Faithful return to Mount St. Macrina in Uniontown, Pa.
for 87th annual Pilgrimage in Honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help
The sun may not have peeked out behind the gray clouds for much of the afternoon but Pilgrims’ hearts were certainly shining.
Sister Susan Sisko, Provincial, Sisters of St. Basil the Great, called the rain that gently wafted down from above during the 87th annual Pilgrimage in Honor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help “showers of blessings.”
Following a year without an in-person Pilgrimage due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sisters of St. Basil the Great were grateful to welcome faithful back to Mount St. Macrina in Uniontown, Pa. Sept. 5.
“But regardless of the weather, it’s good for us to be here. It’s good for us to be together. All of us; as a church, as the people of God, as the Sisters of St. Basil, as our Hierarchical Clergy and all our wonderful Faithful,” Sister Susan said following the Hierarchical Divine Liturgy.
“We needed this. We needed this Pilgrimage; we needed to come together as a group of people to pray and to celebrate that faith that we hold so dear.”
With the theme, “Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Gentle Protectress,” portions of the Pilgrimage, which was cut back to one day over its usual three-day period over the Labor Day weekend, were streamed live to an internet audience for the first time in the history of the Pilgrimage.
The event holds the distinction of being the oldest and the largest Byzantine Catholic Pilgrimage in the country.
On Sept. 3, 1934 — Labor Day — about 3,000 faithful came by trains, chartered buses and cars for the blessing of the newly acquired home of the Sisters at Mount St. Macrina.
Many had gathered at St. John church on the other side of town, and they came in procession through the city of Uniontown carrying banners. Forty-two priests joined Bishop Basil Takach in the Divine Liturgy preceding the blessing.
Bishop Basil, with the permission of the Holy See and the enthusiastic support of the Sisters, decided to hold annual pilgrimages at Mount St. Macrina. This would also provide an opportunity for spreading devotion to the Mother of God under her title as Our Lady of Perpetual Help, as Holy Father Pius XI requested of the Sisters.
Archbishop William Skurla, during his Hierarchical Divine Liturgy homily, said pilgrims continue to need Our Lady’s help.
“With each Pilgrimage, we come with our needs and we pray to Our Lady of Perpetual Help to intercede with her Son to grant what we need.”
Archbishop William said as work continued to prepare for this year’s Pilgrimage, the reason for choosing the theme, “Mother of Perpetual Help, Our Gentle Protectress,” was obvious.
“We need protection from the pandemic, struggles in our country and church, and the floods and winds of the past month. We continue to need Our Icon of Perpetual Help which is carried in the processions during the pilgrimage.”
He said the original Icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help was painted — or “written” — in the Byzantine style on the island of Crete.
It is believed to have originated in the 13th century but may be much older.
It was transferred to Rome by a merchant in 1499 and later to the Church of San Mateo where it was kept for three centuries.
“Our processional Icon was presented by Pope Pius the Eleventh to Bishop Takach in 1935 to be used in pilgrimages to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. The gift followed the plan of Pope Pius the Ninth who spread the devotion to the Icon to the whole world with the efforts of the Redemptorists Order.”
In consultation with local county CDC/health department officials, this year’s Pilgrimage did have some limitations:
All liturgical services took place at the Shrine Altar and there were no overnight accommodations of the grounds of Mount St. Macrina.
Pilgrims were also asked to wear masks when entering indoor shrines, as well as buildings such as the Religious Gift Shop, House of Prayer and restroom facilities.