EWTN will soon open its first studio in the UK. If you’re from England, you’re not allowed to guess at the location because you’ll almost certainly know the answer as soon as we start with our clues! But it might not be so easy for the rest of the world! Ready?
Clue #1: The studio will be located in a village named for a Shrine, which is located about one mile away.
Clue #2: The Shrine is one of the four great pilgrim sites of Medieval Christendom.
Clue #3: Prior to the Reformation, every King of England, including Henry VIII, came on pilgrimage to this famous Shrine. In fact, Henry VIII was a great benefactor of the Shrine, until the Pope denied his divorce from Catherine of Aragon. The enraged King then ordered the complete destruction of the Shrine!
Clue #4: The Shrine, built in 1061 at the request of Our Lady, is a replica of the Holy House of Nazareth, where the Annunciation took place, and predates the Holy House of Loretto by 200 years.
Clue #5: The Shrine was raised to the status of a minor basilica last year!
By now, many of you have probably figured out that we’re talking about the Village of Walsingham, which Msgr. John Armitage, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham, said is “one holy mile” from the Basilica. To get to the Shrine, which is visited by about 300,000 people annually, you have to pass through the village. The rector calls it a “holy mile” because many pilgrims go to confession in what is popularly known as the village’s “slipper chapel” (a term for sandals), and then walk that mile barefoot as a form of penance.
In May, EWTN will officially open a small studio in one of the pre-existing homes that line the village’s main thoroughfare. The three-story home will be called Annunciation House and will also serve as headquarters for several other apostolates such as the Catholic Grandparents Association and Youth 2000. EWTN Regional Manager Ian Murray is excited by the possibilities.
“Now we are being exposed to all of the pilgrims,” he said. “We’ll have our studio and a reception area with TV screens running clips and short information introducing EWTN to those coming to the Shrine. We’re working closely with Msgr. John and Youth 2000. We will also go out into the parishes to run missions.”
Because the Basilica is a National Shrine, Murray says the hope is to bring together “a network of Catholic Shrines – of which there are many across England – so people can rediscover the walking pilgrimage,” which they hope will include Shrines in England, Wales and Scotland!
Msgr. Armitage says the Basilica, which has been dubbed England’s Nazareth, attracts people of many ethnic groups include Sri Lankan Tamils, Poles, Ukrainians, Orthodox, Melkite Greek Catholics, and more. But Americans are by far the largest group to descend upon Walsingham every year.
“During World War II, American troops were based here before D-Day,” said Mgr. Armitage. “The first Mass celebrated post-Reformation, on the site of the original Shrine that was destroyed, was celebrated by an American Army Chaplain in 1944 in preparation for the invasion.”
That tells Catholics all they need to know about the Allied Troop’s success in that seemingly impossible and very bloody battle.
Today, Msgr. Armitage says: “The Basilica of Our Lady of Walsingham is a place of great healing.”
With its new studio, EWTN hopes to advance its mission of evangelization throughout Europe and the world, and to help bring pilgrims to the Shrine so that the wishes of Our Lady of Walsingham might be fulfilled.
As Pope Leo XIII famously said: “When England returns to Walsingham, Our Lady will return to England.”