Pilgrimage of Faith – World Youth Day July 2016
Day 1 – Friday, July 22:
We started our pilgrimage at O’Hare International Airport where we boarded an overnight flight to Warsaw on Polish Airlines LOT along with 72 other young people and adults from several parishes in the Joliet and Rockford Dioceses (Resurrection, St. Michael, St Joseph in Manteno, St Joseph in Addison, Holy Cross in Batavia, St Gall in Elburn, St Mary’s in De Kalb and St. Luke in Carol Stream)
Day 2 – Saturday, July 23: Arrive in Warsaw
We arrived in Warsaw after a nine-hour flight. Then our group was taken by bus to our hotel. After some time for refreshment, we started our pilgrimage in the capital of Poland. We visited “The National Temple of Divine Providence” which is considered to be the most important ecclesiastical building of the last three centuries in Poland. The story of the construction of the Temple of Divine Providence began over 200 years ago. Poles have not managed to build a monument-votive church of Divine Providence for two centuries. The Temple is an important religious–national symbol of Poland. The complex of Divine Providence is composed of a Church of Divine Providence, Museum Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski and Pantheon of the Great Poles. We will also visited Lazienki Park, a beautifully landscaped park, the Chopin Statue, and some places connected with Polish culture and religion in the park.
Day 3 – Sunday, July 24: Niepokalanów – Licheń
Following breakfast, we left for Niepokalanów. This Franciscan Monastery was founded by the martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe. This remarkable saint was arrested by the Nazis and died in Auschwitz, giving his life for the life of another prisoner.
Next we traveled to the village of Świnice Warckie. The village’s historic parish is the site of the baptism of St. Faustina (Helena Kowalska). Future missionary of God’s Mercy was baptized there and she also received her first confession and first Holy Communion. We also visited the nearby village of Głogowiec where she was born.
We stopped by Fr Marek’s Home parish, and took a tour of his home church. We met members of his family and the current pastor. We were fed by some awesome volunteers across the street at Fr Marek’s old high school.
In the evening, we arrived in Licheń for 9pm Evening Prayer. Construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of Licheń had begun in 1994. It took only 10 years to complete. The shrine came into being thanks to initiative of Fr. Eugeniusz Makulski, who united with this idea thousands of the faithful from all over the Poland and from abroad. The entire project was financed by their voluntary donations. The history of the Miraculous Image of Our Lady of Lichen is connected with 2 people: Tomasz Kłossowski and Mikołaj Sikatka.
Tomasz Kłossowski was a Napoleonic soldier he fought in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 where he was badly injured. When he was praying for his life to be saved, Mary appeared to him with a crown on Her head and holding an eagle in her arms. Our Lady promised Tomasz that he would be cured. She wanted him to find an image faithfully representing Her and to place it in public view. In 1836 he found such an image in Ligota, near Częstochowa, when he was coming back home from one of his pilgrimages. For a short time the image was kept at Tomasz’s home. Before he died, he hung it on a pine tree in Grąblin Forrest.
Mikołaj Sikatka was a shepherd from Grąblin. He used to pasture his cattle in Grąblin Forest and pray near the image hung on a pine tree. In May, 1850 Mary appeared to him. In the next months there were several other apparitions. She called people to do penance, become converted, to recitation of the Rosary and She asked to move Her image to more worthy place. She said that there would be an epidemic and promised to intercede with God on everyone, who would pray for a help. Villagers did not believed the shepherd. Two years later, when plague of cholera struck, people started to listen to him. In response to people’s prayers there were miraculous healings. There were more and more pilgrims coming to the image. The faithful built a chapel, where the image was placed. Terrified by the epidemic of cholera people were gathering there around the icon of Our Lady. Bishop of Diocese of Kujawy and Kalisz decided to transfer the image to Licheń’s church.
Licheń is a Marian pilgrimage place in central Poland. The Sanctuary’s main church has a nave that is 120 meters long and 77 meters wide, a central dome that is 98 meters high, and a tower 141.5 meters tall. It is Poland’s largest church and one of the largest churches in the world. The church is dedicated to Our Lady of Sorrows, Queen of Poland whose icon, perhaps dating back to the 18th century, is displayed in the basilica’s main altar. The sanctuary is beautifully located, close to a lake.
After lunch, we drove to the grandest pilgrimage shrine of Poland since the 14th century – Jasna Góra, located in the middle of the city of Częstochowa! This hill-top monastery is home to the beloved icon of the Black Madonna. For centuries the Sanctuary has been a spiritual capital of Poland with members of social groups and professions going on pilgrimage there: kings, bishops, knights, soldiers, merchants, peasants, and ordinary people. We participated in Eucharistic adoration and prayer with young pilgrims from all over the world. It was very moving experience. You will see pictures below of the walls covered with crutches people left after being healed and rosaries and other devotional items left by pilgrims over the time.
Day 5 -Tuesday, July 26: Auschwitz – Wadowice – Kraków – Zakopane
We visited Auschwitz – “the Nazi German concentration camp in occupied Poland” as it is officially named. During World War II, Germans killed approximately 1.1 million people there (Polish citizens: mostly Polish Jews, Gypsies, Russians and others). Among them were St. Edith Stein and St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe.This was a great connection for our young people. Earlier in the trip they visited Niepokalanów where St Maximilian had lived and worked and was arrested. Today, they visited the cell block were he gave his life for a fellow prisoner. A day after someone had escaped from Auschwitz, the commander of the camp decided that 10 people were going to be sent into the starvation chambers. One man asked for mercy because he had wife and children. St. Max volunteered to take his place. Ten days later still praying and still trusting in God, St Max wouldn’t die. The guards killed him with a shot of acid instead.
Next stop was Wadowice – the birthplace of Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II). While in the small city of Wadowice, we had the opportunity to visit the church where this saint was baptized and attended Mass until he was 18 years old. We saw his high school and grade school. We met young pilgrims from all over the world. We visited the museum which is inside his old house.
Day 6 – Wednesday, July 27: Zakopane
Zakopane is a gateway village to the Tatra Mountains and the capital of Polish Highlanders, a Polish ethnic group known for their distinctive, strong character and culture. We had Mass at one of the local churches built in the original mountain style and visited many times by Karol Wojtyła. We took a hike into the mountains and stopped by the hermitage of St Albert. We saw his personal ‘cell’ and chapel. While in the mountains, we listened and watched some Highlanders sing and dance.
Day 7 – Thursday, July 28: Kraków* – Pope Francis welcoming ceremony
We started to explored the city known for its artistic and religious beauty and places connected with St. John Paul II, St. Faustina (Łagiewniki) and other saints. We had Mass at the JPII Cultural Center. We saw relics of JPII including the cassock in which he was shot. We venerated a vial of his blood. We kissed relics of St Faustina and venerated her grave. We participated in the welcoming ceremony with Pope Francis along with thousands of young people from throughout the world.
Day 8 – Friday, July 29: Krakow. Way of the Cross in the evening. Salt Mines in Wieliczka
We explored the salt mines which includes a functioning Catholic church where you can have your wedding and reception. The miners built many underground chapels and carved many holy images into the salt. The salt is black or grey not white so the images look like they are carved into stone but they are carved into salt.