88th Pilgrimage Welcome Message by Metropolitan Archbishop William C. Skurla

Mount St. Macrina, Uniontown, Pa. 

Sunday, September 4, 2022

We welcome the pilgrims to the 88th Annual Pilgrimage in honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  Our theme this year’s pilgrimage is the Theotokos the Seeker of the Lost.

With great joy, we have returned to our regular schedule for this year’s Pilgrimage.  We extend our thanks to the Sisters of Saint Basil the Great, the monastery staff, the Basilian Associates, and the army of volunteers who make this Pilgrimage possible each year.

Prayers and pilgrimages to Mary the Mother of God date back to the first Christian Churches.  The devotion the icon under the title “Seeker of the Lost” in the American translation are linked to the Slavic icons under the name of “Seeker of the Perishing.” According to one of the first written references, an icon was painted or written in a village in Russia during the seventeen hundreds.   Several copies with the same names are now found around the world.

According to the Slavic story, a Russian man was traveling by horse and cart was stranded in January blizzard on the feast of the Theophany.  Unable to continue his journey, he prayed to the Mary the Queen of Heaven.  He promised her that if he were rescued that he would donate an icon with the name of the “Seeker of the Perishing” to the local church.

He was saved by a peasant who nursed him back to health.  True to his promise to the Mother of God, the man donated an Icon to the church.  The icon was a source of many miracles.  Other Icons dedicated to the “Seeker of the Perishing” likewise provided help to those who were in desperate situations due to addictions, poverty, and plagues. They received help from God through their intercession to Mother of God to save themselves or other who were lost.

The Bible is full of stories which Jesus searches for the lost.  In Gospel of Saint Luke, he proclaims that He came to bring salvation to those who were lost.  A good example of Jesus mission to save the lost be seen in his seeking Zacchaeus.  Jesus and the apostles were passing through the ancient city Jericho.  Instead of going the houses of the leaders of the city or synagogue, he went to house of Zacchaeus the tax collector.  Tax collectors were hated by all and considered to be worthless and lost.  Of all the people in Jericho, Jesus seeks him and goes to his home to lead him back to salvation.  There are countless other stories of Jesus seeking and reaching out to the poor, the sick, and lowest people of society.  Like Jesus, Pope Francis also reaches out to those that are lost where ever he travels.

The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel foretold Jesus mission to seek the lost.    Ezekiel wrote that as a shepherd looks for his scattered sheep when he is among the flock, so I will look for My flock. I will rescue them from all the places to which they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness.

I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick, but I will destroy the fat and the strong.  I will feed them with judgment. (Ezekiel 34:16)

Fulfilling Ezehial’s prophecy, Jesus told the similarly parable of shepherd who leaves the flock of ninety-nine sheep to seek the lost sheep and return it to home.  The one that was lost was found and returned to the flock.

For the past three years, we continuously prayed for ourselves, for our families, and for our friends who have been lost during the time pandemic and during the time of recovery from the shutdown.  We pray especially for those who are still unable to return to church service due to fear of the pandemic.  We pray that we be delivered the continuing effects which hold us back.  We pray that those who are spiritually lost will be found and return to Lord.

We pray to Mary to protect the over five million Ukrainians who have fled and lost their homes.  We pray to Mary to intercede with her Son to bring peace and justice to the war torn Ukrainian where hundreds to thousands are being killed each day.  We pray for a just peace and those who have been scattered and lost will be returned home.

We pray this year to Our Lady of Perpetual Help to intercede to seek and to find those who are spiritually lost.  In the past, the prayers of the pilgrims have be heard and miracles have happened.  We pray that your prayers today will be heard by the Mother of God and that they will be granted by Our Lord and God and Savior Jesus Christ.