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What do you do when your pilgrims ask for more prayer time in a foreign city when a subzero wind chill warning has been issued and the local churches are fully booked?

You rely on social media and one of its most popular users … Bishop Richard Umbers of course.

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Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – PHOTO: Gelina Montierro

On the final day of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney’s pilgrimage to the U.S. capital, the group made what seemed like a simple enough request – an additional Holy Hour.

But it wasn’t.

While the nearby parish had been very accommodating to the pilgrim group over the past week, they now had a full Sunday schedule of Masses so it meant that pilgrimage leaders needed to find another place to hold Eucharistic Adoration that was appropriate, available and not too far away given the National Weather Service had just activated its cold emergency plan due to subzero wind chills.

Fortunately, Bishop Umbers has a huge following of seminarians at the nearby Theological College and when they heard that the group was nearby, reached out to see if the bishop and pilgrims would like to visit, and were only too obliging when asked at the last minute to accommodate the group for a Holy Hour.

Pilgrimage co-ordinator Chris Lee said he was extremely relieved after quietly pulling chaplain Father Lewi Barakat aside explaining the pilgrims request for an additional Holy Hour.

Theological Seminary
Theological Seminary – PHOTO: Gelina Montierro

“Despite the pilgrims praying the Liturgy of the Hours together, attending daily Mass, visiting beautiful shrines and an hour of Eucharistic Adoration, their desire to go deeper into prayer was evident,” he said.

“Notwithstanding all of the other great attractions Washington DC has to offer, the pilgrims’ main priority for their last day in the nation’s capital was another hour of prayer.”

The national seminary is located across the road from the beautiful Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – the largest church in North America – where the pilgrims had been in the morning for Sunday Mass and a tour.

Archbishop Anthony Fisher used his Homily at the Mass to urge the pilgrims to use their World Youth Day experience to reflect more deeply upon their vocation in life.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – PHOTO: Gelina Montierro

“During this pilgrimage, I encourage you to really look at yourself: ask yourself what gifts you can bring to the service of God and others?”, he said.

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“What talents do you have as a ponderer, pray-er, organiser, do-er, supporter? Some of you here might well be suited to being priests or religious, and I invite you to take that up with me or one of the chaplains or someone else you trust.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception – PHOTO: Gelina Montierro

“Others of you will be spouses, parents, teachers or otherwise builders of the kingdom of God. Once you think you’ve found some answers to this question of how your life fits best into God’s plan: embrace it! Let WYD Panama be the spark that lights the fire of your faith.”

The Sydney Catholic Youth pilgrims fly to Panama tomorrow to join pilgrims from around the world and Pope Francis for World Youth Day.