Solemn Consecration New Shrine of Our Lady of Lichen, June 12, 2004
After 10 years of construction, on June 12, 2004, the Apostolic Nuncio to Poland, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, consecrated the new Shrine of Our Lady of Lichen.
The solemnity of consecration of the new Lichen church began at 3:00 p.m. Bishops, who were attending the consecration in large numbers (on June 11-12, 2004, there was a Plenary Meeting of the National Conference of Bishops) went to the sacristy by the main entrance to the shrine. Ms. Barbara Bielecka, the architect in charge of the team of designers of the new shrine, presented the Apostolic Nuncio with symbolic keys to the shrine. The Nuncio, in turn, passed those keys to the shrine stewards into the hands of Fr. Andrzej Pakula, the Superior of the Polish Province. He, in turn, gave those keys to Fr. Eugeniusz Makulski, M.I.C., Custodian of the Lichen Shrine.
The procession to the altar included, among others: the Primate of Poland, Jozef Cardinal Glemp; Francis Cardinal Macharski, Metropolitan of Cracow; Archbishop Jozef Michalik, President of the National Conference of Bishops in Poland; Archbishop Henryk Muszynski, Metropolitan on Gniezno; Fr. Mark T. Garrow, MIC, Superior General of the Marians; and Fr. Jan M. Rokosz, MIC, Vicar General of the Marians. Also present were Fr. Prof. Andrzej Szostek, MIC, Rector of CUL, and Fr. Prof. Stanislaw Wilk, Rector-Elect of CUL.
"We are faithfully convinced that we served the best cause in the best possible way, using the knowledge, experience and work of human hands and worthy construction material," said Ms. Barbara Bielecka, the architect and chief coordinator of the project. She thanked the Lord for the honor of making the shrine project, the Church for placing trust in her, and Fr. Makulski for the grandeur of vision and his unbreakable will.
Next, Holy Father John Paul II's telegram for this occasion was read. (context of telegram follows this article)
As part of the ritual of the consecration, the Apostolic Nuncio sprinkled the faithful and the shrine walls with holy water. Then he applied holy oil to the altar and the twelve bishops to the shrine walls, upon which all the participants sang the litany to All Saints.
In his homily, the Primate of Poland called all the Poles around the world to a moral renewal and to "conscientiously being a Pole." "Be a conscientious Pole, a sober one, even when you find yourself in other European countries. Moral negligence transpires from every corner. Towns and villages are touched by contamination that destroys human dignity. Wherever our compatriots reside, the epidemic of alcoholism, drug addiction, and aggression reaches them. I want to specifically emphasize those afflictions because they threaten our families, without which Poland cannot survive," Primate Glemp said. Addressing residents of Western Europe, he invited them to seek their Christian roots in Lichen. Those words were uttered before a small image of Our Lady of Lichen, which was carried to the new shrine from the old church in a solemn procession the evening before, on Friday.
The celebration was concluded with singing of Te Deum and reading of the act of the shrine consecration by Fr. Provincial Andrzej Pakula. When Fr. Eugeniusz Makulski, the Shrine Custodian and initiator of the construction, was signing the act of consecration, the assembled gave him a round of warm applause.
Before the end of the event, Fr. Makulski, thanked all those who helped in building of the Lichen Shrine: "The sacrifice of retirees, widows, laborers, farmers, office workers although not large proved to be very effective and fruitful." He then added that "poor people erected a house for rich God, and rich God will handsomely reward those poor people." The Superior General, Fr. Mark Garrow, joining in thanksgivings, also drew attention to goals and challenges of the Lichen Shrine.
Lichen is the second, after Czestochowa, most frequently visited Marian shrine in Poland. The new shrine is the largest in Poland, seventh largest in Europe and eleventh in the world. Presently approximately 1.5 million pilgrims visit the Lichen Shrine annually.
The cult of Our Lady of Lichen goes back to 1850. A small image (15 x 25cm) of Our Lady was primarily located in the forest, two kilometers away from Lichen. In 1850, Our Lady appeared to a poor shepherd in that very forest. After two years, the image was moved to the Lichen church. During WWII the Miraculous Image survived, after being hidden in a private house.
The Marians took over the parish and the shrine in 1949. In 1967, the Primate of Poland, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, crowned this image, renowned for its graces. Since that moment, the cult of Our Lady of Lichen began to develop dynamically. Father Eugeniusz Makulski, the parish pastor and shrine custodian since 1966 to the present, made a significant contribution to this development. Upon his initiative the land was purchased (over 100 hectares now), where a Golgotha made out of stones was created along with many chapels, monuments, statues, and commemorative plaques. And everything is situated among beautiful greenery.
Also upon Fr. E. Makulski's initiative, the construction of a new shrine began in 1994. He was doing the fund-raising and supervising the construction. The phenomenon of the Lichen Shrine consists of the fact that the money for this cause came from hundreds of thousands of offering of the Polish people. For years many of them systematically contributed small amounts to this church which they considered their own. The Holy Father, John Paul II's visit in 1999 was a very important event for the shrine. The Pope blessed the shrine under construction then. The National Conference of Bishops recognized it as the votive offering of the Polish Church for Great Jubilee of 2000 years of Christianity.
Report provided by Irena Wawrzyniak
Telegram from the Holy Father, John Paul II, to the Bishop of Wloclawek