In Wisconsin, The Pilgrim Icon Visits Catholic Communities and Marian Shrines

On June 13th, St. John the Baptist Church welcomed the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa to the railroad town of Marshfield, Wisconsin. With the assistance of Deacon Jeffrey Austin, Father West celebrated Mass followed by confessions. During his homily, he explained the extraordinary history of the Black Madonna and the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life.

The following morning Father Sam Martin, pastor of St. John’s, concelebrated Mass with Father West. Afterwards, a medical doctor mentioned that she had received two referrals for sex changes. Although she did not perform the procedures, she believes sexual confusion will continue to add pressure to physicians who practice their faith.

Later that afternoon, the Black Madonna visited Sacred Heart Church in Polonia, Wisconsin. The region, first settled by the Irish and Germans, was soon thereafter settled by the Polish who named the region.  The community here is still immensely proud of the 1976 visit of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, which occurred shortly before he became pope.  The exhibit in the back of the church eloquently remembers the visit of the man who became Pope Saint John Paul II.

Father Greg Michaud is the pastor of Sacred Heart Church and two additional parishes - St. Adalbert in Rosholt and St. Mary Immaculate Conception Church in Torun.  It was a happy sacrifice to bring Our Lady to the three parishes, sharing the pro-life message to over 1,000 people that weekend.

Continuing her journey on the road, The Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa arrived on Monday, June 16 at Lumen Christi Church in Mequon, Wisconsin -- just outside Milwaukee. Father West, in a special 45 minute presentation, explained Our Lady of Czestochowa’s pilgrim mission followed by Mass. The event, sponsored by Catholics4Life, helped encourage the community to get involved in local pro-life organizations.

When the “Black Madonna” arrived at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Help of Christians at Holy Hill in Wisconsin, it was apparent why this pilgrim site is considered holy and sacred.  Many healings have occurred at Holy Hill. In fact, located close to the Eucharistic adoration chapel are discarded crutches lining the wall as evidence of how good God is to His children. The prayerful and spacious grounds, including a beautiful Stations of the Cross, make for a beautiful and peaceful setting for pilgrims and retreatants. 

After celebrating Mass at 6 a.m., mostly for commuters, Father West celebrated Mass at 11 a.m. for the youth group, Totus Tuus, specifically named for the slogan of the pontificate of Saint John Paul II.  The youth group is dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary according to the spirituality of St. Louis de Montfort.  In the early afternoon, Father Philaret Littlefield of the Melkite Greek Orthodox Church, along with some of his parishioners, led an Akathist hymn within the church to honor the Black Madonna.  The event was also attended by the Carmelite Fathers who reside and staff Holy Hill.

After Holy Hill, the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa visited another place of Marian devotion called the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help in Champion, Wisconsin.  This shrine happens to be the only approved apparition site of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United States. The image associated with Our Lady of Good Help shows a blonde Mary wearing a white gown with a yellow sash. The main message of the apparition was given to a Belgian immigrant woman by the name of Adele Brise in 1859. Receiving the message to catechize, Adele traveled house to house to personally instruct the youth, whose formation in the faith had previously been neglected. 

A great miracle is associated with Our Lady of Good Help. Occurring at the same time as the great Chicago fire of 1871, about 1,500 to 2,500 lives were lost in the Great Peshtigo Fire, making it not only deadlier than the Chicago fire, but the deadliest in American history.  Adele and some other villagers were saved from the fire through the intercession of Our Lady when they took refuge in the church and prayed to Our Lady of Good Help. The fire completely devoured the surrounding area, but the church and its small grounds were left untouched -- without even a cinder falling on the building or its property. 

Priests from the Fathers of Mercy staff the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help and provide the ongoing catechesis to the faithful that Our Lady of Good Help requested. Father West preached at the Masses on two consecutive days and conducted one holy hour, taking the opportunity to teach the visitors about the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and the Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage in Defense of Human Life.

The Black Madonna said goodbye to the visitors of the Marian shrine and joined local prayer warriors in a vigil to end abortion at Planned Parenthood in Madison, Wisconsin.  Local leaders started a pregnancy resource center, Women's Care Center, located across the street from the abortion mill.  The Center has a chapel with the Eucharist in a tabernacle where they implore the Lord to end abortion. They also offer educational materials and other resources to help young mothers feel loved and supported as they move forward.

After the prayer vigil to end abortion, the Black Madonna traveled to her final stop in Wisconsin: Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Monona on June 19th. Here, Father West celebrated an evening Mass for many, including some who attended the prayer vigil in Madison.

Throughout her visit to Wisconsin, the Black Madonna inspired many in their faith and brought pro-lifers together in renewed vigor to defend life and family. We were kindly welcomed throughout the State, and it is always a special joy to bring Our Lady to her shrines and see the warm reception from those whose love for Jesus and his Blessed Mother is so evident.

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