SCRANTON – Thousands of people have been making their way to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Ann in West Scranton this week for an annual pilgrimage that has been ongoing for 98 years.

The Solemn Novena in honor of Saint Ann, the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, began on Sunday, July 17, and will continue for nine days, culminating with the celebration of the Feast of Saint Ann on Tuesday, July 26.

“It is such a holy place. As soon as you walk on the grounds, you can feel it. It is inspiring and a time when you can reflect on your faith,” Novena volunteer Debbie Coval said.

Coval and other volunteers have been happy to see so many worshippers turn out over the first few days.

“With all of the bad stuff going on, it’s good to see a lot of people practicing their faith,” volunteer Noah Palauskas added. “Everybody is extremely friendly here. You can come and make new friends without even trying.”

The guest preacher for this year’s Novena is Passionist Father Paul Fagan.

“Each day is more energizing,” Father Fagan said, indicating he is preaching about Saint Joseph, the son-in-law of Saint Ann, this year.

“We started with looking at Saint Joseph generally and for the rest of the Novena, we’re taking a title of Saint Joseph each day and reflecting on that,” he explained.

Carol Ann McNulty of Laflin has been coming to the annual Novena for more than 25 years. She says Saint Ann has blessed her with health, happiness, holiness and prosperity.

“When I have asked Saint Ann to intercede for my family, if it were health problems or whatever it may be, she has come through for us,” McNulty explained. “My brother who had cancer, we brought him here for the very first time when he was going through treatments. When he came, he was amazed at the size of the Saint Ann statue and he said he felt different after he left, it was like a special blessing he received.”

This year, the tradition of blessing the faithful with a relic of Saint Ann has returned after a two-year hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saint Ann Novena devotions will include outdoor Masses and Novenas (weather permitting) at 8 a.m., 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. The 11:45 a.m. Mass and Novena will be celebrated indoors, except on Sundays, and the 3:30 p.m. Novena service is offered inside the main Basilica church.

Bishop Joseph C. Bambera will celebrate the Solemn Closing of the Novena on the Feast of Saint Ann, July 26, at 7:30 p.m. The Mass in Polish will be celebrated at 1:30 p.m., featuring Polish hymns.