The Last Journey — A Solemn Transfer of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Lichen to the new Basilica — July 2, 2006
Thousands of the faithful assisted today with the transfer of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Lichen from St. Dorothy’s Parish Church to the Basilica Minor in Lichen, Poland. Pilgrims from Poland and Ukraine participated in the important day. Transferring the image is an event of historical proportions, since it has been stationed in the parish church for 149 years.
The solemn procession went through the streets of Lichen and ended at the square before the basilica, where a Holy Mass was celebrated. The image was carried by parishioners, pilgrims, village administrators, Shrine custodians – the Marians, and nuns. The image was surrounded with a special rope made out of flowers and herbs by Lichen residents.
The midday Holy Mass was presided over by the Metropolitan of Gniezno, Archbishop Henryk Muszynski. He was assisted by, among others, Bishop Wieslaw Mering of the Diocese of Wloclawek, Fr. Jan Rokosz, MIC, Superior General of the Congregation of Marians, and Fr. Paweł Naumowicz, MIC, Superior of the Polish Province. Bishop Louis Dicaire of Saint Jean Longueuil Diocese in Canada also attended.
Bishop Jan Tyrawa, of Bydgoszcz, delivered the homily. He told the faithful assembled in the basilica square: “Since long ago, Lichen made its gold-lettered mark on the map of Poland as a Marian Shrine. It is a particular station on the way of God’s People in pilgrimage, which strengthens and renews their faith, thus enabling them to go further on this world’s paths. … Lichen lies in the very heart of Poland, in its geographical center – the first site of evangelization and of Christian mission. Here the Church in Poland was born with its first missionary capital that later became the first Metropolitan Capital in Gniezno embracing all of Poland.”
Father Jan Rokosz, MIC, General Superior of the Marians, said: “This procession became a symbol of the unusual pilgrimage that the Image of Our Lady of Lichen and the Lichen Shrine, renowned for its graces, have made throughout their history. A succession of events took place here throughout 150-plus years. These events were inexplicable from the human point of view, but they confirmed that God chose this very Image and this very site for showing His love for the Lichen parish, the Diocese, the Church in Poland and Europe, and, in a certain sense, for the entire world. Today, we are bringing the Image, renowned for its graces, into this basilica built specifically for it by Our Lady’s venerators as the votive offering of the Polish Nation for the Jubilee of 2000 Years of Redemption. We are bringing this Image to the site blessed by the Holy Father, John Paul II, who granted this shrine the title of basilica minor. In this way, he confirmed a particular link connecting this shrine with the Bishop of Rome and its particular place within the Church.”
During the Eucharistic celebration, words of thanksgiving were addressed to the Lichen Shrine senior custodian, Fr. Eugeniusz Makulski, M.I.C., the builder of the Lichen basilica. Pilgrims, accompanied by a brass band, sang: “May he live to be a hundred…” and gave him a round of applause.
After the Mass, the Image, escorted by the faithful, was brought into the basilica and placed on the main altar. During the Lichen icon’s unveiling in its new location, a musical piece composed for the occasion by the world-famous conductor Krzysztof Penderecki was played for the first time. The maestro, accompanied by the brass section of the National Symphony Orchestra of the Polish Radio in Katowice, made the opus recording. The orchestra director-in-chief, Ms. Joanna Wnuk-Nazarowa attended the unveiling ceremony.
The Image of Our Lady of Lichen dates back to the second half of the 18th century. Its artist is not known. The painting underwent several restorations; however, Our Lady’s face remained intact. On August 15, 1967, the Primate of Thousand Years, Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski, crowned the Image.
The Image came to the Lichen area in 1836. Tomasz Klossowski, a soldier who fought in the Napoleonic wars, brought it here. First, Tomasz took it to his family home, and only later, in 1844, he placed this icon on a pine tree in the Grablin Forest (two kilometers away from Lichen). In 1850, apparitions took place in this forest and were witnessed by a shepherd, Mikolaj Sikatka. On September 29, 1852, the image was transferred to a little wooden church in Lichen. In 1857, it was transferred to a new stone-built church of St. Dorothy. Then, 149 years later, the image was transferred to the basilica minor that has been built through participation of millions of Polish people especially for Our Lady of Lichen. The Marian Fathers, the Shrine custodians, hope that this has ended the journey of the Image of Our Lady, renowned for its graces.
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