Can’t travel to Poland for World Youth Day Kraków 2016?
You can still celebrate.
Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., episcopal liaison for the “World Youth Day USA” initiative of the U.S. bishops, said, “This pilgrimage is meant for every young person and young adult, for all young people of faith, not simply those who have the privilege to travel to Krakow.”
Those staying stateside can go on pilgrimage in the United States.
Because the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa at the Monastery of Jasna Góra in Poland was always so close to the heart of World Youth Day’s founder, St. John Paul II, teens and young adults can visit distinctive American places honoring Our Lady under this title, as well as other sites with World Youth Day connections and themes.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa in Doylestown, Pa., (Czestochowa.us) is known as “the American Czestochowa.” It has strong connections to the centuries-old original at Jasna Góra.
As Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II visited this American Czestochowa twice — in 1969 and 1976, while attending the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. To honor these visits, the shrine installed a 25-foot tall statue of the Polish Pope.
The Pauline Fathers and Brothers from Poland built this shrine, which was dedicated in 1966. This order has been the guardian of the original miraculous painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa at the main monastery at Jasna Góra since the 1380s, when Prince Ladislaus of Opolczyk gave the Pauline monks this duty.
The Pennsylvania shrine is an exact replica of the original, from the icon and ebony-toned wood altar to silver art. Weekday Masses and daily adoration are held here.
This copy of Our Lady of Czestochowa was blessed by Pope John Paul II. He also blessed and crowned the life-size statue of Mary in the nearby Chapel of Mary of Nazareth. Pilgrims can pray the Chapel of Divine Mercy before the life-size picture of Jesus appearing to St. Faustina. The wall murals illustrate parables of Jesus’ mercy, perfect to reflect upon in this Year of Mercy.
In the huge upper church is another copy of Our Lady of Czestochowa — this one was blessed in 1962 by Pope St. John XXIII. This image of Our Lady on the sanctuary wall is surrounded by the Holy Trinity and framed within an enormous 65-foot-wide bas relief.
Eucharistic and Marian devotions abound. The monumental Rosary Garden has life-size granite sculptures presenting each of the 20 Mysteries of the Rosary, the devotion so loved and promoted by St. John Paul II.
Across the country, the Marian Shrine at Our Lady of the Bright Mountain parish (PolskaParafiala.org) is often known as the “Czestochowa of California.” It is the only Polish parish in Los Angeles and has a Shrine of St. John Paul II.
The parish name comes from Jasna Góra — which means “bright hill” or “bright mountain.” On occasion, Our Lady of Czestochowa is also called Our Lady of Jasna Góra.
In 1976, Cardinal Wojtyla visited this parish and lead ceremonies to honor Mary. Here, an Our Lady of Czestochowa image hangs over the main altar. To the right there is a huge painting done in Poland of St. John Paul II, and to the left is a similar one of St. Faustina.
This church’s image of Our Lady of Czestochowa was donated to the parish by the first Polish Pauline priest to come to America, the late Father Michael Zembrzuski, who founded the Czestochowa shrine in Pennsylvania.
In 2011, right after the beatification of John Paul II, while at Jasna Góra, Archbishop Mieczysław Mokrzycki of Lviv, Ukraine, gave a priest from Our Lady of the Bright Mountain what became the first relics of John Paul II in America. They were introduced into the church in a ceremony held on the 35th anniversary of the Holy Father’s visit.
WYD USA pilgrims visiting this church can also venerate relics of St. Faustina; Blessed Michael Sopoćko, Faustina’s confessor and spiritual director, who himself became highly involved in the Divine Mercy revelations and the spread of the devotion; and priest-martyr Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, who spoke out for the cause of Polish freedom in the 1980s. Naturally, the Divine Mercy devotion plays a role here.
Finding Polish-American churches in Chicago is easy because of the large population of Poles in the Windy City. Among the Polish churches to see is St. Hyacinth Basilica (StHyacinthBasilica.org), which has relics of Sts. John Paul II and Faustina. In Our Lady of Czestochowa Chapel, visitors can see memorabilia of the saintly Holy Father.
Built by Polish immigrants, St. John Cantius Roman Catholic Church (Cantius.org) has a side shrine focusing on an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa that came from Poland many years ago. The crowns for Mary and the Infant Jesus were made from parishioners’ contributions in the late 1990s and blessed by St. John Paul II.
