Some go out with the handcart, others may drive to Catholic Day, but many families make a pilgrimage to Neviges on Ascension Day. Not only Maria and Cardinal Woelki await them there.
DOMRADIO.DE: Pilgrimage of families. What does that mean?
Abbé Phil Dieckhoff (Sankt Martin community in the pilgrimage site of Neviges): This means that we invite the families to make a pilgrimage to Neviges, that everyone traditionally gathers here on Ascension Day and celebrates the faith together. But you can also simply spend a day together as a family here at the Marian pilgrimage site.
DOMRADIO.DE: So young and old meet in Neviges to pray together. But there is also a forum morning. What do you have to imagine?
Abbé Phil: There is primarily a morning discussion on how to speak of the Church today. Everywhere we hear how difficult it is for our church. Especially in the context of the Catholic Day, of course, the great church crisis is constantly being talked about again. And the question that somehow concerns us all is how we can speak well about the church in our environment. We discuss together how we can bear witness to our faith in public today.
DOMRADIO.DE: And later we will also go to the Mariendom for Holy Mass with the Archbishop of Cologne, Cardinal Woelki (4 p.m. live on DOMRADIO.DE) with the consecration of the families to Mary at the miraculous image. Can you explain that to us?
Abbé Phil: The miraculous image here is of course the center of our pilgrimage. And we want to ask Mary for her blessing, especially for the families, who of course have a lot to bear with the upbringing of the little ones, with the passing on of the faith. We want to ask Mary to give us her blessing and to accompany the families in faith and in life these days.
DOMRADIO.DE: Marian pilgrimage is about the opposite of the Father’s Day trip with handcarts and beer on Ascension Day. What makes the Marian pilgrimage still so attractive nowadays? Why are people still drawn to Neviges?
Abbé Phil: I think the appeal is unbroken for the same reason it has always been. The Blessed Mother made herself close here in Neviges to bring healing to the people. That was the first great miracle when the Prince Bishop of Paderborn was healed in the 17th century. And then many other people came with their ailments, with their illnesses, with their minor ailments, also to find consolation and healing here. And that is exactly the point that makes Neviges and the Marian pilgrimage basically still attractive today. You come here, you really take a trip out of everyday life and you find Maria very close as a bringer of comfort and a healer. This is expressed very nicely here in the Mariendom, because the miraculous image really hangs at eye level in such a beautiful pillar in the Chapel of Mercy. And it is precisely there that the Blessed Mother makes herself close, there one can meet her and receive real blessings and consolation from her.
DOMRADIO.DE: There is also a program for the children?
Abbé Phil: Yes, because we want to offer parents a relaxing day. For the smaller and larger children there is a program and care all day long. Very nice and competent young people take care of that. Luckily in Neviges we have the sun guarantee. That’s why a picnic outside is always possible. And from the picnic, we continue straight on to the Marienberg, our beautiful pilgrimage mountain, on which we pull the rosary up while praying.
The interview was conducted by Florian Helbig.
The community of Saint Martin works as a priest in the parish of Velbert-Neviges and in pastoral care at the largest Marian pilgrimage site in the archdiocese. In addition, she continues to develop the spiritual center shaped by the Franciscans.