Church celebrates new title while pushing for immigration reform


WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) –Saint Mary Catholic Church became the third basilica in the state early August and celebrated together Sunday afternoon.

”For our city it’s a great honor as well as the state,” Father Bob Kus said.

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Hundreds came together for a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica Shrine of Saint Mary.

“You get a spiritual uplift whenever you come into something like this and its really wonderful,” parishioner Angelo Gibilaro said.

In 2007 the church asked the Bishop to petition the Vatican for consideration of receiving the title of basilica.

The request was based on the historical importance in the diocese, its unique architectural design, and its devotion to the community.

“Throughout its history it has been known for its care to the poor and needy, for welcoming the immigrant, for welcoming the stranger and for teaching the faith,” Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh Michael Burbidge said.

The congregation was founded over 100 years ago by primarily Irish immigrants.

Father Kus said between 15 and 20 percent of the Basilica’s current parishioners have come from other countries.

“We hope that one day there’s a wonderful path to allow the families to stay together and to be citizens.” Father Kus said.

This issue is also extremely important to Bishop Burbidge.

He said he and bishops around the country are working with the president’s administration on comprehensive immigration reform.

“Let’s be mindful of what our forefathers always wanted, and that’s life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and all persons treated with respect and dignity,” Bishop Burbidge said.

A message one church-goer said embodies the every atmosphere at Saint Mary’s.

“It is like we are all one family, because to God we are all one family,” Courtney Mason.

Father Kus said the Basilica is now working on its symbol, also known as a Code of Arms.

He said the design includes a ship at sea to pay tribute to the immigrants who founded the church and the community can expect its release within the next few months.