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A Guide to the Centennial of the National Shrine’s First Mass

It was on Easter Sunday, April 20, 1924, that the first public Mass was held in the Crypt Church of the National Shrine. The church was under construction at the time and far from finished, with bare concrete floors and exposed support beams throughout. Nevertheless, the faithful were invited to celebrate a joyous Mass in the space as it was, inaugurating what has now been 100 years of worship at America’s Catholic Church.

As we celebrate this milestone in our history, we hope you’ll join us for a variety of special events at the National Shrine – from the Easter Sunday Centennial Celebration to heritage talks and more! In this post, learn everything you need to know about the centennial celebrations.

Easter Sunday Centennial Celebration

National Shrine first public Mass
The Shrine’s first public Mass on April 20, 1924

The National Shrine is delighted to officially begin its centennial celebration with the observance of Mass on Easter Sunday, celebrated by the Archbishop of Washington and Chairman of the National Shrine Board of Trustees, His Eminence Wilton Cardinal Gregory. This Mass and others celebrated this year will include special liturgical items and gifts, including the same chalice that was used in the first Mass 100 years ago, the crosier of Bishop Thomas J. Shahn, and the Marian Year cruets of Pope Pius XII. Those who attend Mass at the National Shrine on Easter Sunday will receive a “holy card” featuring a photograph of the historic oil painting previously featured in the Crypt Church of the Basilica – Our Lady of Washington – which will also be available in the National Shrine Shops following the Easter Masses.

Centennial Heritage Talks

Starting this April, on the 20th of each month, the National Shrine will be hosting a series of presentations on the Eucharist and the Church. Featuring messages from Msgr. Rossi, Msgr. Robert Vitillo, Cardinal Wilton Gregory, and others, these heritage talks will follow the 5:15 p.m. Mass on weekdays or the 12:10 p.m. Mass on Saturdays and will be recorded and posted on the National Shrine’s YouTube channel. The Basilica blog will also feature a post where the videos will be added following the availability of every new recording.

Ordinations in the Crypt Church on September 24, 1925.
Ordinations in the Crypt Church on September 24, 1925. Credit: Basilica Archives

Centennial Exhibit and Festive Mass

Since the early years of the National Shrine’s construction, it has served as a place for conferring the Sacrament of Holy Orders – from first tonsure to the major orders, with over 6,000 men receiving the major and minor orders and 30 bishops being ordained at the National Shrine. As we celebrate 100 years of liturgy at America’s Catholic Church, we are offering an exhibit dedicated to the Sacrament of Holy Orders in Memorial Hall.

A Mass of Thanksgiving will also be celebrated by and for those who have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders at the National Shrine.

Special Centennial Content on the Blog

This April, stay tuned for special centennial-themed content on the National Shrine blog. Topics will include a historic look at the first Mass celebrated at the National Shrine in 1924, highlights from 100 years of worship at the Basilica, and a highlight of the centennial exhibit coming to America’s Catholic Church.

Make a gift today in honor of the Centennial

Fireworks over Basilica

This Easter, as we celebrate Christ’s triumphant Resurrection, it is all the more significant and joyous because this year marks the 100th anniversary of Masses being celebrated inside the Basilica. It would be a great privilege for us to celebrate the 100th anniversary of our first Public Mass with you and your loved ones during Easter Mass! Please also consider making an offering today to help us reach another 100 years of worship at Mary’s Shrine

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