#O2OPilgrimage: Making Way for the Black Madonna in Sparta, NJ

Truly, the Blessed Mother unites Christians of many different backgrounds. All over Europe, the Americas, Africa and Asia one finds strong devotion to the Mother of Christ, the one who points us to her Son and says as she did at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.”

So it has been especially edifying for me – and not at all a surprise – that so many of Polish descent go out of their way to welcome the Black Madonna on her pilgrim journey. When Father Greg Golba, the associate pastor at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Sparta, New Jersey and an immigrant from Poland, heard that the pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was coming to New Jersey he immediately made arrangements to have her visit.  Deacon Kamil Piotr Wierzbicki, who will be ordained a priest next year, was also very excited and welcoming.

While most people think of New Jersey as an industrial state, Sparta is a somewhat rural town located in the midst of the mountains and lakes in the northwest part of the state.  Our Lady was welcomed to Sparta with a beautiful Mass which began with a procession led by the Knights of Columbus and the singing of “Immaculate Mary”.  The readings from the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux reminded us of the need to have a child-like faith and that what we do to a child we do to Christ himself.  Thus, we need to create a society in which children will be loved and protected from the moment of conception until natural death. Our Lady’s intercession is necessary to accomplish this goal. 

Singing “Hail Holy Queen,” the Knights of Columbus and a large crowd carried the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa out of the church and around the parish grounds. They processed to a statue of Mary where the people gathered and prayed the rosary.  The procession returned to the church where more prayers were offered for the protection of life including the prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the end of Evangelium vitae and the Act of Entrustment of the Civilization of Life and Love into the hands of Our Blessed Mother. 

It was a beautiful evening and many people took part in the Mass and procession.  Being from New Jersey, I have plenty of family in the area, and I was pleased that my second cousins, Mary and Kevin Michael, were able to share in the veneration of the Black Madonna.

The next day, there was a Mass for about 500 school children.  It was the Feast of the Guardian Angels, and the children learned that they and every other human being is made in the image and likeness of God and that each of us has an angel assigned to us to protect and guide us through life. Every human life is precious to God; therefore we have an obligation to defend the lives of others, especially the most innocent and defenseless.

The children came up after Mass to take a holy card to honor the Blessed Mother in the icon.  So many beautiful children honoring Our Lady praying for the defense of life gives us great hope for the future that we can build a culture of life!

Fr. Peter West
Vice President for Missions
Human Life International

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