FROM OCEAN TO OCEAN
It was a freezing cold, although sunny morning. 30 January 2012 the copy of the Icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa was leaving the monastery at Jasna Góra, in order to set off to the East on a further pilgrimage. Organizers of the peregrination in the intention of defence of life and love civilization – groups Human Life International from 18 countries – had planned that during the nearest several months, the Icon would travel the route from the Pacific to Atlantic. Hence the name of the pilgrimage: ‘From Ocean to Ocean’.
In Asia, Europe and America
It was the beginning of the peregrination which united millions of inhabitants of Asia, Europe and America during four years, in a prayer in intention of life defence. In the first phase, conducted by 24 countries of Asia and Europe, Our Lady of Częstochowa travelled 65 thousand kilometers.
In the beginning I was even afraid of believing, that it was possible to transport the Icon across the Far East, Siberia, Ural and later across whole Europe. However, we trusted God and one another, that in every country Our Lady would be welcomed with dignity and surrounded with prayers. It should be emphasized that it is an initiative of lay liberals, engaged in pro-life movements in various countries – says Ewa Kowalewska, the representative of Human Life International – Poland, who and her husband, Lech, are initiators and international coordinators of the peregrination.
On 22 August 2013, the second phase began, this time on the American continent. – I was accompanying the Icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa in the air journey across the Atlantic, and in Washington I gave it under care of Fr. Peter West, the vice-president of Human Life International then, who had a function of its custodian for a year and three months. Travelling with it across the USA and Canada, I travelled 85 thousand km – says Lech Kowalewski. – When after a week I returned to Poland, I got an email from American friends, who wrote: ‘This icon works like exorcism. Three children have already been saved. Our Lady of Częstochowa is the greatest patron of women suffering from post-abortion syndrome. The suffering mother with the hurt face opens hearts of these women, closed to Divine Mercifulness so far.
It was a dynamic phase. The Icon was peregrinating from the East to West, and then to the East again, visited other states of the USA. Similarly as in Asia and Europe, it stopped at catholic and orthodox churches, in schools, hospitals, prisons. It was with pro-life activists at a prayer outside the places in which abortions were done. It got to the ruins of the World Trade Centre, it was present on a parade of Pułaski in New York and a great annual pro-life march in Washnigton. Later it was also in Chicago, on Florida, in Texas and California. During its peregrination across Canada, it was, among the others, in the prison in Vanier in which the famous pro-life activist Mary Wagner is.
Prayer and… promotion of the Polish history
Fr. Peter West was a caring custodian who put aside others duties for many years, in order to accompany Our Lady in the pilgrimage. Although his ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland, he got fascinated with the Polish history so much that after his sermons about the history of the Icon of Częstochowa, the victory of king Sobieski at Vienna, and St. Faustyna, he was often asked whether he had Polish origin.
The peregrination in the United States and Canada ended on the first days of December 2014 – This pilgrimage is an occasion to give a testimony of deep faith and becoming engaged in life defence by millions of people and this is the most important today – says Ewa Kowalewska. – There are also some coincidences. For example, at Cincinnati, a big abortion clinic was closed down, because of sanitary problems, a few days before the peregrination. At present in the USA there is a fight for stopping financing abortion and trade of organs of aborted children. The House of Representatives accepted an Act which gives all states of the USA the right to make a decision in this issue and more and more of them use this possibility.
Fr. West used to emphasize many times that, accompanying Our Lady of Częstochowa, he had experienced the strength of unity of Christians of the East and West Churches in a prayer in the intention of human life defence. – Our Lady, unlike anyone else can attract people and direct them towards Divine Mercifulness with great love – notes Ewa Kowalewska. – There were no cases of aggressive behavior towards Her. She always brings great love and peace. A lot of people deeply experiences a prayer in front of the Icon, a possibility of standing in front of it, touching, kissing it…
We were witnesses of excellent returns to God, confessions after many years, which is proven by priests participating in the peregrination. A lot of children were saved. A lot of people experienced spiritual touching, as Our Lady is a particular path to God.
A pilgrimage to Mexico
On 3 December 2014 the Icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa set off to Mexico. It flew by plane from Chicago to Leon de los Aldamas, a city with the population of one and a half million in the state Guanajuato, under the care of Fr. James Heyd.
