For most students, summer consists of swimming, sunshine, seeing movies and concerts with friends and generally relaxing in between shifts at their summer jobs. But for eight Quinnipiac students, rest and relaxation were just glimmers in their minds.
From July 31 through Aug. 22, Kim Aiksnoras, Ericka Fryburg, Joanna Klisiewicz, Lindsay Neumann, Karen Palmer, Elizabeth Rider, Dan Shea, Kristin Wedekin and Father Jonathan Kalisch participated in a 100-mile pilgrimage in Poland, and World Youth Day in Germany.
“The plans for this trip began about a year ago through the brainstorming and organizing between myself and those in Branches, the Catholic organization on campus. We actually were planning this trip while he was still alive, and so when [Pope John Paul II] died, it became all that more meaningful to go,” said Kalisch.
The 100-mile walk from Krakow to Chestohova is now in its 14th year. Students and adults from all over the world come to make the journey. The Quinnipiac group traveled with 1200 other college students.
“We were the only group from the United States. Everyone else was Polish,” said Kalisch.
The walk was made over one week with scheduled stops each day so that food could be distributed, owners could meet their luggage at the end of the day and shelter could be found.
Shelter was provided by Polish volunteers along the walk under the motto “A Guest in the House is God in the house.”
“No matter the size or location, people would offer the groups shelter. Sometimes we’d stay in a huge house, or sleep on a school floor,” said Rider, a junior Occupational Therapy major.
“One night we stayed with a woman who was incredibly poor, and had mistakenly been expecting us the following day. There wasn’t even running water, but she gave everything she had,” said Rider.
Homes with running water may have been few and far between, but there was no lack of natural precipitation.
“It rained practically every day on the walk,” said Rider. “By the end of the day, [we] just wanted a dry place.”
The pilgrimage ended in Chestohova, Poland, home to the “Black Madonna,” a painting believed to be done by St. Luke upon the Holy Family’s table. Travelers come here to leave prayer intentions, special keepsakes and objects that were involved in the works of miracles. The group from Quinnipiac left a list of intentions.
“Getting the list to the shrine is really what kept me going,” said Rider. “I wasn’t doing it for myself; Other people were counting on me.”
After a train ride back to Krakow, the students enjoyed a week of exploring in the town. They visited the schools John Paul attended, and saw his home in Wadowice.
“We actually got to celebrate mass at the cathedral where John Paul held his first mass after being ordained,” said Rider.
This is the first article of a two-article series. Be sure to read next week’s Chronicle for the second part.