SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — A yearly faith pilgrimage that’s been around for nearly a century is about to play out once again in Lackawanna County. It’s the annual solemn novena to Saint Ann which endured several restrictions last year during the COVID crisis.

Full indoor capacity, outdoor services, and the return of the 7:30 p.m. daily mass is all back this year for the novena after a one-year hiatus because of the pandemic. Things are almost back to fully normal. Almost.

Getting the grounds of St. Ann’s Basilica in tip-top shape for the 97th annual Solemn Novena to St. Ann is a high priority, from power washing benches, to weed whacking edges of the four-square block property.

“And it’s something that we take pride in. A lot of people come up here and some of them compliment us on how the grounds look,” said Adam Mehall, worker, St. Ann’s Basilica.

A lot more people are expected this year as many pandemic restrictions put in place in 2020 have been lifted.

“I was actually very pleased with what we were able to do last year but we were very limited,” said Fr. Richard Burke, C.P., Rector, St. Ann’s Basilica.

There still won’t be individual blessings with the relic of St. Ann just like last year.

Folding chairs and tents won’t happen for a second straight year as a precaution but Fr. Burke says it shouldn’t be a deterrent.

“We have plenty, plenty of places on the benches along the portico. You can sit in the basilica and watch everything that goes on in the basilica on the screen or you can sit on one of the benches here in the grotto and the walkways.”

The food stand will make a return after a one-year absence.

“It’s like a tradition. You know, it’s part of what it means to go to the novena,” said Fr. Burke.

Some have attended this annual novena since they were children.

“We all come here and it’s just a peaceful setting to sit outside and congregate with people that you know, your family,” Juli Avvisato, who attends St. Ann’s Novena, said.

“How many people come here and not only depend on it but look forward to it,” said Dan Dalrymple, worker, St. Ann’s Basilica.

The daily novena will conclude July 26 on the Feast Day. The full schedule of events is available at St. Ann’s Novena website.