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Cicero Orthodox Church celebrates 20 year anniversary of Miraculous Weeping Icon of the Virgin Mary
Weeping Icon symbolizes the suffering of Christians in the Holy Land, Pastor of Church says
By Ray Hanania
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago’s west suburb of Cicero will hold a special service on Tuesday April 22 to honor the 20th anniversary of the discovery of a weeping icon of the Virgin Mary that has come to be known officially as “The Miraculous Lady of Cicero, Illinois.”
Archpriest Nicholas Dahdal, the pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, will join other clergy, hierarchy and the faithful at a celebration of the anniversary to be held on Tuesday April 22, which is the 3rd Day of Pascha, called “Bright Tuesday” beginning at 6:30 pm at the church, 1220 S. 60th Court in Cicero, Illinois.
Economos Dahdal said that His Grace Bishop Anthony of Toledo and the Midwest Diocese of the Antiochian Orthodox church will preside over the commemoration.
On April 22, 1994, parishioners witnessed tears shedding from the eyes of The Icon of the Theotokos on the Church’s Iconostasis. His Eminence the late Metropolitan Philip Saliba, who only last month passed away, formally declared the weeping icon a miracle and named it “The Miraculous Icon of Our Lady of Cicero.”
The miracle began as just an ordinary day. The congregation was engaged in the traditional Lenten chanting at St. George Church as Father Dahdal was preparing for the Friday evening services. Also visiting at the time was Father Douglas Wyper. Dahdal, Wyper and other parishioners at the church noticed that an Icon of the Virgin Mary had what appeared to be streaks coming from the Icon’s eyes. By the stroke of midnight at the church, the witnesses saw four streams of tears flowing down the icon that continued to the bottom of the icon itself.
In the 20 years since, more than 1 million visitors from around the world have traveled to the community of Cicero, Illinois in the United States, to visit St. George Antiochian Church and to view the Weeping Icon which is on continuous display for public viewing. Many people who came to the church with their ailing family members claimed that they experienced miracles as their family members were healed.
In interviews with the news media, Dahdal said that visitors came from as far away as Finland, the Philippines and from countries in the Middle East. St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church boosts having the largest congregation of American Arab Christians mainly of Palestinian, Jordanian, Syrian and Lebanese heritage.
“They have come from everywhere. We get people that come by the church every single day from everywhere to visit the church and see the icon which is on public display,” Dahldal said.
The church began distributing cotton swabs dipped in oil that has been mixed with the tearing that flowed over the icon. More than 100,000 cotton swabs were distributed in the two months after the Miracle was witnessed. More than 1,000 churches received little bottles of oil mixed with the tears that are used in healing services all over the United States.
“We feel very blessed here especially because we have been able to accommodate all these people. The church became the center of Orthodoxy because of the Weeping Icon. We do so many services for the Orthodoxy here. Many Christians come here to be married here because of the Icon,” Dahdal said.
Dahdal said that in particular, many Hispanics come to the church.
“It has been very attractive to Hispanics and I think that is because Hispanics are very attached to the image and love for the Virgin Mary. They have a great devotion to the Mother of God and because of course we have a large Hispanic population here and they are very devoted,” Dahdal said.
Asked about the meaning of the Weeping Icon, Father Dahdal said it is up to each individual and driven by their faith.
“Honestly, I don’t have one answer to what the meaning is. It depends on who you talk to. Some people think it is a joyous occasion. Some people think it is a tragic experience,” Dahdal said.
“As a Palestinian Christian, I personally view it as a sign to the world to help protect the presence of Christianity in the Holy Land. The Christians are disappearing from the Holy Land. That is the and where the Virgin Mary lived. That is where Christ came. And the plight of Christians has been ignored in that particular place in the world.”
St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church was officially re-located in the Town of Cicero on May 1, 1984 after having been founded in 1966 in Oak Park. It has always been one of the region’s leading Antiochian Orthodox Christian Churches with a congregation that boasts more than 1,500 families, mostly American Arab. Father Dahdal originates from the only remaining all-Christian village in Palestine, Taybeh, located in the West Bank. Services are held in English and in Arabic at the Church.
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Ray Hanania is an award winning former Chicago City Hall reporter and Columnist who began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He covered Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992 (Mayor Daley to Mayor Daley) and has expanded to writing for newspapers around the world focussed on Middle East and American politics.
Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com. And, he writes on American politics for the Des Plaines Valley News, Southwest News-Herald, The Regional News newspaper and the Reporter Newspapers.
He also writes for the online websites including TheArabDailyNews.com, TheDailyHookah.com and NewsAmericaNetwork.com (Illinois News Network at IllinoisNewsNetwork.com).
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Hanania began in journalism as an activist publishing Chicago’s first English-language American Arab Newspaper “The Middle Eastern Voice” from 1975 through 1977. In 1976, he was hired by the Chicago community newspaper The Southtown Economist (Daily Southtown) and in 1985 was hired by the Chicago Sun-Times and covered Chicago City Hall for both. In 1993, he launched the “The Villager” Newspapers which covered 12 Southwest Chicagoland suburban regions.In 2004, he published “The National Arab American Times” monthly newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East ethnic food stores in 48 American States.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media;In 2009, he received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. Hanania has also received two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild, and in 1990 was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His wife and son are Jewish and he performs standup comedy lampooning Arab-Jewish relations, advocating for peace based on non-violence, mutual recognition and Two-States. He has a daughter from a prior marriage, Haifa.
His Facebook Page is Facebook.com/rghanania
Email him at: RGHanania@gmail.com