By LINDA M. LINONIS
The Oceans to Oceans Pilgrimage of an icon, a replica of Our Lady of Czestochowa, promotes a message of pro-life, marriage between a man and a woman and the family structure.
The icon will be displayed today and Sunday at St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, 430 Williamson Ave.
The Rev. Peter West, American coordinator for the project, is traveling with the icon, which arrived in the United States in late August. It has traveled from the port city of Vladivostok on the Pacific coast of Russia and throughout Europe, some 40,000 miles. Millions of Catholics and Orthodox have viewed the icon.
Father West said the icon will be in the United States until November 2014 when its American journey will conclude in Phoenix, Ariz. From there, it will go to Mexico, then South America and beyond.
Father West will speak during the arrival ceremony at noon today at the church and again at noon Sunday when the Polish Arts Club of Youngstown hosts a discussion in the church library. “The gist of my talks is about life being sacred and belonging to God,” he said.
He said the icon is believed to be first painted by St. Luke, according to tradition. The icon has been associated with and revered in Poland for some 600 years. “It is associated with restoring family values,” Father West said.
Aundrea Cika Heschmeyer, director of Polish Youngstown, said the organization wanted to bring the icon to Youngstown “because of the devotion to the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Czestochowa.” The icon also is referred to as the “queen of Poland,” she said.
Heschmeyer said this is the first time the icon has been displayed in the Buckeye State and Youngstown has the honor of hosting it. She said the icon’s exhibit at St. Stanislaus ties to the Our Lady of Czestochowa shrine at St. Columba Cathedral. The icon from St. Stanislaus was moved there and financial donations from St. Casimir Society, cathedral parishioners and Polish Youngstown funded the renovation of the baptistry into the shrine.
In the Diocese of Youngs-town parish plan, St. Casimir Church merged with the cathedral. St. Stanislaus Kostka and St. Joseph the Provider, Polish heritage churches, are represented in Polish Youngstown.
Heschmeyer said the Polish Choir of St. Stanislaus will lead the prayer service during the opening ceremony. Mary-related hymns will be sung. The Polish Choir also will sing in a prelude at 10 a.m. Sunday before Mass and feature “Czarna Madonna,” a Polish hymn relating to being a child of Mary. She added that the Sunday Mass will be in English and highlighted by a mixture of Polish and English hymns.
She and Father West said Poles have great reverence for the Black Madonna because the icon is associated with Pope John Paul II’s visit to Poland and the fall of communism. “She is affiliated with a healing movement and the sanctity of life,” Father West said.