In 1887, Bishop Mathurin Picarda visited the mission
of the Holy Ghost Fathers in Guéréo, Senegal, for
the baptism of its first Catholic converts. The priests took a walk
along the coast to the village of Popenguine. "What a magnificent
site for a sanctuary to the Virgin!" the bishop observed. A
native of Brittany, he decided to designate a famous Black Madonna
from the neighboring province of Normandy, Notre
Dame de la Délivrande, as patron saint of the shrine
he wanted to see built. A Norman benefactor provided a replica statue.
Her title was altered from the Celtic Notre-Dame de la Délivrande
to the French Délivrance and she was installed in Senegal
on May 22, 1888, the Tuesday after Pentecost, with a great procession.
The shrine at Popenguine suffered many closures and setbacks during
the next century. There were a building collapse, epidemics of yellow
fever and sleeping sickness, the Great War, and a shipwreck that
took the lives of the bishop and 16 missionaries. The area remained
primarily Muslim, but the Catholic faith and devotion to Our Lady
of Deliverance persisted. A new church was built, dedicated in 1988
to the Immaculate Conception of the Most Holy Virgin Mary and proclaimed
a minor basilica in 1991 at the request of Cardinal Hyacinthe Thiamdoum,
a native of Popenguine. Pope John Paul II visited the shrine and
crowned the statue of Our Lady of Deliverance on February 20, 1992.
Tens of thousands of pilgrims, many of them organized groups of
young people, and many inspired by rumors of Marian apparitions
there, go to Popenguine for an annual celebration on Pentecost Monday,
the Black Madonna’s feast day. They celebrate a solemn mass
and then a procession from the church to a nearby grotto shrine
of Our Lady of Deliverance in a cliff overlooking the sea.
Various 2008 articles lauded the ongoing Christian-Muslim dialogue
in Senegal. Its fruit is peace and it expresses itself in the presence
of many Muslim families, who joined in the pilgrimage to Popenguine
at the side of their Catholic brethren.