Our Lady of the New Millenium at Albany Abortion Clinic. From the foot of the statue, Fr. Rich Simon leads the Rosary. [Photo by EJS]
by Julie McCreevy
“Who is she that comes forth as the morning rising, fair as the moon, bright as the sun, as terrible as an army set in battle array?”
(Song of Songs 6:10)
These words of scripture, ringing with praise for the Mother of God, became the theme for the November 22-23 Mass and 24-hour prayer vigil with the statue of Our Lady of the New Millennium, organized by the Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, the Pro-Life Action League’s sidewalk counseling division.
Statue Shows One Man’s Love for Our Lady
Residents of the Archdiocese of Chicago will likely be familiar with the statue of Our Lady of the New Millennium, commissioned by the late Carl Demma. Inspired by Demma’s lifelong devotion to Our Blessed Mother, the stainless steel statue stands 38 feet tall and weighs over 8,000 pounds.
In 1999, the statue was blessed by John Paul II in St. Louis, MO. Ingeniously transported on a flatbed truck and raised by custom hydraulics, Our Lady of the New Millennium has since visited hundreds of parishes and religious communities in the Chicago area, with the assistance of Mr. Al Castillo, Archdiocese Director of Hispanic Communications. Sadly, Demma passed away in the Jubilee Year 2000, but his widow Francine has graciously carried on their powerful apostolate.
Helpers Request Statue for Vigil
Praying at the foot of Our Lady of the New Millenium
[Photo by EJS]
Inspired by the powerful presence of the statue of Our Lady of the New Millennium, the Helpers, in conjunction with Mr. Richard Guzior, owner of Richard’s Building Supply, the Knanaya Catholic Center, the Chicago Archdiocese Respect Life Office and the Mundelein Seminary Gospel of Life Group requested of Mrs. Demma that the statue of Our Lady be present at the 24-Hour Vigil for Life to be hosted on the northwest side of Chicago at the Knanaya Catholic Center, which serves Catholics of the Syro-Malabar rite.
The Knanaya Catholic Center was the perfect location for this first-of-its-kind prayer vigil, located directly across the street from Albany abortion mill, one of Chicago’s most notorious abortion centers, where babies are aborted through the sixth month of pregnancy. The Knanaya Center’s parishioners, along with Knanaya president Dr. Matthew Joseph, vice-president Joe Pinarkyil and chaplain Fr. Philip Thodukayil, warmly welcomed the prospect of hosting the statue of Our Lady and all who would participate in the Vigil.
In October, the request for Our Lady’s presence at the 24-Hour Vigil for Life was enthusiastically granted by Mrs. Demma. The Vigil was scheduled for Nov. 22-23 and numerous arrangements and prayers for good weather began in earnest.
Fr. Rich Simon preaches the homily at opening Mass in the Knanaya Catholic Center [Photo by EJS]
Our Lady Eagerly Awaited
On the eve of the Vigil, Friday, Nov. 21, a dozen Helpers volunteers along with Joe and Ann Scheidler met at the Knanaya Center to await the arrival of Our Lady of the New Millennium. Shortly after 7:00 p.m., Our Lady arrived in the parking lot of the Knanaya Center, driven by faithful escort Tommy Bruschetta. Tommy and his assistant Bobby skillfully elevated the statue of Our Lady to face Albany, towering two storeys above the abortion mill.
The statue was visible in the night sky from blocks away as though illuminated by candlelight, thanks to the masterful lighting system installed by Dick Walsh’s Taft Construction Company. Traffic slowed as many drivers got out of their cars to look more closely at Our Lady’s face, which radiates an ageless beauty, at once youthful and wise. Some spontaneously began to pray, joined by others who had walked from their homes in the neighborhood.
Hundreds Join Start of Vigil
The next morning marked the official start of the 24-Hour Vigil for Life. Several hundred faithful crowded into the Knanaya Catholic Center for a Mass celebrated by Bishop Raymond Goedert, a strong supporter of Helpers’ prayer vigils over the years. The homily was preached by Fr. Rich Simon of St. Thomas of Canturbury, who spoke of abortion as a tool of the devil, “who prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1Peter 5:8).
Following Mass, the faithful processed outdoors to the Knanaya Center parking lot, where they surrounded the statue of Our Lady, and with her faced Albany abortion clinic, led in prayer by Deacon Rolando Merced of Transfiguration Parish. When these devotions concluded after two hours, many of the faithful remained to pray, while others arrived to join the vigil. Meanwhile, sidewalk counselors outside Albany offered alternatives to abortion-bound moms. Three women who planned to abort their babies that day changed their minds and are now happily awaiting their births.
As afternoon darkened into evening, the crowd swelled as the ceaseless prayers continued. Some knelt on the hard concrete, some prayed in tears, and hundreds of candles were lit for intentions. The prayers continued, and the people kept coming as evening deepened into night.
On the Night Watch with Our Lady
Throughout the night and into the wee hours of Sunday morning, the faithful ebbed and flowed, and took turns leading hours of prayer from the Helpers’ prayer book. At 6:00 a.m., Ann Scheidler returned to lead the rosary for the weary prayer warriors who had prayed all night.
One woman said that it was her birthday, and the best gift she could receive was, “to spend the 24 hours of my birthday honoring Our Lady.” Another remarked, “She really brought a presence of holiness to the entire neighborhood.” Having Our Lady’s statue there as a witness for the unborn was, “like a dream come true,” declared another.
As the sun warmed the chill morning air, Fr. Ray Mulhern celebrated the Mass of the Feast of Christ the King. At 10:00 a.m., the faithful of the Knanaya Center celebrated their Mass, followed by a Rosary in their native language, adorned with beautiful hymns.
The prayer continued until 2:00 p.m., six hours beyond the Helpers’ 24-hour goal of non-stop prayer, including the celebration of three Masses. Shortly thereafter, Tommy and Bobby arrived to escort the statue to its next destination.
A Tear at the Foot of the Cross
With departure of Our Lady of the New Millennium imminent, the weather shifted. It had indeed been unseasonably warm for the entire weekend. Suddenly the wind began to blow, the temperature dropped and a heavy rain started. The rain transformed Our Lady’s delicate silver glow into a dull iron gray. A rivulet of rainwater fell like a tear from the corner of one eye and rolled down the cheek.
Our Lady gathered her children to stand with her that day, to show them again that they must be present, as she was, at the foot of the Cross. May all of us listen when she says, “Do whatever He tells you.”
Links and Related Articles
- League Holds “Old-Time Picket” at Albany Abortion Mill (article in this Action News)
- Christmas Caroling at Albany mill, part of our “Empty Manger” day, Dec. 20