The pilgrimage is based on the huge celebrations that are held at Our Lady’s Minor Basilica at Naga, Bicol Province in the Philippines, which is said to be the biggest Marian gathering in SE Asia. Remarkably, the Diocese of East Anglia holds two such events on the third weekend in September: at Ipswich on Saturday and at Hoveton on Sunday.
The Hoveton Pilgrimage has grown year-on-year (apart from the Covid years) with around 400 pilgrims from all over the east of England now taking part, including communities from Norwich, Dereham, King’s Lynn, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, Colchester, Boston, Louth and Lincoln, with visitors from as far away as Manchester and Birmingham attending.
It is the culmination of the Our Lady’s own ‘Pangsunka’ (visits) when her statue goes to Filipino communities in East Anglia and the East Midlands throughout the summer. This year Our Lady’s statue was first taken in a 1914 Model T Ford to the boats, and then on a ‘fluvial procession’ on the Norfolk Broads from Wroxham when the Rosary was recited.
On return, the statue processed with banners and singing through the village of Hoveton to St Helen’s Catholic Church where a Festival Mass was concelebrated by Fr Jude Belnas and St Helen’s Parish Priest Fr Peter Raj and a feast followed.
This year, all three of Broads Tours fleet of passenger boats, each holding 100 people, were full, and the procession stretched back through the major tourist centre, with the front reaching the church almost before the end of it had crossed the ancient bridge between the twin villages.
The pilgrimage is organised by the Tribu Bicolandia in the Norwich area, under the direction of Fred Venzon who says that the Tribu has great ideas for the pilgrimage in 2024, which marks the centenary of Our Lady’s shrine at Naga being granted Minor Basilica status.
Pictures courtesy of Tribu Bicolandia.