The Black Madonna in the Twin Cities

Minneapolis and St. Paul Minnesota together comprise the largest metropolitan urban area in the United States, including 182 cities and townships.  The early settlers of these two towns have different ethnic and religious origins: Scandinavians and Lutherans built Minneapolis, whereas the Catholic French, German and Irish built St. Paul.  The 2010 census shows the Minneapolis - St.Paul - St.Cloud region to be the 13th largest populated area in the United States, with over 3.75 million residents.

We arrived at Holy Cross Church in Minneapolis on Friday, June 7 and were met by Father Glen Jenson, the pastor, and his associate, Father Stanislaw Michalek.  Both priests took a very active interest and participated in all the events during the weekend, and both were generous and accommodating hosts.  With websites in both English and Polish, Holy Cross Church betrays its strong Polish roots, and it cooperates with other local Catholic parishes in a cluster that include St. Anthony of Padua, St. Clement and St. Hedwig.  The evening began with a Holy Hour, followed by Mass and veneration of the pilgrim icon.

Our Lady of Czestochowa crossed over from Minneapolis to St. Casimir Church in St. Paul for the weekend Masses. St. Casimir’s is a traditionally Polish church, but the area's demographics are changing and the parish has grown more racially diverse.  Both Poles and non-Poles came out to venerate the Black Madonna. 

Four men solemnly processed the icon into the sanctuary and the pastor, Fr. Greg Cholewa, offered opening prayers.  Fr. West preached the homily, connecting Pentecost to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the part she plays in invoking the Holy Spirit on behalf of the church. It was on the Vigil of Pentecost in 1979 that Saint John Paul II visited Poland and called down the Holy Spirit on the Polish nation. The people of Poland gathered at Jasna Gora to pray to Our Lady of Czestochowa before this visit because the Communists had forbidden him to come to Poland, except under heavy restrictions. St. John Paul said he would not come.  Many Poles gathered for a Rosary Congress and prayed for seven days in May during what they called the “Siege of Jericho.”  After those seven days of prayer, the oppressive Communist government, suddenly and inexplicably dropped their heavy restrictions, and the Pope visited the next month, starting a chain of events that eventually led to the fall of the Communist government in Poland, Communist governments throughout Eastern Europe, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the atheistic Soviet Union itself. If Our Lady can win such a great victory over Communism, she can also help us in the United States to defeat the Culture of Death.

The Black Madonna was invited to join a special Eucharistic procession organized by six churches in Minneapolis. The Northeast Annual Eucharistic Procession of the Most Holy Trinity has been held annually since 2005, and this year drew nearly 500 people (more people than usual) to process through the streets of Minneapolis.  Upon arriving at each of the six churches, the monstrance containing the Eucharist was placed on the altar and hymn was sung. In addition to Holy Cross Church, Sts. Cyril and Methodius, St. Anthony of Padua, St. Boniface, St. Maron, and All Saints all participated in the procession.  St. Constantine Ukranian Catholic Church also showed their support by ringing the church bells as the procession passed by.

Eucharistic processions are an important public witness to our faith in Jesus’ Real Presence in the Holy Eucharist. Many people followed our Lord through the streets, testifying to the truth of the Catholic Faith and the vibrancy of the Catholic community in Minneapolis.  The Black Madonna processed before Our Lord as we prayed the rosary along the way.  Our Lady’s presence in the procession this year was a special blessing and very appropriate since it was because of Mary’s cooperation that Jesus took on human flesh in her womb - the same flesh we receive when we are united with Him in Holy Communion.

Before arriving in the Twin Cities the pilgrim icon visited Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Little Falls, Minnesota, where Fr. West offered the Mass and preached.  He spoke about discipleship in the Book of Acts of the Apostles, and how the conclusion seems to be open-ended because the Acts of the Apostles goes on through history, including through us. Farewell prayers were offered to the Black Madonna after Mass before pressing on to Minneapolis.

On Monday June 9, we brought the Black Madonna to Holy Family Nursing Home run by the Little Sisters for the Poor in St. Paul.  The visit of the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa to nursing homes is a special comfort and blessing, since the residents of these homes generally have difficulty traveling.   Everyone, including the sisters, staff, visitors and residents deeply appreciated Our Lady’s short visit.

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