Nasreen was depressed after a stroke left her husband paralyzed on his right side three years ago. Her youngest son took up his father’s job as a mason in the Catholic village of Mariamabad in Pakistan’s Punjab province.
“Suddenly our sole breadwinner became bedridden. The loans kept climbing. I felt helpless as an unskilled housewife,” the 46-year-old mother of five told ucanews.com.
That was until Lahore Arch-diocese announced that the 70th annual pilgrimage to the National Marian Shrine in Mariamabad would be held from Sept. 13-15 under the theme “St Mary: The woman of dialogue.”
More than a million devotees and young people from all over Pakistan travelled to the shrine on foot, by bicycle or in vehicles to pray and intercede with the Blessed Mother for special favours. They lit candles and incense sticks and covered the statue of the Blessed Mother with colourful embroidered dupattas (long scarves).
In keeping with tradition, thousands of Muslims also expressed their personal devotion to Mary, whom the Quran honours as the mother of Jesus, considered a prophet. The non-stop processions head toward a grotto that is a replica of the one in Lourdes, France.
An area in front of the Church of St Mary and St Joseph was allocated for a weekend market. The selection of goods and services included Christian gifts, souvenirs, gospel CDs, toys, clothing, food, beverages and even tattoo parlours.