ST. FRANCIS — Large crowds are anticipated Saturday as New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan returns to the Milwaukee Archdiocese for a Mass of Thanksgiving at the Basilica of Holy Hill.

In an effort to accommodate the anticipated crowds, several measures have been taken such as a wristband system, shuttle buses to transport attendees to and from upper and lower parking lots and an overflow viewing area in the upper parking lot, said Julie Wolf, communications director for the archdiocese

“I think the message we’re trying to get out is that while we are not wanting to discourage people from attending, we want them to know what to expect,” said Wolf. “Seating will be extremely limited and we’re not telling people not to come, but we expect large crowds and people may come and find they don’t get a seat.

We’re doing our best to accommodate as many people as we can, but we also have to ensure people’s safety.”

According to Wolf, Holy Hill can accommodate about 2,000 people in the upper and lower churches and in the upper parking lot which will be transformed into an overflow viewing area with a large TV monitor.

The grounds will open at 5 a.m. on Saturday and regular Masses will be held at 6 and 11 a.m.

The upper and lower churches will be cleared and closed at 12:15 p.m. and at 1:30 p.m., the distribution of general admission wristbands will begin; for the disabled or wheelchair users, distribution will begin at 1 p.m. Wristbands will be distributed at station 14 of the outdoor stations of the cross on the property, said Wolf.

The wristbands will be color-coded, she explained, noting that the different colors will designate a specific seating area.

The wristbands will allow organizers to determine when seating capacity is reached, said Wolf.

“When the wristbands are gone, we know we will have reached our capacity,” she said, explaining that one wristband will be distributed per person and there will be no group or multiple wristband distribution.

Other efforts to make the day go smoothly include video monitors placed in the lower church, and a partially-covered overflow area that features limited seating and standing areas.

Wolf said organizers hope to have everyone seated by 4 p.m. for the praying of the rosary. Mass will begin at 4:30 p.m.

There will not be a reception or receiving line following Mass, but Wolf said Cardinal Dolan will try to greet as many people as he can after Mass.

For those unable to attend the event in person the Mass will be aired live at 4:30 p.m. on radio and TV stations, and be available in live streams online.

Tune to Relevant Radio 100.1 FM, Digital Channel 6.2, Time-Warner Cable Channel 986 or Charter Cable Channel 967 for coverage.

A live stream of the Mass will also be available at or

For more information about the event, contact Amy Taylor at (414) 769-3435 or or visit

Cardinal Dolan requested that Holy Hill be the site of the Mass of Thanksgiving as it holds a special place in his heart. The Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians at Holy Hill was named a minor basilica by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006 and was dedicated by Archbishop Dolan that year.

Saturday’s visit marks the first time he has returned to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee since he was elevated to the College of Cardinals, Feb. 18. Cardinal Dolan served as Milwaukee’s 10th archbishop from 2002 to 2009.