July 17, 2016 — After a frenzied three days of singing, dancing, prayer and new friends, pilgrims attending the international immersion experience MAGIS have brought the first stage of the program in Łódź, Poland, to an end. But the bulk of what they came for — the service, intercultural dialogue and deep introspection — will continue as they now embark on “Ignatian experiments” across Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania.
These “Ignatian experiments” consist of activities loosely based on the life experiences of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. After a morning prayer, breakfast and sending-off Mass in the outdoor stadium at the University of Łódź where all 2,200 pilgrims had gathered, participants were split up into 97 different experiment groups to travel by bus or train. They will next regroup in Częstochowa, Poland, for a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Black Madonna, Our Lady at Częstochowa, and to share with each other the stories of their experiences.
The experiments were designed with the theme of this year’s MAGIS program in mind, “To give and not count the cost” (a line from St. Ignatius’ prayer for generosity). During the registration process, participants were asked to choose among several major experiment categories.
“By going into different and little-known situations, Ignatius teaches us how to look at God, ourselves and others
in a new way,” says Polish Jesuit Marek Firlejczyk, coordinator of the Ignatian experiments for MAGIS 2016. The experiments are “intended to give the participant an experience of living in community, working with others and reflecting on these experiences to help the participants to discover themselves.”
Pilgrims who selected the pilgrimage option will embark on a four-day hike to various religious sites, and those who chose the service option will minister to others in cooperation with partners of the Society of Jesus and in care for the environment.
Andrew Plaza, a student at the University of Scranton in Scranton, Pennsylvania, will be one such pilgrim hiking throughout the Bieszczady mountains in Poland near the border of Ukraine. “We’ll be hiking on day trips. We have a base camp in a town called Ustrzyki Dolne, and from there we’ll be hiking seven to nine hours per day and then going back,” he said. “Bieszczady is a really nice place. I knew that I wanted to hike somewhere, see a little bit of the landscape of Poland. I’m looking forward to having a lot of time to myself to think about things and exploring Poland.”
Patrick Veyret, a pilgrim from Australia, will be painting and restoring a museum in a rural Polish town. “I’m looking forward to meeting the other people in the group from different nationalities,” he said. “There’s people from Chile, France, America, Australia and India.”
Hannah Joakim, a pilgrim from Kenya, will be doing a service experiment in Poznań, Poland. “I am so excited with this experiment because when I look at the theme of MAGIS this year — to give and not to count the cost — I’m really excited to help with the charity and work with the people in Poznań,” she said.
Spiritual category participants will explore deep prayer through different Christian traditions. The sociocultural category will focus on engagement and dialogue with diverse religious, cultural and social groups, and the artistic category will stimulate creativity through folk art, architecture, painting, iconography, acting, music, singing and other forms of expression.
Claire Lucas, a pilgrim attending Seattle University in Seattle, Washington, has been assigned to reflect and work at a monastery in Warsaw. “I’m excited to see daily life in a religious order,” Lucas said. “I’m also really excited because there’s a couple days of silence planned. In this part of MAGIS in Łódź, there’s been a lot of loud singing and praying and talking with one another, which is awesome but I’m more excited for the reflective part of it. I hope for some communication with God within myself.”
“I’m going to Warsaw for a spirituality and leadership experiment, and the thing I’m looking forward to most is to
learn about self-awareness and how to be a great leader,” said Evalin Karijo, another pilgrim from Kenya.
Bella Tjok, from Indonesia, wished to combine spirituality and art. “I hope during the experiment, through art and music, God grants me the grace to listen His voice and what He wants for my life, and that I have enough courage to follow His will,” she said.
Regardless of the experiment category, each pilgrim’s day will be similarly structured with time for individual
prayer, service, Mass, small group sharing, and an Ignatian daily examen, or personal reflection on the events of the day. Each group consists of 20-25 pilgrims of diverse nationalities, a leader and a Jesuit priest.
At the close of MAGIS in Częstochowa, participants will journey on to World Youth Day from July 26-31 in Kraków, Poland, where they will become part of a group that could potentially number up to 3 million people, all who will Mass with Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope.
“I really hope that students come out with a different mindset after these experiences,” said Thiago Brito Lopes, a
chaperone with the delegation from the University of San Francisco in San Francisco, California. “For me, World Youth Day changed my life, it changed my faith. It really changes your perceptions.”
By Doris Yu