Ever since the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life began in the Summer of 2012 in Vladivostok, Russia, the pilgrimage has encouraged the faithful to seek the intercession of Our Blessed Mother and has implored prayers from members of the Church, especially consecrated religious. In keeping with this mission, the pilgrim icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa arrived in California with a commitment to visit area monasteries and increase devotion to Our Lady of Czestochowa.
The Immaculate Heart Monastery of the Poor Clare Nuns near San Francisco provides an ideal place for devotional prayer. With joyful singing and veneration, the religious welcomed the Black Madonna into their cloistered enclosure on July 28. When I returned the following day to celebrate Mass, the Sisters listened intently to my discussion of the icon and her historical and spiritual significance.
Another remarkable experience was bringing the Black Madonna to the nuns of St. Joseph’s Secular Discalced Carmelites, who reside at their Carmelite Monastery of Cristo Rey. The Spanish-speaking order’s founders fled Mexico in the 1920s during the great persecution of the Church and established themselves near San Francisco. When we arrived with the Black Madonna, they rejoiced over her visit. One member, Sister Luz Maria of the Eucharist, was particularly joyful. As it turns out, prior to her entrance into the cloistered life, my father and I had met her briefly in Germany. It was a pleasure to bring Our Lady to a dear friend and fellow religious members of the Body of Christ.
Tehachapi, a small retreat town of about 14,000 residents, is home to the Norbertine Canonesses of the Bethlehem Priory of St. Joseph. Celebrating Mass and relating the Pilgrim Icon’s mission to defend life from conception to natural death was truly a blessed experience. Assuring us of their prayers, the “Sisters of the Mountains” bade a cheerful farewell to the Black Madonna upon our departure.
Embracing the poor and dedicating their lives to prayer, the religious Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity Convent in Lynnwood also received the Black Madonna with joyful enthusiasm. Blessed Mother Teresa’s sisters granted access to the public, inviting people from the neighborhood to venerate the pilgrim icon after Mass. It was my own experience, in working with the Missionaries of Charity in Newark, New Jersey and the South Bronx, that helped me to discover my own vocation to the priesthood.
By late August, we journeyed with Our Lady of Czestochowa to the Missionaries of Charity Contemplative Sisters in Los Angeles. It’s not surprising how eager and charitable these Sisters were in receiving the Black Madonna. As we have found over the course of the Black Madonna’s North American pilgrimage, the Sisters have joined us in previous processions, including on our first day in the United States, in Baltimore.
With the insistence of Regional Superior Sister Mary Gabriela, MC, we brought the Black Madonna to another Missionaries of Charity convent in San Diego. It’s hard to say no to a woman who has dedicated her life to the service of God! There, Sister Mary Czestochowa, MC, was eagerly awaiting Our Lady’s visit. Because of an illness, she had been prevented from attending previous engagements.
Prayers are paramount for the success of this historic From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life campaign. The Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa has lifted the hearts of hundreds, if not thousands, of consecrated religious in her North American pilgrimage, as she had in Europe and will continue to do as she continues her peregrination.