MAKE HER KNOWN – With those words, Pope Pius IX entrusted the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to the care of the Redemptorist Order on this day in 1866. On that first day, as the icon was carried through Rome’s streets in procession, miracles took place, and miracles continue to this day as God answers prayers which the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God) intercedes for under this title.
Our Mother of Perpetual Help
The icon came from Crete, which is where this type of Passion Icon was made. The man who brought this one to Rome either stole it or rescued it, and at his death he left it to a Roman family to give to a church. The mother decided to keep it, a big mistake, as Our Lady told the daughter of the house in three dreams, that she wanted the icon in the church of St. Matthew. Finally the mother relented, and presented the icon to the Augustinians who served the church, telling them that in the dream, Mary specifically gave the title I am your Mother of Perpetual Help. You can read more about its adventures here: http://www.maryprayforus.org/home-of-the-icon/ ; suffice to say that it is now honored greatly in Rome. Everything in the icon has a meaning: this site does a good job of telling what the icon “says” to us: http://www.maryprayforus.org/iconguide/
As an icon given to a Latin Rite Order, this beautiful image of Mary and Jesus has served as a bridge to the East. The Redemptorists founded Eastern branches in the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church in 1913 at L’viv, and in 1921 in eastern Slovakia at Michalovce, which serves the Byzantine-Ruthenian Catholic Church, to which I belong. In 1934, Pope Pius XI gave the Sisters of St. Basil the Great – Uniontown Province – a copy of this icon to promote pilgrimages for peace in the Church at a time when our Church in America was being torn by schism. These pilgrimages at Uniontown broughts tens of thousands of people on Labor Day weekend for The Otpust, the biggest Byzantine Catholic gathering in America. This continues today: the traditional litany of “O Mary help us, O Mary help us” has been repeated by so many people, and you can do the same at our parish on Wednesday nights.
The parish where I have been serving as pastor, 1985-2008, and as a helper pastor emeritus since then, is dedicated to Mary under this title. The church was founded by workers from Sandia Laboratories who were recruited from universities in Pennsylvania and Ohio. These different Byzantine Catholics met up with each other, and as they married and started families, they began to plan to have a church. A previous attempt by Melkites and different Slav-origin faithful to do so at the Mount Carmel church had failed in the 196os, but this time these young people decided to make it work. The Archdiocese granted use of the chapel at St. Pius X School, then on Louisiana NE, where Uptown shopping is today, and the Assumption church hall for fund-raising dinners and dancers. Some of the founding families were: Adamsko, Boccio, Drozdick, Dzek, Grega, Jakymiw, Novotny, Smith, Stevenson – it was already a diverse mix! You can read more about our history here:http://www.olphnm.org/#!history-of-olph/c103u
Since a majority came from Ruthenian parishes back East, the people wrote to Bishop Emil Mihalik of Parma, who had jurisdiction over the Western States for the Byzantine Catholic Metropolia to get their own priest, and to establish a parish named Our Lady of Perpetual Help, as Mary was definitely helping them move so quickly. While he agreed to work with them for a priest, he declined the name, writing that there were too many churches with that name. The laity persevered, and purchased a church with a residence and parking lot on Bell SE, in what now has the rather elaborate title International District, generally known as Trumbull. Bishop Mihalik sent Father John Kovach as the first pastor, and yielded to both the pressures of the faithful and the intercession of Mary, and the parish was given this glorious name, Our Lady of Perpetual Help and canonically established us in November, 1974 http://www.olphnm.org/ .
My first Divine Liturgy here was the feast of St. Elijah the Prophet on July 20, 1985. I blessed cars after the Liturgy, as Elijah is the patron of vehicles (due to his ascent to heaven in a fiery chariot!) and we were off! Bishop Thomas Dolinay told me to come here for a couple of years, and then he’d send me on to another church. But that never happened.
Ascent of Elijah to heaven in chariot of fire
The Perpetual Help icon has been the site of many prayers over the years, and many favors granted by God. Every Wednesday night, devout members of the parish gather at 5:30 PM to pray the traditional prayers and litany, and sing the popular Byzantine hymns in honor of Our Lady. Mary has blessed us in many ways, and under different titles, as you’ll see below!
One of the ladies in the parish always said that something wonderful would happen here. She was hoping for a miracle like the weeping icon of Mariapocs. We did not get that, but we have had many, many other blessings.
There are four priests from this parish that has never numbered more than 90 households: Fathers Michael O’Loughlin, pastor at Holy Protection http://www.holyprotection.org/ and Vocation Director of the Eparchy of the Holy Protection of Mary http://eparchyofphoenix.org/vocations.html ; Brian Escobedo, Nathaniel Block for the Diocese of Gallup, and Tyler Strand (who serves two parishes: https://sites.google.com/site/resurrectionchurchsmithtown/homeand http://www.standrewswestbury.org/);
We have sent two women to the Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist: Sister Teresa Benedicta Block, daughter of former cantor and choir director Steve Block; and Sister Victoria Marie Edge – https://www.sistersofmary.org/
Our pastor, Fr. Artur Bubnevych, carries the large Helper of Mothers icon in the March for Life, 2016.
Our Lady, Helper of Mothers – The original small icon came to our parish in 1997, and has been accompanied by miracles ever since: difficult pregnancies or childbirths ending safely; couples who had used all possible Church-approved methods of conception and still being childless, conceiving successfully. The large gold-covered icon was purchased by then-Father Kurt Burnette, and has been successfully presented at abortion clinics and resulting in some turnarounds and thus babies saved, or going to parishes and thus more couples finding out about this icon and the blessings accompanying it.
Our parish continues today – this year we had the biggest parish bazaar ever; half our membership is under 18 years of age; adult education, Knights of Columbus, choir, OLPHelpers for the women, Eastern Christian Formation for children, weekly prayers at the abortion clinic, weekly prayers to Our Lady of Perpetual Help in church – it stands as a witness to Jesus Christ the High Priest, to our Catholic Faith expressed fully in the Byzantine Tradition, as a family of worshippers committed to living out the Faith as well as possible, and looking forward to the future.
Come by sometime – it’s a great church, and that lady was right – great things are happening here.