I am part of a very great number of people who grew up with the Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help at Mt. St. Macrina in Uniontown, Pa. As this wonderful event changed, evolved and grew during the years, I too absorbed the differences and moved forward with them.
As a small child, I envied the little girls in white dresses who walked in procession and I so
wanted to be one of them. It was very lovely, orderly, and precise, and I remained but an admiring spectator. But for the past thirty years, I have been honored and privileged to walk
in a different kind of procession with children. When the group assembles, it looks like unorganized chaos, but once they begin to move, everyone falls into place and one would
think they had practiced. No more uniformity in dress. Now we have all the vibrant colors reflecting the energy and exuberance of the young. Bright gold crowns shine with all of the love that is showered on the small participants. Parents and others proudly walk with their children, making it even a family event. Some of the little ones ride in strollers and wagons. Each one presents a flower to the Mother of God and receives a blessing from the
archbishop or a bishop.
Before I became a Sister of St. Basil, my Pilgrimage was that of every young woman of that day, even with concern as to what to wear because we were dressed in our best then. I walked the grounds, prayed, participated in the services, bought a medovnik and shopped at the very much smaller and different Religious Gift Store. Prior to those big days, I had spent time helping the Sisters clean the Pilgrim Homes and make beds. I also learned how to fold cabbage leaves into holupki, taught by a group of blessed women volunteers, all of them gone from us and now smiling down on us from their eternal
Once I entered, the early years were busy with various tasks. The best part then was that a novice got to visit with her family for a little while! Then came years of teachin school in sometimes far away parishes. So Pilgrimage was a homecoming with a sad
Labor Day leaving as we Sisters parted to travel to our appointed schools.
For many years, my responsibility was again at the Pilgrim homes. My charge was here because a lot of the women did not speak English, and I knew the Zemplín Slovak of
my grandparents. These were the big years, when bus after bus rolled onto the grounds
bringing Pilgrims from near and far. It was an exciting and inspiring time, and ladies looked
forward to being together every year, exchanging stories of their lives from the past year, praying and singing hymns together sometimes all night. After all, this was Otpust – Pilgrimage – for many of them the highlight of their lives.
Recently I have worked at communication and information, which is very nice
because I get to talk with nearly everyone. Occasionally I even get to use my Slovak again! Just as for the women mentioned above, the Pilgrimage is a highlight in my life. Perhaps you too are a long time pilgrim, and reading this has evoked some memories in you.
Because no matter how the years bring changes, the Pilgrimage continues to be such
a beautiful, unique event that is so significant to our Byzantine Catholic Church. Please
consider coming, whether for the first time or for a return after many times. For these few special days we Sisters, our Hierarchs, Clergy, and People young and old, are Pilgrims united together as at no other time, giving glory to God and honoring His Mother as Our
Lady of Perpetual Help.