Long Beach’s Church of the Holy Innocents was our first stop in Southern California. On August 9, we brought the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, a magnificent replica of the original housed in the Monastery of Jasna Góra in Poland, to Family Planning Associates Medical Group and Planned Parenthood for a prayer vigil with approximately 100 pro-life faithful. The power of our dedicated pro-lifers never ceases to amaze me. Throughout the day’s events, their prayers and processions to both locations gave such witness to the sanctity of human life. When we processed back to the church auditorium, we prayed the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Mass followed shortly thereafter, which I concelebrated with Father Peter Irving, the pastor, and preached at several Masses. Over the course of the weekend, the pilgrim icon was brought to the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity Convent in nearby Lynnwood.
The vibrant and growing Hispanic and Filipino community of St. Peter Chanel Church in Hawaiian Gardens planned pro-life talks and reflections to coincide with the pilgrim icon’s visit to the parish. Father Larry Darnell and Father Ed Broom, members of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, greeted the Black Madonna upon our arrival for the noon Mass, which 200 people attended; and a Mass for Life and Eucharistic Adoration later that evening had an even greater attendance. Concelebrating the Masses and sharing the journey of the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life encouraged the faithful’s devotion to the Mother of God through the veneration of the icon.
Our next destination was Sun City, where St. Vincent Ferrer Church serves the popular retirement community in Southern California. During morning Mass, Rosary and veneration of the Black Madonna, the congregation consisted of mostly senior citizens with some working professionals and youth. My homily emphasized Our Lady of Czestochowa’s victories in the defense of life, and her intercession will always be for the protection of the family and the sanctity of all human life. The festivities continued afterwards with fellowship, an extended opportunity to discuss the journey of the pilgrim icon.
On August 12, we returned with the Black Madonna to the Los Angeles area, visiting Holy Family Church in Glendale for evening Mass and holy hour with the recitation of the Rosary. After concelebrating the Mass the following morning with Father Kevin, I brought the pilgrim icon to a prayer vigil to end abortion at Family Planning Associates. We were flanked by pro-lifers, including Father Nolan and Geri Urrutia, a dedicated side-walk counselor who has been praying outside this busy abortion mill for 30 years. How commendable that Geri and other members of the prayer group Shield of Roses have offered such a strong pro-life presence for so long outside this Glendale abortion mill! It is our fervent prayer that the Black Madonna’s visit will provide additional graces in order to close this facility of death.
Our next destination was San Secondo d’ Asti Church in Guasti in the Diocese of San Bernardino. Founded in 1926, San Secondo is the home parish of Chris, my assistant in the From Ocean to Ocean Campaign. We arrived in time for the evening Mass and afterwards I offered on-the-hour presentations of Our Lady of Czestochowa from 6-9pm to parishioners, followed by Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament until the church closed for the night. The next morning, on the Feast of Saint Maximillian Kolbe, I celebrated the Mass and discussed the vital connection of this saint and the Battle of Vienna with Our Lady of Czestochowa.
On August 14, we processed into Wilmington’s second oldest Catholic church built in 1865, Saints Peter and Paul Church, where the pilgrim icon was warmly received by an enthusiastic crowd of pro-life faithful, including Pedro Diaz Ruben who coordinated activities for our visit. After the procession and veneration, I concelebrated the Mass, gave a brief homily about Our Lady of Czestochowa, which followed with additional veneration throughout the night in the Adoration Chapel. The next morning, I celebrated Mass on the Solemnity of the Assumption. During the homily I explained how the Blessed Virgin Mary is the preeminent example of one who hears the Word of God, puts the Word into practice, and how Our Blessed Mother will always point the way to Jesus, her divine Son. (Note: On this Solemnity, we heard that a judge ordered the closure of the Sharonville, Ohio abortion mill which went into effect on August 22, on the Queenship of Our Lady.)
Later, we traveled to St. Martin de Porres Church in Yorba Linda, where large numbers of parishioners waited to attend evening Mass and veneration of Our Lady of Czestochowa. Father Sy Nguyen and Father Jeffrey Droessler were especially pleased to receive her and to hear about her victories on the Feast of the Assumption. I concelebrated the next morning’s Mass with Father Sy, and after I gave a brief explanation of the icon, her mission, and the number of abortion mills that have closed following a visit from the Black Madonna, parishioners applauded! These same parishioners joined with other area pro-life faithful, creating a large assemblage for the mid-day prayer vigil with the Black Madonna at Orange’s Planned Parenthood.
By mid-afternoon, we processed into the John Paul II Polish Center with the pilgrim icon, greeted by a waiting crowd of Polish faithful. Together, we prayed the Rosary before I said Mass, leaving time for private devotion afterwards. That evening, the center organized a special prayer service for Our Lady of Czestochowa that included a Polish choir with an incredible repertoire of songs of praise to Our Lady.
Returning with the Black Madonna to St. Martin de Porres, I preached at all of the Sunday Masses. In thanksgiving for the pilgrimage, Marie Martin, trip organizer, took Chris and I to a local restaurant called Reunion. Just as I finished dinner, I met Father Charles Cortinovis, the new pastor at Holy Angels Church near St. Clement Island in Maryland where the From Ocean to Ocean Pilgrimage in Defense of Life began. This truly was a reunion!
As our journey through Southern California continued, we made our way to St. Kilian Church in Mission Viejo. I celebrated Mass that Monday with 800 people packed into the new church, which was recently blessed by the Diocese of Orange’s Bishop Kevin Vann. Another crowd appeared the next morning for Mass and my brief discussion of the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa. We then departed for St. Timothy Church in Laguna Niguel, where I would concelebrate Mass that evening. Large numbers rivaled what I saw at St. Kilian’s parish, and I was further encouraged to share the Black Madonna and her message to more parishioners the next morning for Mass.
Father Greg Márquez warmly received the Black Madonna to his Lake Forest parish, Santiago de Compestela Church, in Orange County. After praying the Rosary I concelebrated Mass with Father Greg and his associate, Father Thomas Naval. The next morning, I concelebrated Mass with a Norbertine priest named Father Gregory Dick. What a discovery to find out that Chris Morales had worked in Tehachapi at the prep school run by the Norbertine nuns with Father Dick as the spiritual director!
Returning to the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, our next visit with the Black Madonna was to Alhambra’s St. Therese Church, which is run by the Discalced Carmelite Friars. Some 200 parishioners greeted Our Lady that evening at Mass and heard my homily on the Black Madonna. The next morning, on the Queenship of Mary, I gave another homily and after Mass, we brought the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa to the local Planned Parenthood. Located on a busy street, the facility was surrounded by a group of pro-life faithful who prayed all four Mysteries of the Rosary. Their prayerful presence gave witness of faith to end abortion.
Though only half of Southern California churches were visited when we left Alhambra, I know the Black Madonna made quite an impact. Encouraged by the outpouring of devotion and sincere veneration given in humility to Our Lady of Czestochowa during her visits, I can only surmise that Our Blessed Mother will continue to guide this campaign to draw hearts closer to her son, Jesus Christ, in an effort to end to abortion and other evils that threaten the sanctity of life.