The journey across North America of the pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa (the “Black Madonna”) began in August 2013 as a continuation of the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life. This historic pilgrimage around the world began in Vladivostok, Russia in the summer of 2012. The pilgrimage will continue across North America until November 2014. HLI VP for Missions Father Peter West is traveling with the pilgrim icon.
We arrived at St. Bernard’s Church in Omaha. Father Walter Nolte, pastor of St. Bernard’s, generously made sure that we had everything we needed to set up the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa inside his church.
In the morning, 190 schoolchildren and their teachers participated in Mass, and during the homily Father West helped the children to understand icons and the history of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Afterwards, the children and adults in attendance venerated the Black Madonna before returning to their daily routines.
We left St. Bernard’s Church for a two-hour prayer vigil in front of the infamous LeRoy Carhart’s abortuary in Bellevue. This was the main reason why we were invited to Omaha — to pray for the closing of this abortion mill and for the conversion of LeRoy Carhart and his staff.
The last time the Black Madonna joined a prayer vigil at LeRoy Carhart’s abortion mill in Germantown, Maryland it was the Feast of Our Lady of Czestochowa and three women changed their minds and decided to keep their babies. Fr. West said that even if there were no saves, it would still be worthwhile to pray, because we would be like Mary, St. John, St. Mary Magdalene and the other faithful disciples who stood at the foot of the Cross.
We arrived and parked the vehicle near Essential Pregnancy Services (EPS), which is right next to Carhart’s abortuary. EPS constantly reaches out to mothers in crisis pregnancies offering them real solutions such as pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, education in nutrition and parenting, and counseling for women, including post-abortive counseling. EPS also helps prepare young mothers to pass the GED exam. We commend all the good work EPS does to save mothers and their babies from abortion by meeting so many of their needs.
At the abortuary next door we placed the Black Madonna in the midst of a group of pro-life activists. The facility appears run down, but somehow women fail to take this as a warning. In contrast, the EPS office appears well-maintained and welcoming.
Up the street from our prayer vigil, three police officers watched over the scene. They were speaking to a group of Christians who had gathered to protest, not abortion, but the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. These misguided Christians were led by a fallen away Catholic who accused us breaking the part of the First Commandment which states that “You shall not make graven images” (Ex 20:4). As Fr. West says in practically every homily or presentation he gives, he explains that we honor, and do not worship, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and that the veneration passes from the icon to the person whose image is depicted. Prior to the Incarnation of Jesus, God could not be seen by human eyes; but Jesus appearing in the flesh wanted to be seen and so it is appropriate for us to make images of Our Lord Jesus. Yet our separated brethren in Christ stood with their signs and we prayed for their enlightenment. Chris walked over to one of the protesters who gave him permission to take of picture of him and his sign. He was amiable enough, although not all of them were so friendly.
After an overnight visit to Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, we returned to Omaha for the Vigil Mass of Palm Sunday at St. Stanislaus Kostka in Omaha, Nebraska. Fr. West preached at the vigil Mass, celebrated two morning masses on Sunday and gave two presentations in the afternoon. The homily was short due to the reading of the Passion, but Fr. West spoke about how fitting it was that Mary was with us in the icon since she stood at the foot of the cross and Jesus gave her to us to be Our Mother from the Cross. The parish choir also did a special lamentations Gorzkie Zale (“Bitter Sorrows”) of the Blessed Virgin Mary during the vigil of Palm Sunday, which was sung in English.
After the last talk given at 2:00 p.m. Sunday and a procession to the waiting vehicle, we started on our way back to the Toronto, Canada area where we stayed from Holy Wednesday through Good Friday.