THROUGH THE EQUATOR IN DEFENCE OF LIFE
The Icon of Our Lady of Częstochowa, which is in pilgrimage all over the world in the intention of life defence, is going to be in Panama on the World Youth Days in January 2019. At present the Icon which has already visited Asia, Europe and Northern America, is in Ecuador. This is the 28th country in this journey lasting the 5th year.
We remember 28 January 2012, when there was a meeting at Jasna Góra of pro-life activists from 19 countries, sacrificing the Jasna Góra image copy and touching it with the original image, making an Act of Entrustment to Our Lady in defence of life civilization and love and a decision about beginning peregrination ‘From Ocean to Ocean’.
A start in Władywostok
Ewa Kowalewska, a coordinator of the peregrination, representing Human Life International Poland, says: - From Jasna Góra Our Lady has set off to the East, and Her pilgrimage began in Władywostok, at the shore of the Pacific Ocean. At that time I had a problem to believe that it would be possible. But it was Our Lady who decided that she would set off to the world. She has visited the Far East, Kazakhstan, Siberia, Ural, and returned to Europe. Having visited 24 countries and travelled 63 thousand kilometers, she got to Fatima, and on 7 April 2013 She stood at the shore of the Atlantic Ocean in Nazare.
In churches, prisons and abortion centres
A few months later Our Lady set off to the United States. She was greeted on the Island of St. Clemens on the Potomac river, where the first Holy Mass in history was celebrated on the American land. – It was a great privilege for me to participate in greeting of Our Lady, when She arrived in the United States and in the place where Catholic faith began on the American land – says Fr. Shenan J. Boquet, the president of HLI with the headquarters in the USA. – Her presence in the United States enriched us a lot. We noticed a lot of spiritual changes in people. It concerns not only the places which She visited.
The peregrination in the USA and Canada lasted 13 months. Our Lady visited states of the USA and got to the shore of the Pacific Ocean. She visited a lot of parishes, but not only. People were praying with Her in front of abortion centres, and a few dozen of these centres were closed down later for various reasons. On that day no abortion was done in these places, because potential patients in women, seeing the Image and a big group of praying people, resigned from it. Our Lady visited the famous pro-life activist Mary Wagner in prison. She was in American Częstochowa, at the Parade of Pułaski in New York, on March for Life I Washington. – We still feel Her presence – Fr. Shenan continues. – We still receive letters from people testifying how they really experienced Her peregrination. There are even questions when She will return to us.
Among the Mexicans
Mexico is another stage on the peregrination tour. During 2 years and 3 months the Icon travelled nearly 20 thousand kilometers, visited 30 cities in 10 states. As usually, it stopped at parishes, monasteries, centres for the elderly, for disabled children, and even at schools. It has visited the sanctuary in Guadalupe many times. – Mexico has got a different culture, the Latinos understand time differently -says Ewa Kowalewska. – We used to get nervous that the peregrination was so slow, but it was a normal pace for the Mexicans. What was touching in the whole tour was joyful enthusiasm with which people were greeting the ‘Polish Morenita’.
In photos and films one can see praying people, often crying, gently touching the Icon with their hands, rosaries and pictures with prayers. – Generally we have given away 600 thousand pictures with the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa and the Act of Entrustment of life civilization and love to Her defence – says Ewa Kowalewska. – We know that it is impossible to win without the prayer and help from Our Lady, as it is already a struggle on a global scale.
In the mid of March the Mexicans said farewell to the Jasna Góra Mother. They were sad to ask organizers from the Mexican Movement Vida Florida if it could not stay longer. The Holy Masses ending the peregrination were celebrated by bishop Antonio Ortega Franco and a few days later by archbishop Franco Coppola, an apostolic nuncio in Mexico.
Time for Ecuador
When the Icon was leaving Mexico, it had already travelled 180 thousand kilometers. Before it began the peregrination in the South America, it stopped in Panama for a while for preservation. It was when Panama bishops decided that Our Lady would arrive there for the World Youth Days. Later in a special box it was transported to the capital of Ecuador – Quito.
At the airport, just next to the exit from the airplane, bishop Danilo Echeverria Verdesoto, representing the Episcopate of Ecuador, was waiting for us. We were checked out very quickly – says Ewa Kowalewska. – After a short greeting in a lounge for the VIPs, the Icon was transported in a special glassed vehicle called mamamobile, from the airport to town Mitad del Mundo, where it crossed the equator and began a pilgrimage through the southern hemisphere.
The first stop was on the Day of Life Holiness in a parish of Ascension of Lord in Santo Domingo de los Colorados. Here there was a Pro-Life March, attended by over 2 thousand people. It is very important because although in this country law allows for abortion only in particular situations, governmental institutions overuse interpretation of regulations to allow for abortion in a case of undefined psychical problems of mothers. As a result, this small country has about 24 thousand legal abortions every year.
The pro-life march was a great pro-life festive with colourful banners and balloons, a van with a music band. All this was presided over by Our Lady of Częstochowa in the mamamobilem, assisted by riders on horses. The route of the march ended in the cathedral of the Good Shepherd, where the Icon was brought into the presbytery. The Holy Mass was presided over by bishop Bertram Wick, the ordinary of the diocese Santo Domingo, and concelebrated by 20 priests.
Ecuador is a country where over a half of citizens live in poverty – explains Ewa Kowalewska. – Last year there was a severe earthquake there after which a lot of people have not been able to return to normal life yet. Also those people are very friendly and open-hearted. A lot of parishes in Ecuador have already invited the Icon of Our Lady, among them far-distanced churches on the Easter Isles. Later on Its route there is Panama – the World Youth Days. Today it is difficult to say what the next stages of the peregrination will be. One of the countries awaiting the Icon is surely Brazil. From the previous experiences we know one thing: Our Lady will go where she wants.
Album, film, exhibition
Two first stages of the peregrination are documented by the album ‘From Ocean to Ocean. 120 thousand kilometers with the Icon of Częstochowa through the world in defence of life’ – containing description and photos of the pilgrimage of the Icon of Częstochowa from Władywostok to Fatima and through the USA and Canada – and a CD with a documentary record. In HLI Poland also a big photographic exhibition is available, which was presented, among the others, in the Knights’ Hall at Jasna Góra and in the Mariacka basilica in Gdańsk. More detailed information is on the website: www.hli.org.pl.