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    KFOR walks in Black Madonna Pilgrimage

    KFOR walks in Black Madonna Pilgrimage

    Photo By Ardian Nrecaj | U.S. Army 1st Lt. Nathan Mailloux, a logistics officer for Task Force-Medical with...... read more read more



    Courtesy Story

    Multinational Battle Group - East (KFOR)

    CAMP BONDSTEEL, Kosovo – Approximately 75 Kosovo Force soldiers joined religious leaders and local citizens in a 3-kilometer walk through the villages and countryside of Letnica, Kosovo, on Aug. 15 to celebrate mass outside the Church of the Black Madonna.

    For more than 400 years, people throughout the Balkans have been making the pilgrimage to the Church of the Black Madonna to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. For more than a decade, KFOR’s Soldiers from across the world—serving on NATO’s peace support mission in Kosovo—have been part of the occasion.

    The Feast of the Assumption of Mary is a Catholic feast day to honor the entrance of Mary into Heaven. While the pilgrimage honors a Catholic feast day, Soldiers and locals from a variety of faiths participated.

    A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey that offers participants the opportunity for reflection and spiritual renewal according to one’s individual faith tradition. Army Chaplains from Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and the United States coordinated and offered reflections in their respective languages for the Soldiers along the route. They also participated in an outdoor mass attended by hundreds of Soldiers and locals.

    The annual pilgrimage is an opportunity for Soldiers to grow in their spiritual resilience and build relationships with their KFOR partners from around the world. Several nations were represented , including Armenia, Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Switzerland and the United States.

    “The fruits of the pilgrimage are especially important as we serve on a peacekeeping mission,” said Capt. Michael Creagan, a Minnesota Army National Guard chaplain deployed to Kosovo as part of Multinational Battle Group-East headquarters, a U.S.-led KFOR element based out of Camp Bondsteel. Creagan, who hails from the 334th Brigade Engineer Battalion out of Bloomington, Minn., is a traditional National Guard Soldier who practices as a Catholic priest in his civilian career, outside of uniform.

    “If a Soldier is to be resilient and effective on the outside, he or she must be strong on the inside first,” he said.

    The church is located in a village in south-eastern Kosovo, and has been a site for pilgrimages for hundreds of years. The church is known for the Black Madonna statue of Mary holding the baby Jesus, which dates back to approximately 400 years ago.

    The church in Letnica is well-known as the location where Mother Teresa of Calcutta—a native of Skopje and what was then Yugoslavia—originally discerned her call from God to religious life as a young woman and became a missionary.

    “Whatever our faith tradition, we need to discover the peace that comes from our God, deep within our souls, and then, that peace can radiate through us,” said Creagan.

    “Watching the soldiers from other nations interacting with one another and developing a great sense of camaraderie, shows that they are not only able to work together, but also pray together as well,” he said.



    Date Taken: 08.15.2015
    Date Posted: 08.20.2015 10:38
    Story ID: 173728
    Location: LETNICA, ZZ

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