|Photo Courtesy of TripAdvisor.|
Destination: Mary Matha Church on Ross Hill.
|Holy Family pilgrims set out in pre-dawn darkness.|
A 5 AM train ride started the day for Holy Family Mission faithful on the December 8th, 2013 Feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pastor Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy guided 50 villagers to Visakhapatnam, his diocesan see.
Public transportation wasn't operating for days leading up to the pilgrimage, due to strikes and protests regarding the division of Andhra Pradesh State and the forming of the new state, Telengana. But protesters took a Sunday rest, allowing Holy Family faithful their trip. Pilgrims headed to the Church of the Virgin Mary, atop the central and highest hill, Ross Hill. The 150-year-old Catholic church was built as a private residence, and later blessed as a church.
|Some went to great heights to get comfortable |
on the crowded train.
For 18 years, this shrine has also conducted a Rosary Chain Prayer, inviting faithful world-wide to commit to a time to pray the Rosary and to send the time via email or phone call. This encourages devotion to the Rosary, and also encircles the globe with a continuous chain of Rosaries prayed for peace and the conversion of sinners.
The Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales (MSFS), Province of Visakhapatnam, oversee the shrine. Atop the hill are excellent views of Visakhapatnam (also called Vizag), the Esser Steel Plant, the ship building yard, and the Bay of Bengal with its impressive ships.
|This gentleman wears a wool "monkey hat" |
to keep off the early morning chill.
|Directions at the station are written |
in the local language of Telegu.
It's unusual for these day laborers to travel far from their villages, so they had extra reason to rejoice on December 8th, as they drew closer to the Blessed Mother and her Son.
|A pilgrimage helps faithful of all ages |
draw closer to each other and God.
|The pilgrimage site lay nearly 100 miles Northeast |
of Yeleswaram, home of Holy Family Mission.
|Crowds disembark at Vizag.|
|Seeking alms, a boy poses as a statue of Gandhi.|
|Some of the pathways are dusty, but the view atop |
Ross Hill is worth the hike.
|"Hail Mary, full of grace..."|
|Pilgrims take a steep climb up Ross Hill. The path|
is lined with shrines depicting the Stations of the Cross.
|Some pilgrims have their heads shaved as a special |
sacrifice to God and to proclaim that He has
answered their prayers through the intercession
of His Blessed Mother.
|Pilgrims gather for an outdoor Mass. At right is the |
center used for hosting Visakhapatnam Diocese's
retreats for priests.
|Trees at the Shrine are strung with lights |
|A break for lunch...|
|An old postcard shows the view from Ross Hill |
of Vizag and its harbor.
|The blue structure is the iron ore belt of the |
Esser Steel Plant.
|Serving briyani rice to pilgrims atop Ross Hill.|
|On the way back down, four pilgrims got |
disconnected from the group and Fr. Varghese
climbed back up the hill to locate them.
|Holy Family pilgrims gather at a Marian grotto near |
the Church of the Virgin Mary on Ross Hill.