Groups from across the diocese including Cambridge, Huntingdon, Peterborough, Wisbech, Norwich, Wymondham, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston, Sawston, Cambourne, King’s Lynn, Mildenhall, Brandon, Beccles, Bungay, Costessey, Sheringham took part.
Organiser Chris Storman said: “Our theme for the day was ‘This is Your Mother’ – remembering that Jesus gave us all into the keeping of His mother – and so we honour Our Lady at her Shrine for her care and intercession.”
Children and families gathered in the Friday Market Place in Little Walsingham outside the Church of the Annunciation and from there set off in procession behind an image of Our Lady of Walsingham and the baby Jesus to the Catholic National Shrine along the old railway track.
Flowers and petals were strewn before the mile-long procession and hymns and prayers to Mary featured throughout.
Once at the Shrine and inside a packed Chapel of Reconciliation, everyone was welcomed to the 12 noon Mass by Bishop Alan Hopes, who said: “You have come to a very special place at a very special time as May is the month of Mary, the Mother of God and the mother of the Church.”
In his homily, Fr Pat Cleary said that the pilgrimage had started 34 years ago with just a couple of parishes, Thetford and Great Yarmouth, getting together.
“It is now a wonderful tradition which has grown and grown and now fills the Chapel of Reconciliation.
Fr Pat spoke about us all as babies: “When we were born we were all just little bundles of needs and the bond especially between the mother and child is a strong one,” he said. “As babies we keep close to our mother who will meet all of our needs.
“God chose Mary to be the mother of the baby Jesus who, just like us, had lots of needs. At the end of his life Mary was there again for Jesus. Mary is also our mother in heaven and points us to Jesus his son and asks us ‘to do what he tells us’,” said Fr Pat.
“Someone once said to me that children are the church of the future, but I don’t think of it like that. I think children are the church of the present along with everyone else here. It is now that we can love God, it is now that we can put our faith into practice,” said Fr Pat.
The children’s choir from Costessey sang beautifully through the Mass.
Afterwards, families enjoyed a picnic in the Shrine grounds before many headed for Wells Beach for some fun on the sand.
At the end, organiser Chris said: “I think the pilgrimage went very well, with beautiful flowers and was one of the largest we have had. It was a truly joyous walk. Children carrying their many banners and strewing flowers and petals behind the statue carriers, performing happily and with reverence.
“The day began with us wondering about the weather and if it would dampen it, but it finished in glorious sunshine at the beach and somehow seemed to make everything even more special.”
Co- organiser Rosemary Williams said: “The Mass had a wonderful feel to it, with the children really involved and it all came together beautifully just like the walk which was full of joy.”
Click here or see below for a full picture gallery of the day