The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe has been named a top tourist destination of Central Florida by TripAdvisor.com. The Basilica was ranked third out of 198 attractions in the Orlando area in the TripAdvisor 2014 Great Places to Travel.
“The Diocese of Orlando is a unique place because it is in the center of world tourism,” said Very Reverend Father Paul Henry, rector. “It’s a sacramental sign of God in our world when people come and spend all day at the theme parks, surrounded by countless number of people, but still are motivated to come to Mass on Sunday.
“The burden is on us is to provide a Christ-like place, to provide holy ground in the middle of it all, to provide the holy Eucharist, to provide the sacramental presence of Christ for people,” he continued. “What this recognition means to me is that we are providing a holy setting and hopefully a place people will leave feeling re-invigorated.”
The award is driven solely on visitor comments. Gina Schwiegerath, director of operations said the Basilica has received comments from visitors from all over the world, including, Brazil, Colombia, Uganda, and Guatemala.
“The most exciting thing for me about this recognition is that there is nothing we can do to get those people to write those things,” Schwiegerath said. “They just genuinely come. Each one is a little different. Some are coaching people to come, others are introspective about their visit. It runs the gamut, and it is really an exciting look at what people get out of their experience here.”
“A big theme in our faith is pilgrimage,” Father Henry said. “Pilgrimage is a journey with a purpose, or a journey with a surprise. We are a place of pilgrimage. People to their own astonishment are bowled over by what happens because they came and what is reinforced in their faith as a result of it.”
Here is one comment from a recent visitor to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe that was posted to Tripadvisor.com.
“Unlike other attractions in Orlando this church is not only beautiful but also peaceful. It is built in very modern style with amazing stained glasses. One of my favorite was representing the whole universe and it was absolutely incredible. I have never seen any church like this before. It really gives the impression of the holistic nature of Christianity. Additionally the big, carved entrance doors are beyond description. Not only is the church itself is worth a visit, the grounds around are well maintained and very, very peaceful, too, great for a moment of meditation. I fully recommend it. It is amazing how different this church is to traditional churches, especially in Europe.”