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As we set off for Las Vegas with the Black Madonna, the picturesque southwestern desert joining California and Nevada offered a peaceful backdrop of reflection on the journey of the historic Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life. Wherever we travel, the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa has strengthened the faithful in their resolutions to defend life and family.

Our arrival at St. James the Apostle Church on September 5 was no different. Steve Okosisi, along with his Knights of Columbus Council, organized our Friday evening visit, which began with praying the Rosary before Mass.Las Vegas6 I concelebrated with Father Ron Zanoni, the pastor, and Father James Jankowski, another priest of the Diocese of Las Vegas. Those celebrating with us that evening included the parish’s choir, Knights of Columbus and Knights of St. Peter Claver. 

The following day we were welcomed to St. Francis of Assisi Church in Henderson, one of the larger parishes in the diocese. I preached at all the Masses with the support of the pastor, Father John Assalone, and his parochial vicar, Father Vicente Panaligan. Thoughtfully, these humble priests took every opportunity to reinforce the pro-life message I delivered that weekend by paying a special veneration to the Black Madonna.

Though I returned to HLI’s headquarters in Front Royal, Virginia, for some important meetings, Chris Morales - my assistant on the campaign - brought the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa to St. John Neumann Church in North Las Vegas. Father James Jankowski, pastor of a diverse faith community, welcomed the Black Madonna with joy on September 8, the Feast of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Las Vegas5During his homily, Father Jankowski shared his hope that a Culture of Life would spread throughout the world, especially hoping for an increase in the respect for life from conception to natural death. The Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa was venerated daily after all the Masses held during her stay that week. 

In our travels, we have met many ardent pro-life advocates. Kathleen Miller, Liaison for Pro-Life Activities of the Respect Life Office for the Diocese of Las Vegas, arranged to welcome the Black Madonna to First Choice Pregnancy Services. This pro-life outreach organization is located across the street from an abortion mill. In her prayer vigil with the Pilgrim Icon, Kathleen not only prayed for the closure of the abortion mill but for an increase in courage for the Church faithful to defend life and family.

On September 12, I returned to Nevada, bringing Our Lady to St. Joan of Arc Church.  Known as the oldest parish in Las Vegas, this downtown parish was dedicated in 1910 and was listed as a National Catholic Historical Site in 1987.  Father Richard Philiposki, pastor and priest of the Society of Christ,Las Vegas4 was very familiar with the history of Our Lady of Czestochowa, and was happy to share this great story with his parishioners.

Against such a secular and materialistic backdrop Las Vegas, the beauty and simplicity of the Black Madonna can make a bigger impression.  She simply points to her son, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and her presence at St. Joan of Arc was an occasion for others to contemplate her Son. After celebrating the noon Mass, I prayed the Rosary with parishioners. Later, I led another Rosary preceding the evening Mass, which I concelebrated with Father Rich. 

Las Vegas3Our Lady of Las Vegas Roman Catholic Church was the Pilgrim Icon’s last stop for the weekend of September 13-14. Many in the diverse congregations recognized how special an event it was to have the Black Madonna visit, especially the priests: Father Gerald Grupczynski, SChr, who lives in community with Father Philiposki and Father Wieslaw Berdowicz, the parochial vicar. The weekend’s heavy schedule of Masses provided an opportunity for me to speak about the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, her history and mission, as well as the fruits of the pilgrimage.

Polish parishioners were deeply touched to have a special Mass in honor of the Pilgrim Icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa.Las Vegas2 Later, a well-attended evening Mass with processional of the Black Madonna was offered for the Filipino community, which included prayers and hymns in Tagalog, a dialect spoken in all parts of the Philippines.

Our Lady is especially delighted to visit with children. I had the privilege of celebrating the next morning’s Mass followed by a visit with the children who attend Our Lady of Las Vegas school. Of course, they had many wonderful questions, and they were especially happy to receive holy cards of Our Lady of Czestochowa to celebrate the occasion.

Las Vegas1Our Lady of Czestochowa made a great impact in Las Vegas; as Mediatrix of all Grace, she is our primary intercessor with her Son. We are excited to see the response of other parishes in the Southwest, as we near the end of Our Lady’s voyage in the United States.

Fr. Peter West with Chris Morales
Human Life International
Las Vegas
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