The Roma people, traditionally called Gypsies, adopted the faith of the people they lived among. Most of the Gypsies settled in the Polish part of the Carpathians were Roman Catholics, while those living in Lemko villages were Orthodox Christians. Baptism was often the only sacrament they received.
The Roma people massively participate in church fairs and pilgrimages, and are particularly devoted to worshipping the Mother of Christ. They eagerly visit the Black Madonna of Częstochowa, and worship the Gypsy Madonna, whose prototype was a wooden statute of a Madonna with Gypsy features, coming from Romainville, France.
The tradition of pilgrimages to the Limanowa sanctuary was started in 1986 by Rev. Stanisław Opocki, who for many years served as a priest for Polish Romanies. Several years ago there was built, in the park, next to the wooden church in Łososina Górna, a chapel under the invocation of the blessed Ceferino, the patron of the Roma people. Ceferino Giménez Malla, a Spanish Gypsy, executed during the Spanish Civil War in 1936 because he tried to defend a Catholic priest who was being battered, was the first Gypsy to be blessed by the Church. After prayer in the chapel, the pilgrims take the six-kilometre route leading to the Limanowa sanctuary. Some go on traditional, painted wagons. The Romanies hold plates with the names of the places from which they have come and flags with the characteristic, sixteen-spoke red wheel displayed on two vertical belts – blue and green. The wheel symbolises the nomadic lifestyle of the Romani people, their eternal roaming under the blue sky, through the green earth. At the same time it is similar to the current flag of India – the original homeland of the Romani people.
During Mass at the Limanowa sanctuary the Gypsies receive the sacrament of confirmation, married people celebrate their wedding anniversaries, and others get married – the traditional Gypsy wedding is organised earlier than the ceremony in church - even a few years before.
The Romani pilgrimage takes place during the September church fair at the Our Lady of Sorrows sanctuary in Limanowa - detailed information available on www.bazylika-limanowa.pl.