A Canonization on Divine Mercy Sunday, Celebrated at Our Lady’s Shrine

Situated in the larger Chicago metropolitan area, the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Merrillville, Indiana is a spiritual home for the second largest Polish population in America, after New York City. As we see all over the country, the Polish have a great devotion to the Queen of Poland, the Black Madonna.  Our Lady’s lovely shrine in Merrillville has a permanent Icon of Czestochowa, spacious grounds and Millennial Hall, where many different types of events are held. This is the second such visit in the US: Our Lady also visited her shrine in Doylestown, Pennsylvania last December for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

The Salvatorians (the Society of the Divine Savior) religious community operates the shrine, which is also home to their monastery. Their founder is Father Francis Mary of the Cross Jordan (1848 - 1918), whose cause is currently being reviewed for beatification.

Setting the gracious and prayerful tone for Our Lady’s visit to her shrine, Father Lukaz Kleczka welcomed the Black Madonna on behalf of the Salvatorians. After praying the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and the Rosary on Saturday evening, the vigil of the Feast of Divine Mercy instituted by Saint John Paul II, we celebrated Holy Mass.  During his homily, Father West highlighted the inexhaustible mercy of Our Lord, who refuses the sincere appeals of no sinner.  He told the story of women in Russia spontaneously confessing sins of past abortions as they prayed before the pilgrim icon. He also promoted Project Rachel - the post-abortion healing ministry of the Catholic Church, Rachel’s Vineyard Retreats and Lumina Hope and Healing Ministry which helps both women and men recover from the trauma caused by past abortions and helps them to forgive themselves and be reconciled to God. The Black Madonna has been adopted as patroness of many who are healing from abortion.

His Excellency Dale J. Melczek, Bishop of the Diocese of Gary, Indiana was the main celebrant of the Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday.  The homily was preached in Polish by Fr. Lukaz, and Fr. West shared a short reflection as well after the homily.

Of course, this Divine Mercy Sunday was even more special than usual, especially for Polish Catholics. Special preparations had been made by the Salvatorians for the canonization of St. John XXIII and the Polish Pope, St. John Paul II An all night prayer vigil with the pilgrim icon began on Saturday night and ran through Sunday morning.  A big screen  was set up in the sanctuary to watch a special broadcast of the canonization Mass at 3:00 am.

We shared in the pride and joy of our Polish hosts at that hour.  A special connection between the two newly canonized pope saints was the Second Vatican Council, which St. John XXIII convened and to which St. John Paul contributed and implemented during his papacy.

On Sunday afternoon the Black Madonna participated in two prayer vigils in front of abortion mills.  The first prayer vigil was held at Planned Parenthood in Merrillville.  Thirty-seven people joined in prayer and listened to Fr. West give an explanation about the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.  Some in attendance also followed Our Lady to Family Planning Clinic in Gary to pray for the closing of the abortion mill.  When a light rain started to fall we kept Our Lady in the car, but continued to pray the rosary outside.

After Mass the following morning at her shrine, we prepared the Black Madonna to move on to her next destination.  We were grateful for coverage of the events in an article in The Post-Tribune Newspaper, but we were even more grateful for the generosity of our new friends, the Salvatorians, and the surrounding Catholic community in Merrillville.


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