In an effort to draw the 'selfie generation' to Marian spirituality, the Pauline Fathers of Doylestown, Pennsylvania collected photos from dozens of countries around the world for a mosaic of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
“In history of Our Lady of Czestochowa, it was a tradition to offer to her new crowns and dresses, made of precious stones and jewels,” said Father Timothy Tarnacki, the coordinator for the Living Crown of Mary Project. “But today, the world is changing, and we have to find new ways how to reach people, how they can make their faith and their relationship with Jesus and Mary more personal,” he told CNA.
The project was started almost a year ago and the priests will collect photos until Aug. 20 to build a large mosaic of the Marian image, also known as the Black Madonna. It will be revealed on Sept. 10 in the main church in celebration of the 300 anniversary of Poland's coronation of Our Lady of Czestochowa.
Along with a photo, the Living Crown of Mary project requires the participant to offer a spiritual gift to Mary, which may be an additional Marian prayer or sacrifice. Fr. Tarnacki said the project originated from the orders' members in Poland as means to honor Mary and spread Marian spirituality especially among the youth, but also to offer pilgrims the opportunity to participate in a spiritual offering to Mary.
“They offered to the Blessed Mother their entire life, families, difficult situations, unemployment, illnesses. I remember one couple who offered to Mary their resolution to live in chastity before they get married.”
The priests do not have an exact number of the photos sent so far but Fr. Tarnacki estimates the amount to be around 2,000, ranging from cellphone selfies to old black and white photos. All of the photos will be digitalized then a computer software program will arrange the pictures into the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. The Pauline Fathers, or the Order of Saint Paul the First Hermit, are the original protectors of the image of the Black Madonna, first established in Poland in 1382 at the Shrine of Jasna Gora.
Having a large portion of the Polish immigrant community dedicated to Czestochowa in the U.S., a copy of Mary's icon blessed by Pope Saint John XXIII was brought to America in 1951 and a shrine was later established in Doylestown in 1955. The Marian center is a significant piece of history for the Polish-American community, Fr. Tarnacki said, noting his surprise that a project which started off slowly received a large portion of its participates from countries facing political difficulties.
“We were thinking that our project will only cover USA, but it became an international version of the project from Poland, bringing people from every continent into it from about 60 countries.”