SCRANTON, Pa. -- It's the last day for the faithful to pray at an annual pilgrimage that draws thousands to Scranton, and some are walking miles to get there. The 95th Annual Solemn Novena to Saint Ann ends Friday, July 26, on the feast day of Saint Ann.
In the early hours of the morning, in complete darkness, faithful such as Michael English of Pittston Township walked ten miles to St. Ann's Basilica in Scranton.
"I think this walk is very fruitful, St. Ann was the grandmother of Jesus, and we all love our grandmothers, so every year, I try to do this for the last 2627 years because I really feel devoted, and it's not only a little bit of exercise, but a little bit of spirituality," explained English of his annual pilgrimage.
English tells Newswatch 16 he has been doing this walk for over 25 years.
English wasn't alone. Aided by flashlights, worshipers began their walk before 3 a.m. to ensure they made it to the 4:30 a.m. mass.
"She's the patron saint of grandmothers, and I'm a grandmother now, and I'm up in my 70s and still doing this!" said Carol Trzcinski of Avoca, who has been making the annual trek for over 10 years.
As the sun began to rise, others began to come and claim their seats for the final day of the novena.
"I come here every year. I don't miss this novena. It's very powerful, St. Ann has been great to me, and it's just wonderful," said Jean Marie Haffner
Fr. Rob Carbonneau is a Passionist priest at St. Ann's and says the draw to the annual novena is driven by the faithful who come each day to pay homage.
"It's really deeply ingrained, it's a relationship between the local people, the Passionists, and the city of Scranton and beyond. It's integral, it's part of the heartbeat, I think, of Scranton and this local area," said Fr. Carbonneau.
Everyone we spoke with today shared one constant theme – tradition. And they're already looking forward to the 96th annual solemn novena here at St. Ann's Basilica.
The novena services will be celebrated throughout the day, and end with a 7:30 p.m. mass celebrated by Bishop Joseph Bambara of Scranton.