop of Dindigul, Tamil Nadu, India. In attendance were priests from the Basilica and other churches in the DC metro region. Since IACA represents different cultures from the Indian subcontinent, the Prayers of the Faithful were recited in multiple languagessuch as Hindi, Marathi, Tamil, Konkani, Malayalam, Bangla, Sinhalese, Burmese, Urdu and English.

Fr Oswald Cardinal Gracias delivered an inspiring homily. He highlighted the importance of prayer, service and dialogue. He spoke about the importance of intercession through Mother Mary and shared examples of how Mother Mary answered prayers of the faithful. He commended the members of the association for coming together, their contributionsto the society and highlighted how the community could lead by example. Over 1,500 faithful attended the Holy Eucharistic celebration.

The celebration was unique as one got to witness melodious choir which sang beautifully in different languages. The main pilgrimage choir was led by IACA music director and youth leader Lena Faria with singers and musicians of all communities including Goan, Mangalorean and Sri Lankan. The regional choirs were represented by Malayalee, Tamil and Bangla communities who sang melodious hymns in their respective languages. The post communion meditation hymn ‘Ave Maria’was sung in Latin by Anjalika Silva of the Sri Lankan community, and was a mesmerizing performance.

At the end of the mass, the president of IACA, Harold Naveen D’Souza thanked the celebrants, priests, volunteers, choir ministry and participants for their dedication and service in making the event successful. He said it was a unique blessing to have three eminent leaders of the Indian Catholic Church celebrating the Eucharist together for this pilgrimage.

After the mass, the attendees proceeded to the crypt church for blessing of the children.

The invocations to our Lady of Good Health were led by Fr P Thomas Paulsamy.

It was a delightful experience to witness little children of youth choir singing while the eminent celebrants were blessing the faithful assembled in an orderly manner. Finally, the congregation gathered around the oratory of Our Mother of Good Health Vailankanni for silent meditation.

The pilgrimage concluded with a wonderful dinner reception at the Catholic University’s Pryzbyla Center with around 500 people in attendance. Manuel Fernandes from the Goan community was the MC for the event. Jefreena Packianathan, vice-president of IACA conducted the raffle draw and distributed the prizes.

As a part of the two day celebration, IACA and the DC Mangalorean Association Inc held a joint celebration of the Feast of the Nativity of Mary also known as ‘Monthi Fest’ on September 10 at the All Saints Catholic Church, Manassas Virginia. At the beginning of the mass, children offered flowers to Mother Mary, while the choir sang traditional Konkani hymns. The mass was followed by traditional Mangalorean lunch ‘New Harvest Meal’ and cultural performances by various communities. It was a unique event where all communities came together to celebrate Our Mother’s nativity.

About Indian American Catholic Association (IACA)

The IACA was founded in 1993 to bring together Catholic immigrants from the Indian subcontinent in order to promote the cultural traditions and spiritual values prevalent in the native lands and to pass on those values and traditions to the next generation. One of IACA’s first undertakings was to establish an oratory to Our Blessed Mother in the Basilica of the National Shrine of Immaculate Conception in Washington DC. In keeping with tradition, on August 16, 1997 the IACA dedicated the oratory to Our Lady of Good Health – Vailankanni. Since 1997 IACA has continued to foster the spirit of community in various ways. Some of the IACA activities include: holding the annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of Good Heath -Vailankanni at the National Shrine in DC, organizing the monthly First Saturday Novena and Mass at the
National Shrine in DC, supporting meals for homeless and volunteering at shelters and at a hospice, among many others. The IACA executive committee comprises of Harold D’Souza (president), Jefreena Packianathan (vice-president), Sheena Johnpeter (secretary), Prema Packianathan (treasurer) and several other members serving on multiple committees.

For detailed list of activities, events and information on joining the association, visit or


‘Monthi Fest’ celebration pics

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Title : Washington: IACA hosts 20th annual pilgrimage to Vailankanni


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