WHEN the Marist Fathers began their ministry at the Shrine in 1968, Walsingham was already established as a centre of pilgrimage and the Shrine could boast of a proud history since its restoration in 1897.
The first persons to be involved in the restoration were mostly converts to the Catholic Faith. Fr Philip Fletcher, the founder of the Guild of Ransom, and Charlotte Pearson Boyd were the two most famous characters; but also Fr George Wrigglesworth, the parish priest of King's Lynn (Walsingham's parish centre) who built the Holy House in his Church of the Annunciation. With the
rescript of Pope Leo XIII and a statue personally blessed by him, the Shrine was opened on August 19 1897; the following day the first public pilgrimage to the Slipper Chapel (n-Ow restored) took place.
An annual nationally organised pilgrimage culminated in Cardinal Bourne's decision to establish the National Shrine at the Slipper Chapel in 1934, with the approval of the whole hierarchy. This was the last great act of another devotee of Our Lady.
Bishop Lawrence Youens steered the Shrine through the years leading up to the War; many of the large pilgrimages prayed for peace, and then for Reconciliation. The great Cross-Carrying pilgrimage of 1948 will be commemorated this year. These years saw the birth of a greater desire for reconciliation among Christians; Walsingham seemed an obvious choice with an Anglican Shrine beginning to flourish.
In 1954 at the end of the Marian Year, the Apostolic Delegate crowned the Statue in the name of Pope Pius XII. This same statue was honoured by Pope John Paul H during his pastoral visit to England in 1982.