Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared regularly in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds BS and MS degrees and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside in Connecticut.
There is yet another reason today to celebrate a milestone on July 4.
The icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, which was been leading the "From Ocean to Ocean Campaign in Defense of Life" that began on Aug. 24, 2013, on America’s Atlantic shores reached its goal on the Pacific shores this Independence Day.
Starting at St. Clement’s Island, Md., the exact site of the first landing of Catholic pilgrims in the 17th-century American British colonies, the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa, also known as the Black Madonna, arrived in Astoria, Ore., on July 4, beginning with morning Mass at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Catholic Parish to commemorate traveling “from ocean to ocean” across North America.
This pro-life pilgrimage across North America racked up an astounding 33,000 miles as it crisscrossed from sea to shining sea. It stopped at churches and shrines like the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in LaCrosse, Wis.
It appeared at the March for Life in Washington and with those praying at abortion businesses. One of those highlights came in Corpus Christi, Texas, in June, when people, including Bishop Emeritus Rene Gracida, came to pray and thank Our Lady for the closing of the last abortion business in that city earlier that month.
They credited her for this closing after the icon came in pilgrimage to Corpus Christi in February.
Independence Day is quite fitting for the icon of the Black Madonna to celebrate this milestone, according to the pilgrimage sponsor.
“As we face increasing threats to our religious freedom in the midst of the greatest human-rights violation in history — the war on innocent unborn lives in the womb — it is fitting that this milestone in the 'From Ocean to Ocean Campaign' will occur on the day we celebrate our freedom and independence in the U.S.,” Father Peter West said in a statement released by Human Life International.
“We are asking for Our Lady’s intercession in this fight against a culture of death, for the protection of the family and of all human life from conception to natural death,” he added.
Father West, the vice president for missions at Human Life International, has traveled across North America with the icon.
Choosing Astoria for the completion of this journey through America is significant. It is at the very end of the Lewis and Clark Trail and is billed as the oldest American settlement west of the Rocky Mountains.
After Mass at St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church in Astoria, the icon of Our Lady continued to the monument of Lewis and Clark and also to the beach where the explorers reached the Pacific in 1805. Father West noted that Lewis and Clark built Fort Clatsop at what is now Astoria to spend the winter of 1805-06.
After the morning Mass and veneration of the icon, Our Lady was taken to Seaside, Ore., and processed several blocks with those accompanying her, praying the Rosary, then offering prayers and singing Marian hymns at the Lewis and Clark monument.
"Then all of us went on the beach itself and walked down to the water, where Our Lady was held over the waters of the Pacific before processing back to our cars and praying the Rosary," Father West reported.
This pilgrimage campaign under the mantle and patronage of Our Lady of Czestochowa is international in scope, too. It has chalked up more than 73,000 miles so far worldwide.
The pilgrimage began in Vladivostok, Russia, in the summer of 2012 and then traveled 40,000 miles through 24 European nations to Portugal, where it crossed the Atlantic to America.
In Europe, this global prayer campaign in defense of life and family under the patronage of the Black Madonna brought Catholic and Orthodox pro-lifers together.
May God bless its future travels too.
In November, the pilgrimage will continue, as the icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa travels through Mexico and the rest of Latin America.
Our Lady, pray for us!