Walking pilgrimages of Polonia
Fr Marian Zalecki, OSPPE
On Sunday 14 August 2005, on the eve of the Feast of Assumption and the 85th anniversary of the Battle of Warsaw (the so-called 'Miracle on the Vistula'), three walking pilgrimages arrived at the Shrine of American Czestochowa. Because of the golden jubilee of the Shrine (1955-2005) the pilgrimages were of a special, 'jubilee' character - joy and thanksgiving for 50 years of existence and pastoral influence of this holy place on American-Canadian society, and especially on the Polonia community.
I was not able to walk with the pilgrims myself. A week before the pilgrimage I was taken to hospital in Doylestown where I was operated on. Therefore, I spent the 'golden' time of the pilgrimage in hospital bed. It was hard... I wanted to go with pilgrims, my brothers and sisters, so much... But I walked with them in a spiritual pilgrimage; I joined them with my pain and loneliness... I trust that my pilgrimage in hospital bed was more fruitful than my personal participation. I was aware that the pilgrims were praying for me, together with the spiritual guide of this year's pilgrimage Polish bishop Tomasz Wenski, Diocese of Orlando, Florida, who visited me in hospital twice. Many pilgrims also visited me in order to strengthen me in those exceptional days. I am very thankful for all they did for me. Traditionally, there are three walking pilgrimages to American Czestochowa. The oldest pilgrimage sets out from Great Meadows (New Jersey), from the Polish parish of St Peter and Paul. It was 18th pilgrimage. It began at the end of the Marian Year in 1988. A large American and Spanish group has joined this pilgrimage for several years. Pilgrims walk four days. The pilgrimage from Great Meadows, called 'noble mother', gave rise to the pilgrimage from Philadelphia, parish church of St Adalbert and of St Jan of Kety, and from Trenton, New Jersey, organised by the parishioners of the Polish parish church of St Jadwiga. The latter two set out two days later. All pilgrims meet at the Shrine at the same time. This is a marvellous view. People are together with the Mother who always unites them.
This year the main theme of the pilgrimages was the Eucharist that the Church of pilgrims lives with, and thanksgiving for the pontificate of the Servant of God John Paul II. The motto of the pilgrimages were the words of the Polish Eucharistic song 'Hail Jesus, Son of Mary, You are true God in the Blessed Host'. The solemn Mass was celebrated at 2.30 p.m. outside the church. The liturgy was presided by Bishop Wenski and the priests of various pilgrims' groups concelebrated the Mass. Bishop Wenski spoke in Polish and English to almost 3,000 pilgrims. Father Provincial Krzysztof Wieliczko greeted all pilgrims who arrived at the House of the Mother. In the Eucharistic procession pilgrims offered wine and bread as well as the Book of spiritual adoption of unborn children and the Book of those who joined the family of the Carmelite Scapular.
May good God give us joy to meet on the pilgrim's path again next year...