Many of the sacred places in and around Western New York are perfect for a day pilgrimage. If you do go on pilgrimage please share the blessing and let us know about your experience in the comments section below. We’d love to hear from you!
Abbey of the Genesee The Abbey of the Genesee, located in rural Pifford, NY is home to some 30 contemplative monks belonging to the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance also known as Trappists. Visitors are welcomed for daily Mass, meditation and reading. There are overnight retreat facilities available for individuals and groups. Confessions are heard at certain times throughout the day but do call ahead to schedule. The monks also maintain a book store stocked with many intriguing spiritual titles as well as music and artwork. If you make the trip in early September, you will be treated to a stunning panorama of tall sunflowers rising from the fields as far as the eye can see– (bring your camera). The monks support themselves by making a variety of healthy breads (including sunflower) under the label “Monks Bread” which is carried by many supermarkets in Western and Central New York and beyond.
Carmelite Monastery Nestled in a residential neighborhood of Buffalo, NY is one of the city’s hidden treasures. Here, a secluded community of Discalced Carmelite Nuns apply themselves zealously to prayer and manual labor for the benefit of the church and the world. They wear the full habit of our Lady of Mount Carmel, practice penance and observe strict a papal enclosure to safeguard the sacredness of the enclosure and their charism. A beautiful chapel dedicated to St Therese the Little Flower is open to visitors for mass at 7 am and from 9 am – 4pm Monday thru Friday for prayer. At certain times of the day, you can hear the ethereal sounds of the nuns chanting and worshiping from the cloister. Four times a year, the Carmelites sponsor a nine day evening novena with a retreat master that is open to the public.
Infant Jesus Shrine The Holy Infant Jesus Shrine in Wheatfield is a house of prayer and worship where individuals or groups are welcome. Mass and confessions are offered daily. An Hour of Mercy is held each day from 3-4pm with Benediction and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
Mount Irenaeus Franciscan Mountain Retreat A rustic mountain retreat in the Allegheny hills of Southwestern New York State less than two hours from Erie, Buffalo and Rochester. Mt. Irenaeus rests on 387 remote acres including forest and clearings with at least 10 miles of trails. The Franciscans welcome visitors including families to this beautiful retreat site. Go for the day or make longer reservations. There are a variety of accommodations. Open to all. Many people go on sunday and bring a dish to pass after morning Mass. More information is available on the website; be sure to call to in advance.
Our Lady of Fatima Shrine Dedicated to spreading devotion to Mary and her message of peace and prayer for conversion. Daily Mass and Confession. Monthly Healing Masses. Eucharistic Adoration on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. The Fatima Gift Shop and Store has the largest selection of religious gifts, artwork, statues and rosaries in Western New York and Niagara. There is a cafeteria available for the convenience of pilgrims. Walk the grounds and see the Avenue of the Saints where over one hundred life-size marble statues represent Saints from every race and walk of life and around the serenity of the Rosary Pool. Two flights of stairs, with 63 steps, lead to the top of the Dome and a huge statue of Our Lady of Fatima.
Our Lady Help of Christians The history of this chapel dates back to 1836 when Joseph Batt, an immigrant from France, promised to build our lady a chapel if his family arrived safely in America. After experiencing terrifying storms that severely damaged the ship during the voyage, his family did arrive safely and Joseph kept his promise. People have flocked to the shrine ever since but especially during cholera and flu epidemics, wars, and personal trials and tribulations. Now a National Historic site, there is an official time set aside each year for a walking procession and pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady Help of Christians, Star of the Sea.
Our Lady of Peace Church This shrine is one of the oldest churches in North America. Located over the Canadian Falls of the great Niagara, Mass was first celebrated on this site on December 11, 1678. Much later, in October 1875 the Carmelite Fathers arrived and erected a monastery next to the church which is now known as the Mount Carmel Spiritual Center. There is a magnificent Carmelite Chapel in the monastery, a gift shop and a small museum area containing some 1st class relics and artifacts of St Therese the Little Flower. In the summer, the doors of Our Lady of Peace are left wide open during Mass. Be sure to go on a Sunday, attend Mass in the Church, visit the monastery and let yourself experience the exquisite peacefulness of the shrine.
Our Lady of Victory National Shrine and Basilica In the early 1880’s, Father Nelson Baker took over the Limestone Hill parish in Lackawanna, which included an orphanage and boys protectorate. In a short period of time, he expanded these services to also include an industrial school for teaching trades, a home for unwed mothers and children, and a hospital. All of these would eventually come under the umbrella of Our Lady of Victory Institutions. A man of heroic faith, Father Baker built the magnificent Our Lady of Victory Basilica in thanksgiving for Our Lady’s help in all of his endeavors. Although the best materials and artisans were used throughout the Basilica, it was totally paid for when it opened in 1926.
An architectural wonder, the OLV Basilica is a majestic monument to Our Lady of Victory. Tours can be taken online or in person. There are many interesting back stories that are told in the onsite tours, so if you can, be sure to do the guided tour. The shrine is filled with hundreds of exquisite original artworks, sculptures, and mosaics. It is said that there are over 2000 angels in the church. Visiting the Basilica continues to evoke a sense of awe even though one has visited many times.
The cause for Father Baker’s canonization started in 1987 and Pope Benedict XVI declared Father Baker Venerable on January 14, 2011. There is a museum in the basement of Our Lady of Victory that contains artifacts from Father Baker’s life and a History of Our Lady of Victory Institutions. If you have never visited Our Lady of Victory Basilica, this is a pilgrimage you will not want to miss. You can just show up at 1:00 on Sundays for scheduled tours. At other times, you will need to call ahead.