Perhaps no other place needed the presence of the Travelling Icon more than Galway did... Only a few days after the international scandal caused by the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar had broken, the troubled city of Galway was providentially hosting Our Lady of Czestochowa coming as a Peaceful Pilgrim in defence of human life.
Being only minutes away from the hospital which had been for days the site of many protests, the Icon was now drawing large numbers of people to a quiet place on Nun's Island, in the heart of the city, to contemplate the beauty and sacredness of human life and to pray for the protection of the unborn.
On Tuesday, the 20th of November, after leaving the Shrine at Knock, the Icon travelled to Galway city and was hosted in the Chapel at the Poor Clares Convent. The Icon arrived there much earlier, around 3 pm in the afternoon and, although She was not expected to arrive until 4 pm, a group of people was already gathered there waiting patiently to see and greet the Black Madonna. Fr Martin Whelan (the Galway diocesan secretary and curate at Galway Cathedral) received the Icon and helped carry it into the Chapel. He then led a few prayers and encouraged the faithful to support the important work of Family & Life. The local coordinator of the Visit to Galway, Ms. Patricia Junold, together with a few friends led the Rosary and invited the congregation to say the prayer of entrustment to Our Blessed Mother using the leaflets From Ocean to Ocean. After the act of entrustment, more prayers followed for the protection of the unborn, for families, for the sick and the suffering and also for the repose of the faithful departed.
Between 7 pm and 8 pm that evening there was a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament which included the Rosary and silent adoration. The congregation joined the Poor Clares in singing Marian hymns.
Following the hour of Adoration, Martin Drennan, Bishop of Galway, celebrated the Holy Mass. The Chapel was filled to its maximum capacity.
In his sermon, the Bishop spoke of the Black Madonna as being a source of strength and protection. He also spoke at length about the gift of faith. He pointed out that the life of faith is always made of ups and downs but that we are called to maturity of faith precisely through difficulties and trials. He recalled his visit to Auschwitz and having seen there rosary beads made out of bread by those who had suffered in that terrible place. He reminded all those present at Mass that it is faith which sustains us and that we do not live on bread alone. Faith in the Lord is the strength, our strength. There is always a reason to be grateful and there is always hope for the future and ALL of life is worth of being praised!
It was this kind of message that the people of Galway, in particular, needed to hear: a message of hope, a positive message.
That night, the Poor Clares had a vigil in their enclosed chapel (on the other side of the big Chapel) and venerated the Icon till the morning.
The next day (Wednesday, the 21st of November) on the Feast of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Chapel at the Poor Clares had its doors open again and many came to pray before the Black Madonna. Mass was celebrated at 8 am and a constant flow of people kept going in and out of the Chapel till 1 o'clock. Catholics and Orthodox prayed together silently before the Blessed Mother; both the old and the young entrusted their petitions to Her.
Only minutes before She was about to be carried out of the Chapel, an elderly priest arrived at the Poor Clares and asked almost in tears if She was still there...He had travelled a long distance by car to see Her. He could hardly walk. Helped by his two crutches, he moved as 'fast' as he could, he entered the Chapel and went straight before the Icon. He needed two people to help him kneel and he couldn't take his eyes off the Madonna, he was so happy he hadn't missed the chance to see Her! There was so much love in his eyes! He spent a few minutes praying quietly, he touched the Mother's face gently with his hand and blessed himself. He again needed help to stand up and then he watched the Icon being carried out of the Chapel. When he came outside, he didn't stop saying 'Thank you' to us for not having taken Our Lady of Czestochowa away before he could see Her and spend a few very precious moments before Her... He was one happy man!