Pilgrimage to Poland

Students from the ITI enjoyed a fruitful pilgrimage to Poland from October 5th through the 7th. Carefully organized by Fr. Juraj Terek and Piotr Drag (founding member of the ITI), the trip started with attending a conference co-sponsored by the conference of Polish bishops about European integration. The conference allowed students to grapple with current issues facing Europe in a professional setting.

The ITI was well represented when students sought to clarify the discussion by asking panels about the true causes of problems such as low birth rates and illegal immigration, about the true ends of working toward a thriving economy, if there would be attempts to restore the EU to the Catholic principles and model of its founders, and for evidence that upholding human dignity is successfully and intentionally being upheld in European rule of law.

Outside of the conference, students got to walk in the footsteps of Pope Saint John Paul II in a walking tour of Krakow. Sights included his seminary, Wawel cathedral, the cardinal palace, and the chapel where he first celebrated mass. Students were also blessed with a trip to the shrine of Divine Mercy, where their gracious tour guide recounted the highlights of Sr. Faustina’s life. The visit finished with a time of reflection with a member of Sr. Faustina’s order in the Hungarian chapel.

Next on the itinerary was a visit to the nearby John Paul II shrine, where students had the chance to see Polish Catholicism represented in a range of chapels as well as the cassock John Paul II wore during the attempt on his life. At the shrine, students providentially met Archbishop Theodorus Hoogenboom of Utrecht, who was a key speaker at the same conference.

The tour of religious sites around Krakow was topped with a visit to the Sanctuary Ecce Homo of St. Brother Albert, the “St. Francis of Krakow.” There, students got to contemplate with their own eyes Brother Albert’s profound painting of a mocked Jesus robed in red.

Finishing off the last day of the pilgrimage was a unique mass in Wieliczka’s St. Kinga chapel (entirely carved from salt!) and a guided tour of Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, moments were taken for prayer and to ask for the intercession of St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein). All students returned safely and sincerely thank Fr. Juraj and Piotr Drag for the amazing experience.

Caption: Students taking a break from the conference to enjoy a cafe in Krakow.

Caption: Students at the shrine of John Paul II with Archbishop Hoogenboom.

Caption: Students receive a blessing from Archbishop Hoogenboom at the shrine of John Paul II.

Caption: A Fr. Lijiu selfie taken at Wawel castle.