This week, the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and The Catholic University of America partnered to illuminate the Shrine exterior as part of the “Light it Blue” campaign, a nationwide movement saluting doctors, nurses, and other frontline workers serving during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Through coordination with the Division of University Advancement, Atmosphere Lighting of Silver Spring, Md., set up the lights May 5. The company has worked with the Division before on various events and sponsored the cost of the project.

“The display is intended to shed light in this moment of COVID-19 darkness, as well as serve as a tangible sign of gratitude to healthcare workers and first responders who have been a light to so many during these unsettling days,” said Monsignor Walter Rossi, rector of the National Shrine.

Cathleen Shannon, M.S.N. 2013, and now a pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) for Montgomery County Public Schools School-Based Health and Wellness Center, said the Shrine has always held a special place in her heart, both now and when she was a student at the University. In stressful times, it was a place to which she always turned.

“I spent many hours on my knees praying the Rosary before my evening classes when I was in my PNP program. My life was not my own during that time — I was working full time as a medical writer, had teenage children at home, and was the nurse navigator for my mother-in-law who had ALS and my mom who had dementia,” she said. “There is no way I could have survived that experience and flourished without having the peace, serenity, and prayerful space that is the Basilica.

“To this day, every time I look at the Dome wherever I am in the District, it is a beacon of hope for me and a reminder that the Blessed Mother and all her graces are there for the asking.”

— Cathleen Shannon, M.S.N. 2013

Catholic University, which partners often with the Shrine during the course of the academic year, is home to the Conway School of Nursing and the National Catholic School of Social Service. It also has numerous faculty, students, and alumni working as nurses, social workers, and clinical lab technicians, among other roles. The University has responded to the pandemic by donating personal protective equipment to area hospitals and by making virus-related research freely available to scientists working to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

“I am happy to be able to honor our frontline healthcare workers with the ‘Light it Blue’ tribute,” said President John Garvey. “Light is exactly what our nurses, doctors, and other healthcare professionals have been for us during the pandemic. We are indebted to the work, expertise, care, and generosity of all those putting their lives on the line to make sure we are safe.”

Amy Pettigrew, director of University Advancement events, said the effort to light the Basilica’s exterior came from the desire both to honor those working on the front lines and to uplift the Brookland neighborhood and greater DMV community. She said helping coordinate the lighting was satisfying after so many University events were canceled or postponed due to the virus.

“We had the choice to either do nothing and wait it out, or to work with the current situation. It was a partnership with our neighbor and the chance to do something different.”

— Amy Pettigrew, director of University Advancement events

Pettigrew continued, “We utilized a long-time vendor, Atmosphere Lighting, for an impactful experience that showed gratitude for all of the healthcare workers and first responders. We are grateful for the opportunity to provide this display of hope and gratitude.”

In a statement, an Atmosphere Lighting representative said it is an honor to help venues take part in the “Light it Blue” campaign. Since March, the company has illuminated other locations in Washington, D.C., including the National Cathedral and Smithsonian Institute.

“Our designers are passionate about these projects and proud to be part of this very visual statement of support recognizing healthcare workers and other essential personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

— Statement from Atmosphere Lighting

The display at the National Shrine will continue from dusk to 11:30 p.m. through Tuesday, May 12, 2020.