Newcastle: For Malayalees the Shrine of Our Lady of Velankanni is one of the most sought after pilgrimages in India, but not many know that in Newcastle upon Tyne their existed a Shrine of Our Lady of Jesmond. It was a special occasion for a few Malayalee families who attended a Special Rosary service on 23rd October at St Mary’s Chapel, which was once a major place of pilgrimage. This shrine which was of the same era as Walsingham fell into disuse following the reformation.
Our Lady of Jesmond
It may be worth mentioning here that in 1428 Pope Martin V wrote that ‘ out of remarkable devotion a great many of the faithful are wont to congregate at the Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Jesmond, on account of the various miracles the Most High has deigned to work there at the behest of the glorious Virgin’.
Interestingly, not many people know that Pilgrim Street in Newcastle town was once the old pilgrim way to the Shrine of Our Lady of Jesmond.
Devotions in honour of Our Lady of Jesmond began with the Angelus and concluded with the evening prayers at Holy Name Church aptly ending with Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen). Fr Christopher Warren led the faithful in the procession with Marian hymn Ave, Ave, Ave, Maria followed by rosary recitation leading up to the Chapel. A statue of Our Lady was carried by altar servers who accompanied the Marian followers.
At the 12th century St Marys’ Chapel, Fr Warren led the faithful in prayer and read the gospel according to Luke 1:26-38. In his homily he said that the ruins of this shrine are a reflection of our society. As Mary herself went to the tomb of Jesus and found it empty, so is it with us. Our empty faith brings us to this shrine. Citing his own move recently from the Cathedral to Hexham he urged the faithful “look not to your problems but to Christ and asked everyone to become confident Catholics like Mary”.
A Litany of the Mysteries was led by Anna Sweeting-Hempsall. Just a little over hundred Catholics from various parts of the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle took part in the devotions. Many of them went to visit the healing spring known as St Mary’s Well which was a few yards away from the Chapel where people filled in water in their plastic containers from underneath the place where it says ‘Gratia’.
It ended solemnly with Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and Evening prayer. During the Psalms for Vespers the antiphons were said together at the beginning and at the end of each psalm, while the verses were said by the congregation sitting on alternate sides. Fr Warren went to the Lady Chapel inside the Church to say the final prayer Salve Regina.