The Mother of God visits the Jesuit Millennium Center in Chicago

On Monday evening, May 12th, the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa arrived at the Jesuit Millennium Center (JOM).  A thunderstorm was approaching and lightning was flashing as Our Lady rode in her new Life Mobile through the streets of Chicago.  The rain, however, ceased for a moment so that the welcome ceremony could take place outside at the entrance to the church.

The idea of ​​building a large evangelization center for the Polish-American community living in the Chicago area was brought to fruition in 2000, hence the name: the Millennium Center.  The church was erected very quickly as the Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus that conducts extensive pastoral activities.  Using its large facilities, the center organizes many cultural events and educational programs.  All Masses are celebrated in Polish. There is a number of pastoral groups, such as; Counseling for Families, Domestic Church, Spiritual Adoption of Unborn Children, the Militia Immaculata, the "Jasmine" Community that helps parents with special needs children, a bereavement support group, and the "Lazarus Shelter" for addicts.  The parish children and youth also participate in scouts, parish plays, and other activity and prayer meetings.

The Center collaborates with the local Polish-American Catholic radio station "Deon," run by the Jesuit Fathers in Chicago.  The evening daily Masses that are well attended on weekdays are broadcast live.

The Czestochowa Icon was brought into the church chapel by men in historical Kosciuszko uniforms.  As honorary escorts of Our Lady, they repeatedly displayed their swords during the ceremony.  The Icon stood on the right side of the altar, surrounded by beautiful white flowers.

The children and youth of the Rzepicha Theater Group, together with their chaperones, greeted Our Lady by reciting Polish Marian poetry.  The Invocation of "Pan Tadeusz" moved everyone deeply.  The church was full.

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, broadcasted live by Radio Odeon, began at 7:05 PM.  The main celebrant was Fr. Joseph Birecki, SJ - the Superior of the center, joined by several other priests, including Fr. Jerzy Karpinski, SJ and Fr. Marian Kozina, SJ.  Fr. Kozina gave the homily.   Welcoming this wonderful guest in the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Fr. Kozina noted that Our Lady is also known as the Help of the Afflicted.  She always watches over her children, leading us to her Son, Jesus.

After the congregation received the Holy Communion, Mrs. Ewa Kowalewska, serving as the international coordinator of the pilgrimage "From Ocean to Ocean," spoke a few words to the gathered.  She encouraged both public and individual adoration of the Icon.  She recalled that the Icon is a glimpse into Heaven, through which God and the Immaculate Mary look at their children.  Since the inception of this peregrination, over 6 million people from 26 different countries have prayed before this Icon of Czestochowa.  Mrs. Kowalewska also thanked the gathered people for their great devotion and love for the Mother of God, which was visible on their faces as they were gazing upon the Icon.

Father Birecki renewed the "Act of Entrustment of the Protection of the Civilization of Life and Love to the Mother of God."  After the singing of the Litany of Loreto, people began individual veneration of the Icon.  The faithful lined up in long lines to approach Our Lady in the Icon.  Brother Adam Borek, SJ always kept watch to maintain order and a prayerful atmosphere.  Many had to leave the church early in the evening because of their work obligations the next day.  Tears were visible on their faces.  It was a very moving evening, filled with prayer and exceptional grace.  Adoration lasted until midnight.

Prayers were continued in the morning, and subsequent Masses were celebrated in the Polish language.  Various parish groups, including the Christian Life Community, the parish library staff, and the Domestic Church Circle led the adoration prayers.

In the evening, at 5:30 PM, the Life Mobile drove away to the next church.  Father Birecki prayed the prayer of St. John Paul II from the encyclical "Evangelium Vitae."  The hymn "Te Deum" was solemnly sung.  The Life Mobile arrived with another addition on top of the encasement for the Icon – a beautifully constructed crown.  The construction is so tall that the driver has to be extremely careful as not to get stuck anywhere on the way through the city.  The crown looks impressive and serves as another confirmation that the Polish Highlanders always welcome the Blessed Mother with great honor and creativity.

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