On Wednesday, May 21, the welcome service started already at 5:15 pm in anticipation of the arrival of their wonderful Guest – Our Blessed Mother in the Czestochowa Icon. People were gradually streaming in, as they arrived at the church after they battled the local traffic coming from work.
The Divine Mercy Polish Mission in Lombard is relatively new. It is located in the west suburbs of Chicago, although it belongs to the neighboring Diocese of Joliet. In this day, many people move out of the city to live in the suburbs, where life is more family friendly. New clusters of Polish population emerge and new Polish Missions and centers are also being formed. The parish in Lombard came to life in 1997, and the beautiful new church was built and consecrated in 2008. The Society of Christ Fathers is the congregation of priests who oversee the pastoral care in this community. Currently, it is a very strong parish that is in charge of about four-thousand parishioners. All seven Sunday Masses are celebrated in Polish. An English Mass is celebrated once a week, every Saturday at 9:30 am.
All the faithful present in the church, together with their priests, went outside the church to solemnly greet Our Lady of Czestochowa, who was arriving in Her Chicago Life Mobile. It was a wonderful moment; a little bit of sensation, a lot of emotion - and joy. The Icon was carried inside the church in a solemn procession while the faithful sang beautifully various Polish Marian hymns. The Icon was placed on a tall pedestal in the right side altar, where the usual image of the Black Madonna has its place, and it was surrounded by extravagant flower arrangements prepared by Sister Danuta Niklińska, MChR. The singing of the Marian Vespers began.
The parish is unusually active and alive. Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place in the side chapel, located in the church building. One, after another, pastoral group was taking over in leading the prayers during the nightly vigil before the Icon of Our Blessed Mother which lasted until the following afternoon. The parish is also active in pro-life work: Spiritual Adoption of an unborn child takes place on a regular basis; a group of the faithful prays regularly at the nearby abortion clinic; and Rachel’s Vineyard (a post-abortive therapy program) is also active here.
The main celebrant and homilist of the solemn Liturgy of the Holy Eucharist was the Reverend Pastor Tadeusz Winnicki TChR, who emphasized Our Blessed Mother’s great concern for human life, especially that of the unborn. Abortion is the greatest sin in this world.
After Communion, Father Peter West spoke about the peregrination across the United States and about its fruits. He underscored the fact that the presence of the Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa has thus far saved at least ten babies’ lives that he was able to witness when traveling with Our Blessed Mother to abortion clinics, but the number could be greater than that. After the celebration of the Holy Mass, Mrs. Ewa Kowalewska spoke about the experience and history of the peregrination that took place in other countries, prior to the Icon arriving in the United States.
After the singing of the Jasna Góra hymn, which is sung daily in Poland at Jasna Góra, Czestochowa at 9:00 pm, the Youth Group led the Joyful Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. At the same time, the faithful were able to approach the Icon individually to venerate Her. The line was very long. The Luminous Mysteries of the Holy Rosary were led by a group of lectors. At midnight, a Marian Mass – called the Shepherd’s Mass – was celebrated. Many people arrived at the church for this Mass. The prayer vigil lasted all night. The Holy Rosary was continued by various groups, including the Renewal in the Holy Spirit group, the Pro-Life group, and the Highlanders.
In the early morning, at 6:00 am, the Liturgy of the Hours was sung about the Immaculate Conception of Mary. This is a prayer derived from an old Polish tradition. The veneration of the Icon continued after the 8:00 am Mass.
At noon, after the Regina Caeli, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for the Sick began. Its main celebrant was the Reverend Pastor Tadeusz Winnicki. After the homily, the sick had the opportunity to approach and touch the Icon of Our Blessed Mother. After Holy Communion, the Anointing of the Sick was given to the faithful who needed it. At 3:00 pm, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy was prayed. Afterwards, the parish children participated in the Marian May devotion that was led by one of the parish priests; singing a decade of the Holy Rosary, the Litany of Loreto, and known Marian hymns.
Fervent prayer and crowds of the faithful, who continued to wait in lines to approach the Icon, and great emotion that touched many, caused the departure of Our Blessed Mother to be slightly delayed. This was not surprising, as it was Our Lady’s last day in the Chicago area. The following day, Our Lady, assisted by Fr. West and Chris Morales, departed for Mankato, Minnesota, which is a seven hour drive from Chicago. Our Blessed Mother is slowly heading west, in order to arrive at the Pacific Coast.