Combining John Paul II’s love for Eucharistic adoration, Divine Mercy and our Blessed Mother, St. Stanislaus Kostka Church (StStansChurch.org) in Chicago is also known as the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, with adoration 24 hours a day before the iconic monstrance of Our Lady of the Sign-Ark of Mercy.
Down South, Texas also has a large Polish population. In Houston, Our Lady of Czestochowa Church (PolishChurchHouston.com), a center for the area’s Polish religious and social life, has prominent sanctuary shrines to Our Lady of Czestochowa and Divine Mercy. The church has a first-class relic of St. John Paul II for veneration.
About 50 miles from San Antonio, the small village of Panna Maria (PannaMariaTexas.com) is the oldest Polish settlement in the United States, with the beautiful Immaculate Conception Catholic Church. About five miles away is the next settlement, the village of Cestohowa, where the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parish (Polish-Texans.com) has an icon of Our Lady of Czestochowa prominently centered in the reredos, and a sanctuary shrine visualizes the Divine Mercy.
The John Paul II Eucharistic Center at the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels Monastery in Hanceville, Ala. (OLAMShrine.org), educates pilgrims on the meaning and history of the Real Presence of Our Lord — something very near to John Paul II’s heart.
Displays depict a typical Jewish Passover meal all the way to the Last Supper, when Christ gave us the Eucharist. Short videos explain each step.
Pilgrims can use interactive computer stations to learn about the Eucharist and the Mass. Eucharistic miracles and saints with special connections to the Eucharist are also a focus.
Back up North in Buffalo, N.Y., the Pope St. John Paul II Shrine at St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Church (StStansBuffalo.com) is a diocesan shrine. The oldest Polish parish in the state has a relic of St. John Paul II’s blood for public veneration in front of his statue. Cardinal Wojtyla visited this church in 1969 and 1976.
Not to be missed is the National Shrine of Divine Mercy (TheDivineMercy.org/shrine) in Stockbridge, Mass., complete with first-class relics of Sts. John Paul II and Faustina for veneration. Divine Mercy is celebrated here every day, with confessions, Mass and the Chaplet of Divine Mercy.
Another East Coast Polish-American parish is St. Stanislaus Basilica (SaintStanislaus.org) in Chicopee, Mass. Its reredos highlights Polish and Franciscan heritage in the San Damiano crucifix and our Blessed Mother as Our Lady of Czestochowa. This icon was painted in Czestochowa, touched to the original icon at Jasna Góra and blessed by St. John Paul II. His first-class relic is among many relics the faithful may venerate, including those of Sts. Faustina and Maximillian Kolbe.
St. Stanislaus Bishop and Martyr Roman Catholic Church (StanislausChurch.com) in Manhattan also has a relic of St. John Paul II.
Down the coast in Baltimore, Holy Rosary Church highlights the saintly Pope’s love for Mary and the Rosary and offers the Archdiocesan Shrine of Divine Mercy (HolyRosaryPL.org/en/shrine). The faithful can venerate the first-class relics of Sts. John Paul II and Faustina, as well as those of Blessed Michael Sopoćko.
In Washington, the St. John Paul II National Shrine (JP2Shrine.org) has a permanent exhibit, “A Gift of Love: The Life of St. John Paul II.” Pilgrims follow his life and papacy through galleries, with interactive displays and personal artifacts. They can venerate two first-class relics — a glass ampoule of his blood and a piece of blood-stained cloth from his cassock during the 1981 assassination attempt on his life.
Mary and the Saints
Stateside pilgrims can also visit a Marian shrine or church to stay in solidarity with their Krakow compatriots, including the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (NationalShrine.com) in Washington, with its many chapels dedicated to the Blessed Mother, including Our Lady of Czestochowa. Three popes visited here — John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis.
Local pilgrims would also do well to visit a shrine connected to a patron saint of World Youth Day, like the National Shrine of St. Kateri Tekakwitha (KateriShrine.com).
Check out more pilgrimage suggestions at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website (USCCB.org).
At Jasna Góra in 1979, before Our Lady of Czestochowa, St. John Paul II said: “Mother, be our guide!”
During U.S.-focused WYD USA pilgrimages, we can do the same.
Joseph Pronechen is a Register staff writer.