Priest reflects on pilgrimage to Marian apparition sites


“We prayed the Rosary every day. We took part in the processions. People went to confession. And we had Mass every day in the various churches.”

Father Boniface K. Nzabonimpa, who goes by Fr. Boniface, spoke of an 11-day pilgrimage he helped lead to the Marian shrines in Fatima and Lourdes.

“We chose a Marian trip to know how much our Mother Mary intervenes in our life and brings us closer to Jesus,” said Fr. Boniface, canonical administrator of St. Boniface parish in Brunswick, St. Joseph parish at Hurricane Branch and the Mission of St. Raphael in Indian Grove.

Fr. Boniface, a priest of the Archdiocese of Kampala, Uganda, was ordained in 2002 and has been ministering in the Jefferson City diocese since 2011.

Five of his parishioners from Brunswick and Hurricane Branch were among the 44 on the pilgrimage.

The rest — including two other priests — were from Kansas and Texas.

This was his first pilgrimage.

The pilgrims prayed and celebrated Mass at the apparition sites of the Blessed Mother in Fatima, Portugal; and Lourdes, France.

They visited the burial place of the visionaries who as children saw and heard the Blessed Mother in Fatima.

They stopped in Avila, Spain, hometown of St. Teresa of Jesus, the revered mystic, Doctor of the Church and reformer of the Discalced Carmelite Order, and walked five miles in her footsteps.

They traveled to Montserrat, Spain, location of a massive, mountaintop monastery and the image of the Black Madonna in Montserrat.

They celebrated Mass in Madrid and in the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and St. Eulalia in Barcelona.

Fr. Boniface said a pilgrimage is an inherently spiritual experience — “people wanting to spend time together as brothers and sisters in faith.”

“It was a time to share our faith,” he said.

A few of the pilgrims were not Catholic.

“They were amazed at the faith of the Catholic Church,” said Fr. Boniface, “how strong it is, how the people were united in prayer and fellowship and love.”

He believes everybody on the pilgrimage returned home “renewed in faith, in spirit, even in body.”

He noted that the Blessed Mother made clear in her messages at Lourdes and Fatima that she wants people to pray the Rosary frequently — individually and in a group.

“In the Rosary, we pray for ourselves, because our Mother Mary wants all of us to be saved by her Son,” said Fr. Boniface. “She wants us to pray the Rosary and repent from our sins.”

He said it’s too easy to get caught up in trivial things, lose track of time and squander the time that’s meant to be spent with God.

“Jesus tells us, ‘You don’t know the time and hour,’” he said. “Today could be the day! So we need to devote time and energy every day to growing in faith.”

Hence, the daily Rosary.

“We should appreciate the love of our mother Mary and keep our faith strong and be assured that she will continue interceding for us,” said Fr. Boniface.