Our Lady of Czestochowa
The image of the Black Madonna may be recognizable to much of the world, but only a true son of Poland could understand the historical and religious significance the power that Our Lady in Czestochowa has in the Polish community.
Father Stanisław Kowalski is such an individual. Having first come to the United States in 1989, in the wake of the communist collapse in his native Poland, he is currently the pastor of Our Lady in Czestochowa parish in Sterling Heights. Youthful-looking and energetic at 47, Father Kowalski speaks with passion and reverence about the Mother of God as the "Queen of the Polish Crown" and the Shrine of Jasna Gora as the spiritual capital of Poland.
The main altar of Sterling Heights’ Our Lady in Czestochowa church is dominated by a copy of the famous image of the Black Madonna. Saint Luke the Evangelist, according to tradition, is believed to be the original artist of this painting in which Mary is depicted holding the Christ Child. The original of this sacred picture, enshrined and venerated at the renowned Marian Shrine in Poland, was first brought from Jerusalem through Constantinople and was bestowed to the Princess of Ruthenia. It was brought to Poland in 1382 through the efforts of Ladislaus of Opole who had discovered it in a castle at Belz. To ensure its protection, he invited the Monks of Saint Paul the First Hermit from Hungary to be its guardians.
From this time onward, the historic records of the painting are documented and authenticated by the miracles associated with the painting. In 1430, a devastating attack on the Polish Shrine resulted in tragic losses and the damaging of the holy picture. To this very day, despite the attempts to repair the damage, the slashes on the face of the Virgin Mary are still visible.
The reproduction of the painting at the Sterling Heights parish contains these slashes as well.
“Prayers to the Black Madonna come not only from our hearts,” says Father Kowalski, “But also from God. For much of Poland’s history, when the country itself had been dissolved by various political factions, it was to the Mother of God that we prayed. She gave us freedom in spirit, which made the loss of physical freedom due to occupation more bearable.”
In 1980, along with nearly fifty thousand other believers, Father Kowalski made a pilgrimage, on foot, from Warsaw to the Polish shrine to Our Lady of Czestochowa, so certainly, the power of God has worked a wonder that here in the United States, he wound up pastor of this particular church.
“Our first mass here, only eight parishioners were present. Now, see how we have grown! That is no doubt owing to the power and the might of Our Lady.”