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Ipswich pilgrimage draws 75, honours Cardinal Wolsey

The annual pilgrimage to Ipswich’s historic shrines concluded on September 3, drawing at least 75 attendees and featuring an appearance by the Mayor. Led by local clergy, the walk commemorated Cardinal Wolsey and focused on Christian unity and devotion to Our Lady of Grace. Jean Johnson reports.

The annual pilgrimage walk to the site on Lady Lane in Ipswich—home to the pre-Reformation shrine of Our Lady of Grace—and onwards to the ecumenical shrine at St Mary at the Elms, the church closest to the original shrine, took place on Sunday September 3, on a beautiful sunny day. We were privileged to welcome the Mayor of Ipswich, who is well-versed in the history and firmly believes that our original statue now resides in Nettuno, Italy. The ecumenical shrine features a replica of that statue, carved from English oak in Ipswich 21 years ago by a parishioner from St Pancras. Meanwhile, St Pancras has a statue carved and painted in Italy.

At least 75 people gathered at St Peter’s Church and followed the route originally planned by Cardinal Wolsey, who was born 550 years ago in Ipswich. The tradition of an annual walk along this route was revived in 1978, and five individuals present this year were part of that first pilgrimage. The walk was led by Fr John Thackray, vicar of St Mary at the Elms, who proudly carried our Guild banner, and by Fr Joseph Welch, the parish priest of St Pancras, representing Bishop Peter.

Walking in silence, we made five stops to recite the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary and to sing appropriate hymns. Upon our final arrival at Lady Lane, members renewed their commitment to pray for unity among all Christians through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to promote devotion to her under the title of Our Lady of Grace.

Fr Joseph then led a brief service at the shrine. His homily, which quoted St John Henry Newman, focused on the significance of honouring Our Lady. The event concluded with refreshments and was a joyous occasion. Next year, we plan to celebrate on Sunday September 8—Our Lady’s birthday—and hope to welcome even more pilgrims.

Read more about the history of Cardinal Wolsey’s route here.

Photo at stop four, outside town hall with Wolsey 550 banners. Fr Joseph top right, looking ahead. Provided by Jean Johnson.