“We are pilgrims!” says María Fernanda Hurtado, who explains that her group members have already internalized what it means to be a pilgrim on their hiking experiment based on the life of St. Pope John Paull II.
The experience of pilgrimage can come with difficulties. Lyanne Blonk from the Netherlands is exploring the lives of members of Eastern Catholic Churches on her experiment. She recounts, “Today we ran out of running water, most likely for the rest of our stay. This affects almost everything we do here, but it also breaks down barriers between us.”
But even such difficulties can bring blessings. Blonk explains, “It brings us closer to the people in the nearby village who kindly took us in for a shower and provided us with food. It is a very humbling and liberating experience at the same time: the more modest the fulfillment of our basic needs, the more enriching our time together becomes!”
Pilgrims described the great variety of their experiment types, like Kate Hannick, from the United States. “Experiment 71 is a sailing adventure! We have spent our days on two 8-meter boats with eight people on each boat. We sleep, work, eat, and pray together in this little space.”
Hannah Bendiksen’s experiment, “Streams,” focuses on dance as a means of prayer. It involves daily personal meditation, arts and crafts, prayerful dance lessons, and various cultural dance lessons taught by fellow Magis participants. “Dance has become our shared language so much more than I expected. When a dance move is difficult, I find myself making eye contact across the room, exchanging nods of sympathy or giggles at the awkward first attempt,” she says.
“We try to learn each other’s cultural dance moves in the same way that we would try to pronounce the vocabulary of another language. Not only am I learning new types of dance, but I am learning how to show my respect for another’s culture through dedication to their choreography. I am learning how to invite God into slow, graceful movement but also into the laughing and high-energy dancing explored with my newfound friends.”
And then there are experiments like that of Stephanie Mangion, from Malta. “Our experiment is simply always a surprise. We wake up in the morning, and we ask our leader: ‘What are we going to do today?’ We have had a variety of things to do. One required manual work, such as gardening and cleaning up sheds, and another activity was playing with children.”
Silvia Ťapáková, from Slovakia, is working with the elderly for her experiment, titled “We need each other.”
“For our experiment with the elderly, we go for a walk, play with them, feed them or just listen to them, even though some of us don’t understand any Polish words,” she says. “I can see our group takes huge pleasure from this work, which leads me to say we have a calling to do this. We have fun with old people — they want to be young and it is really funny to see them behave like young, nimble people.”
We can learn a lot from the elderly, Silvia says. “In spite of being old, they are full of life, hope, and wisdom and they are prepared to pass that on. Moreover, we learn to be patient and not to be in a hurry. It is very important in this world.”
Maria Casey is on a leadership experiment in which participants discuss the pillars that make up a good leader in the context of each participant’s home country. “It is neat to act as a representative of the U.S. and to be exposed to the different experiences in other countries. I am also surprised by how much I am now noticing about the cultural nuances of the United States,” she says.
Through their experiments, participants have also learned about how to make a difference in the world — or at least in their little part of it.
“We have learned that we do not need to perform drastic life-altering deeds in order to serve others and spread Jesus’ love,” says Courtney Loughlin, also from the United States. “Service can be achieved on a small scale and still get the job done.”