As we set off for Las Vegas with the Black Madonna, the picturesque southwestern desert joining California and Nevada offered a peaceful backdrop of reflection on the journey of the historic Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life. Wherever we travel, the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa has strengthened the faithful in their resolutions to defend life and family.
The Black Madonna traveled on a very hot and dry afternoon to St. Mary Catholic Church in El Centro on September 4. The desert town borders Mexico, just across from Mexicali. Father Ed Horning pastors a large Hispanic population at St. Mary’s. One parishioner, a Polish nurse named Mrs. Agnieska Hernandez, had just returned from Poland but missed seeing Our Lady of Czestochowa, much to her regret.
Our next destination was St. Andrew’s Orthodox Church in Riverside, where another Akathist service was prayed September 3. Processing into the church with the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa while the Akathist was sung with more than 160 in attendance, including several young families, brought such joy!
Annunciation Byzantine Catholic Church, a large and beautiful church established in 1969 in Anaheim, California, started as a mission parish that combined St. Mary’s in Van Nuys and St. Nicholas of Fontana. Evident today is a parish embracing a strong liturgical life and vibrant religious education programs for adults and children.
On last stop before leaving the San Diego area was the Missionaries of Charity in National City. We gathered at the convent to preach about the icon and give the nuns an opportunity for veneration.
By the end of August, our travels led us to the Diocese of San Bernardino’s St. Adelaide Church in Highland. Flanked by the parish’s Knights of Columbus color guard, we processed into the church.
On wednesday, August 27 Our Lady of Czestochowa in her pilgrim icon traveled to St. John of Damascus Orthodox Church in Poway in bright and sunny San Diego. Members of the parish arrived to greet Our Lady. As with most Orthodox churches, the best way to honor Our Lady is by celebrating an Akathist hymn which praises the Blessed Virgin Mary Mother of God.
Ever since the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life began in the Summer of 2012 in Vladivostok, Russia, the pilgrimage has encouraged the faithful to seek the intercession of Our Blessed Mother and has implored prayers from members of the Church, especially consecrated religious.
On the feast day of Our Lady of Czestochowa, August 26, we brought her to the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative Sisters in Los Angeles. Our evening destination was St. Rose of Lima Church in Simi Valley, a popular tourist destination because of the adjacent Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library. Reagan, one of the world leaders most responsible for the defeat of communism, worked alongside Saint John Paul II, a firm devotee of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Some might consider it just a series of coincidences; however, others believe it to be Divine Providence.
When Father Peter West, Vice President of Human Life International, traveled to Sharonville, Ohio this past May, he didn’t travel alone. The Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady Czestochowa accompanied the priest to the city’s Women’s Center clinic for an intense prayer vigil. As has happened now all over North America, the “Black Madonna” joined the pro-life faithful in their prevailing efforts to end abortion at the facility.