SCRANTON, Pa. -- Thousands of the faithful are headed to Scranton this week. The annual Solemn Novena to St. Ann is underway.
In spite of the heat, in spite of the gnats, hundreds of people arrived Tuesday morning the basilica for the first mass on the first day of St. Ann's Novena.
Margaret Crowther of Scranton was here opening day and many of the 93 previous novenas. It is something she just has to do.
"I have a strong faith and presently I have some conditions and it's just an honor to be here every year," Crowther said.
Christians believe St. Ann is the grandmother of Jesus, and praying to her, attending services like this, means special things in their lives.
Jean Haffner is another novena regular, coming here for years.
"I love St. Ann, first of all," Haffner said. "I have a lot of faith in St. Ann and she's been very, very good to me.'
It is people like Jean, and stories like hers, that draw thousands to St. Ann's Basilica every year.
Services are held inside and outside. If you do attend one of those outside services, there are tents to keep you out of the hot summer sun.
And those who have trouble getting around can watch from their cars.
Regardless of how you participate, it is the common thread of love and devotion to St. Ann that keeps the basilica grounds filled.
"St. Ann has been in my corner for quite some time now. She's shown me two great miracles and I became a devoted fan," said Greg Palmer of Dupont.
Church officials expect about 4,000 worshippers a day to visit, and as many as 10,000 on the final day.
There are five masses a day beginning at 7a.m. The novena ends with the feast day of St. Ann on July 26.