After Sonora in nearby Modesto, it seemed only natural that we visit Gifts of Faith, a store selling religious goods and icons to support Mary Mother of God Mission Society. The society’s mission is to revive the Catholic faith in Eastern Russia and support the consecrated religious who work in Vladivostok, Russia -- the place where the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa started her historic world pilgrimage in 2012.
After departing Madera, on August 4 the Black Madonna traveled to St. Susanna Orthodox Church in Sonora, an arid area of California suffering from a long-term drought. Pulling into the driveway, Father Andrew Jacobs, Deacon Elias Union and Subdeacon Nicholas Teshin welcomed us with warm enthusiasm in anticipation of the Akathist to the Mother of God.
Our sweep of California with the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa led us next to Central California on August 2. Despite the summer heat, a large crowd of 250 people welcomed the Black Madonna to St. Joachim Church in Madera with a jubilant procession around the block and into the church. Ten English and Spanish Masses, were celebrated that weekend with presentations about the historic Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life.
When we arrived in Sacramento, a city named after the Blessed Sacrament, Father Jeremy Leatherby, pastor of Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, as well as Father Patrick Lee, a priest in residence, welcomed the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa with deep joy. At Mass, the Black Madonna found herself surrounded by a crowd of eager Catholics, including many young families.
Continuing our journey through Northern California, we stopped at St. Margaret Mary Church in Oakland. Father Stanislaw Zak, who was particularly zealous in welcoming and hosting the Black Madonna, is Polish and has an intense devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa. Father Zak encouraged additional prayer services, devotions, and opportunities for veneration.
The faithful of Holy Trinity Cathedral and Bay Area parishes were honored to welcome the pilgrimage icon of the Most Holy Theotokos and Ever-Virgin Mary of Czestochowa. on the eve of the Dormition Fast.
His Eminence Archbishop Benjamin of San Francisco’s Holy Trinity Orthodox Cathedral greeted the Black Madonna with enthusiasm uponarrival on July 29. We were joyfully surprised with such a large turnout for the Akathist that evening.
Arriving in the small, coastal town of Crescent City, California on July 24, Our Lady’s entourage was welcomed by Father Adam Kotas, pastor of St. Joseph Church. He and other pro-life faithful hosted a well-attended neighborhood procession and Eucharistic Adoration with the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa prior to Mass that evening.
Reflecting on our historic North American pilgrimage with the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa thus far, I am continually awed by the devotion of pro-life faithful to Our Lady. More than 30 devoted and inspired pro-life pilgrims welcomed the Black Madonna upon our arrival at the Planned Parenthood in Olympia, Washington. This was our first stop on July 22 after traveling from Tacoma.
Our return to Washington on July 19 brought many blessings to those engaged in pro-life work and for many was a chance to grow in their devotion to Our Lady. Upon our arrival at St. Brendan Church in Bothell, WA, we were elated to see Human Life International materials in the community room at a table staffed by the local pro-life group. That evening, I preached at the Saturday vigil Mass about Our Lady of Czestochowa and her Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage in Defense of Human Life.
Our July 12 arrival at St. Casimir Church in Vancouver, British Columbia, marked our first return to Canada since we left Brampton, Ontario in mid-April. It was a welcome sight to see the Polish Mission Church in Vancouver overflowing with pilgrims who came to greet Our Lady of Czestochowa. Father Slawomir Oblak celebrated Mass and Father Wieslaw Narazuk, OMI, preached about the many times the Black Madonna has intervened in Polish history to aid her children.