On a big area of the Mexico city, where the number of population is estimated to 22-25 million, the first parish hosting the Icon was the parish of Our Lady of Częstochowa. The church in which a solemn Holy Mass was celebrated, had been built thanks to efforts of the Polish Diaspora in Mexico, especially deceased Jerzy Skoryna, a soldier of the National Army and a participant of the Warsaw Uprising, who moved to live in Mexico after his emigration from Poland.
The patron of the peregrination in Mexico is St. John Paul II, therefore, the place of permanent stay of the Icon is the church of St. John Paul II and St. Thomas More. The function of custodian belongs to the parish priest – Fr. Luis A. Monroy Lopez, and lay coordinators is a married couple Beatriz Gonzales and Jose Luis Garcia Chagoyan from the VidaFlorida movement. The solemn greeting of the Icon in this parish converged with the end of the VI edition of retreat for married couples ‘I +YOU=WE’, which was conducted by Fr. Jarosław Szymczak from the Lay Institute of Consecrated Life of Holy Family in Łomianki, cooperating in creating a formation movement of VidaFlorida families.
In sanctuaries, schools and hospitals
On the feast of Immaculate Conception the Icon of Our Lady was placed in the presbytery of the Old Basilica in Guadalupe, the biggest sanctuary of Mary in the world, which is visited by 12 million people every year. The Holy Mass in the intention of life defence, marriage and family, was preceded by Rosary prayer, said in Polish, Spanish, English and Latin. And because Our Lady of Guadalupe is called by the Mexicans Morenita, because of its dark skin, the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa of similar complexion, gained a nickname of Polish Morenita. It was the second time when the Icon had arrived from Poland to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at the end of a prayer of pro-life movements ’40 Days for Life’, lasting a day and night. The Icon was placed under the image of Our Lady on the tilma of St. Juan Diego, in the presbytery of the New Basilica. The solemn Holy Mass was presided over by cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera – an archbishop of Mexico in assistance of cardinal Ennio Antonello – a retired chairperson of the Papal Council for Family and a few hundred priests from all over the world. The third meeting of Morenit took place during debates of the International Organizational Committee of Peregrination in November 2016.
Before that, on the Youth Day of Faith, the Icon was hosted in the oldest seminary in America in Huipulco, Tlalpan, in a federal district of Mexico city. Later it visited a hospital of the Mexican Red Cross, which gives the first aid to poor inhabitants. Another stop on its route was the so-called City of Girls, a charity educational building for 3 thousand female students from poor families of Mexico.
On Sunday of Divine Mercifulness Our Lady was at feasts in the sanctuary of Divine Mercifulness in Tenango del Aire, run by Polish priests the Pallotines, where the Holy Mass was celebrated by an apostolic nuncio in Mexico – archbishop Christophe Pierre. Next it set off to western coast at the Pacific to Tijuana, where it stood at the coast of the Pacific Ocean again.
It has travelled round the equator four times
We are in touch with Beatriz and Jose Luis, Mexican coordinators of the pilgrimage. We visited them in November – says Lech Kowalewski. – Beatriz and her husband did really a lot. They are accompanying Our Lady with great devotion. They printed and give away images of the Icon of Częstochowa, Our Lady of Guadalupe, the image of Merciful Jesus and a Spanish text of Entrustment Act to Our Lady of Life and Love Civilisation Defence, which is renewed at all meetings. Their cousins, professional musicians, arranged a Spanish version of the song ‘Black Madonna’.
Mexico is a country where time is going in a completely different rhythm. There nobody is in hurry, so the peregrination is going slowly. However, during the last year the Icon travelled other 15 thousand km. Since it set off from Jasna Góra 4 years ago, it has travelled 165 thousand km, that is, a distance four times longer than the equator.
We were a bit afraid what state of the Icon would be like after travelling such a long road in various climatic conditions, and temperature variations – says Ewa Kowalewska.
People are carrying it, touching, kissing it and rubbing their rosaries and sheets of paper on it, and this all is harmful for such a delicate image. Whereas, nothing bad is happening. So far, the Icon has required only little conservations. Apparently Mary wants to travel further and is happy that she can be with Her children and give God their alive faith. We receive invitations from other countries. We do not know where She will got now and how long the journey will last. It is Her who will decide. We hope that it will visit Cuba. There are also invitations from Columbia, Equator, Guatemala, Brazil. These are requests from Korea, Vietnam, Philippines, and Australia. We need sponsors. However, we believe that if Mary wants, she will travel around the world in Her great pilgrimage in defence of life and love civilization.
More information on peregrination ‘From Ocean to ocean’ can be found on the website: www.odoceanudooceanu.pl