The Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa Comes to the Big Sky Country of Montana

Montana is the 4th largest State in the United States, and also one of the least densely populated with just over one million residents, almost a quarter of whom identify as Catholic. Nicknamed “Big Sky Country” for its panoramic vistas, Montana became the 41st State in 1889.

Our Lady came to Lewistown, Montana, a small town of about 6,000 people in the geographical center of the state. While not the smallest town that the Black Madonna has been to, it definitely had a small town flavor and very welcoming spirit.  On the way to Lewistown, and true to Montana’s reputation, there were large prairies as far as the eye could see and hardly a building obstructed the clear view of the horizon.

Father Jose Marquez, who is originally from Los Angeles, was the Pastor of St. Leo’s Church.  Father is associated with the Neocatechumenal Way, which was approved by Pope St. John Paul II and received formal approval of the Holy See in 2008.  It was through the Neocatechumenal Way that Fr. Marquez attended Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Kearny, New Jersey, and like Fr. West, was ordained in the Archdiocese of Newark.  He was sent by the archbishop to assist the Diocese of Great Falls-Billings. Fr. Marquez and Fr. West concelebrated Masses on the weekend of June 28-29.

Fr. Marquez is also the Pastor of Holy Family Church in Winifred -- a small mission church of St. Leo’s.  On Sunday June 29th, the Black Madonna made a short visit to Holy Family Church in Winifred, a small town with a population of about 208 souls. Winifred was founded in 1913 as the terminus of a newly built branch line of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad.  Winifred also now has the distinction of possibly being the smallest town in the United States that the Black Madonna has visited, with the possible exception of Panna Maria, Texas.

This mission church really had the flavor of being on the frontier. Everyone who attended Mass either owned or worked on ranches in the surrounding area, and they were grateful that Our Lady made her way to this their town. The small church was full and people listened closely to the story of the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa and her journey throughout the world. 

Sadly for the local community, Fr. Marquez was leaving St. Leo’s that Sunday to go another assignment in Billings. We are grateful for his kind hospitality, and for that of his parishioners: the Black Madonna was well received at both St. Leo’s and Holy Family, including by many who came long distances to venerate her.

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