On Saturday November 2, we set out for Lorain, Ohio after a successful visit to Hawk Run, Pennsylvania where the Black Madonna inspired hearts at St. John the Baptist Byzantine Church and St. John the Baptist Orthodox Church. Lorain, located 30 miles west of Cleveland on Lake Erie, is known for its production of steel and Ford Motor Company’s Lorain Assembly Plant which closed December 14, 2005.
Lorain’s Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church is a parish founded by Polish immigrants in 1898. Father Robert Glepko has been the pastor since December 12, 1997. Though an economically depressed area, Lorain’s parish had been in danger of closing, but faithful parishioners, with Father Glepko, rallied to raise funds, which led to complete restoration of all the stained glass windows in the church, the installation of the beautiful new church doors and a new boiler, and the building of a shrine to Our Lady behind the rectory.
The Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was welcomed in a colorful opening ceremony which included children dressed in traditional Polish suits and dresses. After the opening ceremony, Father Basil Stoyka, pastor of the neighboring Saints Peter and Paul Orthodox Church, conducted a very beautiful prayer service which included hymns to the Theotokos. I preached at three Masses over the weekend at Nativity. Fairly large crowds stayed after each Mass to take literature and venerate the icon.
In the afternoon, Father Glepko and I concelebrated a special Mass offered for the souls in Purgatory at the chapel of the local Calvary Cemetery. My homily expounded on how Our Lady identifies with the sorrowful because of her own sorrow at the foot of the Cross watching her only son die an agonizing death. The icon reminds us, too, that just as Mary shares in God’s eternal glory, so we are also called to share in that same glory. It is our confident hope that we will see our loved ones again in the Kingdom of Heaven. After Mass, the Knights of Columbus led a solemn procession with the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady through the cemetery.
A few days later, I took my first trip to the Holy Land, so I returned to Virginia in order to prepare for this pilgrimage. On my way back, I stopped to pray at the preterm abortion mill in Cleveland with about 20 pro-lifers involved in the 40 Days For Life campaign. Many had gathered especially to greet the icon and pray with Our Lady for closing of the abortion mill. I had stopped at PreTerm two weeks prior on an earlier visit to Cleveland. This abortion mill is the same place where 22-year-old Lakisha Wilson died a few months later of a heart attack due to complications from a botched abortion. Though it was a cold night, everyone dressed warmly yet feeling blessed by Our Lady’s visit. Chris Morales and I revisited this abortion mill in March and attended the press conference about the young woman’s death. The Cleveland SurgiCenter later closed after the earlier visit of Our Lady to Cleveland. We pray PreTerm will close as well, because all women and childen should be respected and protected from death due to the evils of abortion.