What seemed hardly probable 14 months ago, today became a fact. The icon copy of Our Lady from Częstochowa has travelled the way from Vladivostok to Fatima, visiting 24 countries in Asia, Europe and even Spanish Ceucta in Africa. The peregrination under the name ‘From Ocean to Ocean was organized in the pro-life intention. The ‘hot line’ full of prayer has 65 thousand kilometers. There has not been such a big campaign in the defense of the unborn yet.

Farewell in January

We said farewell to the icon on 30 January 2012 at Jasna Góra. Two days before in the sanctuary there was a meeting of representatives of the pro-life movement from 18 countries, who had established an international committee. During the Holy Mass, which was presided over by archbishop Stanisław Nowak, a solemn ‘Act of Entrustment of life and love civilization protection to Our Lady’ was made.

According to the tradition, Pauline Fathers touched the copy, aimed for the peregrination, to the original Icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa.

– The global attack of death civilization taking place now is so powerful that we are not able to win this battle. We need a great prayer all over the world in the pro-life intention for which John Paul II had asked. So we are addressing our request for help to Our Lady – says Ewa Kowalewska, the representative of Human Life International, a coordinator of the peregrination. – Every year, because of abortion, over 50 million babies die. The global number of abortion has exceeded 2 milliards! We need a great prayer to achieve the conversion of human hearts and minds.

Far East and Far West

On the day of the pilgrimage of the Icon from Jasna Góra in Częstochowa, there was frost and it reminded that Our Lady had a difficult route to travel: a few climatic spheres, mountains and the wilderness, taiga and Siberian deserts. – Today, when the first phase of the peregrination ‘From Ocean to Ocean’ is approaching the end, I feel, first of all, surprised. – says Ewa Kowalewska. – At the beginning I found it hard to believe that travelling through the Far East, Siberia, Ural and later the far West is possible at all. It was necessary to entrust it and one another to God, that in every country Our Lady will be flanked with worship, prayer and will continue her pilgrimage safely.

The first phase could be started only when Siberian roads got defrosted. On 14 June the icon, being surrounded by Russian pro-life activists, stood on the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Vladivostok. It was welcomed by the Orthodox Church. Inhabitants of Ussuri and other far-away places arrived to see it. It was a great event. In Krasnoyarsk the Icon blessed the town, while sailing by the governmental motorboat on Yenisei, one of the longest Siberian rivers. It drove through the streets of Moscow in the pro-life motor ride.

– The meetings of Our Lady of Częstochowa with the inhabitants of Belarus were accompanied by great emotions – mentions Ewa Kowalewska. – It was welcomed with great worship, bread and salt and a prayer. Thousand people were waiting in long queues, in order to ‘touch themselves to’ the Icon according to the Orthodox tradition. The peregrination was accompanied by a pro-life campaign: many symposia, conferences, discursive meetings, exhibitions, stalls and even concerts.

Two weeks in Poland

After Latvia and Lithuania, the Icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa reached to Poland. It was escorted by motorcyclists from Katyń Ride. The route of two and half a thousand kilometers in the Polish phase led through 22 cities and towns, among the others, Białystok, Gietrzwałd, Gdańsk, Wejherowo, Kościerzyna, Szczecin, Bydgoszcz, Toruń, Warsaw, Łódź, Częstochowa, Piekary Śląskie, Kraków, Wadowice i Bielsko-Biała. Our Lady was welcomed cordially everywhere. People knelt by roads, in streets. Churches, sanctuaries, cathedrals were crowded. The prayer in the intention of life civilization was presided over by bishops assisted by many priests. Many excellent sermons and homilies were preached, in which important aspects of life defense were emphasized. There were also accompanying events: a conference on Creighton Model Fertility Care System in Gdańsk, a beautiful photo exhibition in Warsaw presenting dignity and joy of life among children with Down syndrome and a discussion panel on abortion and post-abortion mental health in Katowice. In the sanctuary of bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko in Warsaw Żoliborz – during the act of giving the peregrinating Icon from the Orthodox Church – two priests, an Orthodox priest and a Catholic priest, touched the Icon to the grave board of Fr. Jerzy. On 22 August Our Lady in the peregrinating icon returned to its home at Jasna Góra for a short time and was placed next to the original Icon in the chapel. After the Holy Mass in the intention of life defense, which was concelebrated at Jasna Góra by the metropolitan of Częstochowa archbishop Wacław Depo and prayer night vigil it set off to a further travel, through the Sanctuary of Our Lady in Piekary Śląskie, to Skałka near Cracow, to Łagiewniki and Bielsko-Biała.

It is going to continue the pilgrimage

The route was leading from Poland through Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, Austria to Switzerland, later to the north through Germany to England and Ireland, and later to France and Spain. It was welcomed by many sanctuaries, for example Walsingham in England, Alloting in Germany, Lourder in France and Oviedo, Santiago de Compostella, Saragossa in Spain. The unusual travel was full of historical moments and amazing convergence of years. The Icon arrived in Łagiewniki on the birthday of St. Faustyna. In Prague a meeting with relics of St. Luke was organized, which on the occasion of the peregrination had been extracted from a treasury of St. Wit. On the anniversary of the battle at Lepanto, the icon visited the Church of Our Lady the Victorious in Vienna, and it arrived for ceremonies in Lourde on 8 December.

All the visits have a wide photographic and film documentation. – We are at the phase of its sorting and preparing for publication. In the first place we are planning to organize a photographic exhibition at Jasna Góra – informs Ewa Kowalewska. – We thank everybody who support this peregrination. If it was not for their help, we would not be able to coordinate this international program. We rely on further help in this great work. Although media may not inform about the visit of Our Lady of Czestochowa enough, it was welcomed by crowds everywhere. People were coming out into streets and roads, knelt, were throwing flowers at ‘Life Mobil’, and were singing. Our Lady of Częstochowa has visited 24 countries, 75 cathedrals, 73 sanctuaries, nearly 400 churches, about 50 Orthodox churches. It has been in many schools, hospitals, monasteries, and even in a prison. – We estimate that about 4 million people gathered around it on a prayer in the intention of life defense, in order to give a testimony of their faith. – says Ewa Kowalewska.

Pro-life activists believe that in relation with the peregrination something starts to change. In Dublin, a week after the icon had left, there was a big youth manifestation in defense of life. In Paris, two weeks after the peregrination, there was a big march in defense of a marriage and family, which has been an unusual event so far. Recently Belarus has introduced law prohibiting the so-called late abortions, which in that reality is a big step towards protection of a conceived baby.

The main ceremony ending the first phase of the peregrination will take place in Fatima on Sunday of Divine Mercy, on 7 April. Next day, the Icon will be at the shore of the Atlantic, which will mean the final end of the route ‘From Ocean to Ocean’. But it is not the end of the pilgrimage. This year there are plans of travelling through the Atlantic Ocean and starting the second phase of the peregrination in the United States of America. However, this time, the other way round – from the Atlantic to the Pacific. More information on this issue can be found on the website www.odoceanudooceanu.pl


"Niedziela" 15/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl