In Poland, there’s a centuries-old tradition in honor of Mary: People from throughout the country make a pilgrimage on foot to Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa to honor the Black Madonna.
People walk — some for hundreds of miles, some carrying their shoes, some crawling on their knees — until they arrive at the shrine.
PHOTO GALLERY: 2023 Walking pilgrimage to Doylestown shrine
That tradition of pilgrimage is something that Father Jacek Labinski, pastor of St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton, and many of his parishioners have chosen to replicate each August. They celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary by participating in a “Pielgrzymka,” or walking pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, Pa. They have upheld the tradition for more than 20 years with the exception of 2020, 2021 and 2022 because of pandemic-related concerns.
This year the two-day pilgrimage, which occurs every year on the weekend preceding the Assumption and spans about 34 miles, began the morning of Aug. 12 at St. Hedwig Church, where more than 200 pilgrims and a support crew gathered for prayer and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and received a blessing from Father Labinski.
Then off they went, walking more than half the distance, singing and praying along the way.
After crossing the Delaware River, the pilgrims arrived at their evening destination, a farm in Bucks County, Pa., where they set up tents, ate dinner and gathered for an outdoor candlelight Mass celebrated by Father Labinski and concelebrated by two Pauline priests and blood brothers, Father Bogdan Olzacki, director of the Doylestown shrine, and Father Tadeusz Olzacki.
The next morning, the throng headed for the shrine, arriving in time for the 2 p.m. Mass celebrated by Father Tadeusz Lizinczyk, provincial of the Pauline Fathers in the United States, and concelebrated by numerous priests, including Father Labinski.
Pilgrims of all ages gave various reasons as to why they wanted to participate, but all said they found the experience meaningful and prayerful, especially since, during the time spent walking, they recited the Rosary and other prayers, singing hymns and quietly reflecting.
Father Labinski noted that also adding to this year’s joy was being able to resume the tradition after it had been canceled the past three years because of pandemic restrictions.
“After four years it’s so great that we can walk again,” he said.
“Making the pilgrimage is a sacrifice, but the pilgrims are thirsty for this opportunity to bring their intentions before the Blessed Mother — whether it’s their own or for family members — in this great Polish tradition,” he said.
Lucy Gancarz, a member of St. Hedwig Parish for about 25 years, has participated in the pilgrimage for about 10 years. She said she appreciates how it offers “us time to take a break from daily life, turn off our phones and enjoy the spiritual blessing of the pilgrimage.”
Gancarz added how happy she was to have numerous family members — including her 8-year-old son, Justin, and two nephews, Logan, 8, and Ethan, 5 — participate in the pilgrimage.
“I want Justin to see and experience some of the traditions of his Polish heritage and participate in something that is connected to his faith,” she said.
Father Jacek Labinski, pastor of St. Hedwig Parish, Trenton, is joined by concelebrating priests from the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa, Doylestown, Pa., Pauline Fathers Tadeusz Olzacki, left, and Bogdan Olzacki. The Mass was celebrated at Linda and Jerry Yerkes' Newtown, Pa., home. Mary Stadnyk photo