The Black Madonna Met with Enthusiasm at Holy Family Catholic Church.

We arrived at Holy Family Catholic Church in Rockford, Illinois and Our Lady had a special welcome by the Knights of Columbus.  The Knights maintained their presence throughout her time in the parish.  A special thank you to Patricia Bainbridge who is the Chairman of the Board at Human Life International for setting up this visit to her hometown parish at Holy Family Catholic Church.  She and her husband Red hosted Fr. West and Chris at their home while the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa visited. 

A special occurrence during the Black Madonna’s visit to Holy Family Parish was the presence of Bishop Emeritus Thomas G. Doran, D.D., J.C.D who is now retired yet still active.  Fr. West concelebrated mass with Bishop Doran for two masses on consecutive days.

Fr. West gave two talks to Holy Family school  children - one for the lower grades and  another for the upper grades.  He spoke at length about the history and symbolism of the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and the importance of defending human life.  The school children were each given a holy card and venerated the icon very reverently.

In the evening, Fr. West gave a third talk about the icon to a general audience of parishioners.  In attendance were some from the American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox Diocese of the USA in anticipation of the Akathist liturgy following the talk.  Akathist literally means "not sitting".  The Akathist liturgy to Our Lady of Czestochowa was celebrated by two American Carpatho-Russian Orthodox priests.  Fr. Jonathan Bannon of Christ the Savior Orthodox Church and the Very Rev. Protorpresbyter Samuel J. Sherry prayed the Akathist liturgy.  A Greek Orthodox priest was also in attendance.  Fr. Bannon addressed the congregation and spoke about his personal love and respect for the Catholic faithful and their practice of praying the rosary.  He talked about the similarity of the rosary and the prayer rope he uses to pray to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the tradition of his church.  Fr. Bannon recounted a story about how he had a special rosary made by Catholic nuns that he gave as a gift to his father who happens to be Roman Catholic. 

Fr. West thanked the Orthodox priests and other guests for their participation and recalled our common love for Jesus, His Blessed Mother and our concern for the defense of life, marriage and the family.  From the beginning of the peregrination there has been magnificent cooperation between the Orthodox and Catholics.  By the end of the Akathist liturgy we felt closer to our Carpatho-Russian Orthodox brothers and sisters.  The unity that was engendered was a special ecumenical fruit due to the visit of the Black Madonna.

A nighttime mass was concelebrated with Fr. Dariusz Barna, OFM Conv. who is the pastor of a local Polish parish which is St. Stanislaus located in Rockford, Illinois.  Many from his church were in attendance for the Akathist prayer service and the nighttime mass.  It is a characteristic of Polish people to come out in larger numbers to venerate the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.  This visit was no exception to the display of great devotion the Polish people have for the Black Madonna.

After the Mass in the morning with Bishop Doran, Fr. West led a Farewell Ceremony for Our Blessed Mother. People said their final goodbyes and the Knights of Columbus solemnly escorted her to her waiting vehicle. A group of Polish people sang hymns in Polish before she left for Rock Island, Illinois. People were sad to see her leave, but happy to have had the opportunity for this visit of Our Lady.

Chris Morales

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