CONVENTUAL FRANCISCAN PILGRIMAGE TO ITALY AND POLAND Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Militia Immaculata Founded by St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, OFM Conv. August 7-18, 2017
Thirty-seven pilgrims participated in Our Lady of the Angels Province’s official pilgrimage celebrating the Centenary of the founding of the M.I. movement by our confrere St. Maximilian Kolbe. Five of the pilgrims were friars of OLA Province and our Blessed Agnellus of Pisa Custody.
ITALY The first part of our pilgrimage was to Italy (Rome and Assisi). We began by celebrating Mass in the chapel of Convento Kolbe where St. Maximilian lived for 7 years, praying before the same statue of the Immaculate, and where, with six confreres, he founded the M.I. on October 16, 1917. The highlight of our next day in Rome was to celebrate Mass at the altar of Our Lady of the Miracle in Sant’ Andrea delle Fratte Church where St. Maximilan celebrated his first Mass. After waiting under the blazing sun to clear security at St. Peter’s Square, we visited the treasures inside St. Peter’s Basilica and prayed before the tombs of St. Peter, St. John Paul II and St. John XXIII.
Our third day in Italy was all about Assisi. We visited the Basilica of St. Clare as well as the Portiuncula in Our Lady of the Angels Basilica. As always, the highlight was praying at the tomb of St. Francis and celebrating Mass in a chapel of the Sacro Convento, which St. Maximilian visited several times, and where, as a plaque records, he blessed the grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes. To the pilgrims’ delight, our own Fr. Martin Breski, OFM Conv. (who serves at the Basilica as an English speaking guide for pilgrims) provided a full tour of Papal Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
We returned to Rome truly blessed and a little heavier, what with all the souvenirs and religious articles we were carrying, and the delicious pasta we consumed!
POLAND As in Italy, the Very Reverend Fr. James McCurry, OFM Conv. (OLA Province Minister Provincial and the Pilgrimage Spiritual Guide) continued to inspire with his spiritual guidance. With all the knowledge he has gained over the years about St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, OFM Conv., he continued to amaze us – especially in Poland. Of the eight days we spent there, three were splendid jewels that crowned our pilgrimage. The first (August 12th) was our visit to Niepokalanow (City of the Immaculate) established ninety years ago this year to promote and further the works of the Immaculate to which St. Maximilian and the friars were totally dedicated. At the celebration of the Mass in the friary’s first chapel, all the pilgrims made the total consecration to the Immaculate, enrolled in the M.I., and were given a Miraculous Medal.
The second highlight (August 13th) was the visit to Poland’s National Shrine of Jasna Gora (Bright Mountain) in Czestochowa, where during the day we celebrated Mass in the Chapel of the Rosary. Then, at 9 p.m., the hour of the “Apel” (the “call”), we were all privileged to kneel right in the sanctuary before the sacred icon of the Black Madonna. In a televised broadcast to Poland and the world, Fr. Simon, one of the Pauline Fathers, singled out our group announcing that we were visiting the shrine from the U.S. to mark the centenary of the M.I. and pointing out to all that St. Maximilian had celebrated Mass there three times according to the monastery’s records. Then, three of us friars were each invited to pray a Hail Mary in English. (A video CD of the “Apel” was later given to Fr. James and it will soon be on our website.) The third significant day (August 14th) was marked by a pilgrimage to Auschwitz concentration camp, where we joined Polish friars, bishops, a German Archbishop, and hundreds of other faithful. We participated in an outdoor Mass solemnly celebrated next to the “Block of Death” within which is the bunker cell #18 where St. Maximilian died, ultimately succeeding in the transformation of a place of hatred and death into a sanctuary of love and life.
Fraternally, Fr. Jobe Abbass, OFM Conv. (Pilgrimage Director)
Photos from inside the room of St. Maximilian Mary Kolbe, OFM Conv., in Niepokalanów (City of the Immaculate)