EMMITSBURG, MD – The annual Pilgrimage for the Sea Services will be celebrated this year on Oct. 4 at 3:30 p.m. EDT at the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, 339 South Seton Avenue, in Emmitsburg, MD. The principal celebrant and homilist will be the Most Reverend Joseph L. Coffey, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA. Bishop Coffey is a retired U.S. Navy chaplain.
Because of social distancing restrictions imposed by state and local officials over the COVID-19 pandemic, on-site participation will be limited to no more than two-hundred. However, the 3:30 p.m. Mass will be live-streamed to the public on the Seton Shrine’s website at https://setonshrine.org/annual-sea-services-pilgrimage/. A recorded edition will be accessible on the site after the event.
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton is the “Patroness of the Sea Services,” which include the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, Merchant Marines and Public Health Service. Shortly after her canonization in Rome on Sept. 14, 1975, by Pope Paul VI, then-Chief of U.S. Navy Chaplains Monsignor John J. O’Connor—later John Cardinal O’Connor, the Archbishop of New York—took the initiative to proclaim Mother Seton Patroness of the Sea Services. Admiral James D. Watkins, then Chief of Naval Personnel, collaborated closely with Rear Admiral O’Connor in that effort, and in 1977 they created a medal honoring Mother Seton because of her link to the Navy through her two sons, William and Richard, both seafarers.
From 1977 to 1993, the Daughters of Charity at Emmitsburg hosted an annual day of prayerful observance for Catholic sailors devoted to Mother Seton as their patroness. In 1994, due to the increasing demands of a smaller Navy, the event was discontinued, but through the efforts of Admiral Watkins and his dedicated group, it was reinstated in 1998, and continues to be observed every year on the first Sunday in October, giving military personnel, veterans, and their families an opportunity to seek Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton’s intercession for the safety of all who serve at sea.