Jesuit Sam Sawyer is wrapping up a full week and a half of chaperoning a group of students from Loyola University Maryland during their trip to Spain for Magis 2011.
Sawyer is in the Regency period of his Jesuit formation, which is a time when Jesuits work for two or three years in a Jesuit school or other approved ministry while also living in a Jesuit community.
Sawyer’s group of seven pilgrims joined up with others from Slovakia, Romania and Nigeria hiking from Verdú, where Jesuit Saint Peter Claver was born and then following in the footsteps of Saint Ignatius’ journey towards Montserrat and Manresa. Traveling 68 miles in six days, the group hiked for 12 hours a day and also found a few opportunities to share pictures and to journal during their experience in their blog “Bringing Loyola to Loyola.”
On their blog, the students have shared their reflections on being pilgrims at Magis. Brendan Fulmer wrote that he was “Humbled. That is one of the first words that pops into my head. I am humbled over this experience. After hiking for hours, a 4 hour bus ride is like heaven. After sleeping on a rock-hard…well rock, a wooden floor to sleep on is too good to be true. My point is that I embrace and give thanks to the life God has graced me with. God is everywhere we just have to notice him…Embrace the little joys of life; do not take them for granted. Don’t complain; offer it up for someone or even as worship to God. Give thanks and rejoice.”
The Magis pilgrims usually bring along little trinkets and gifts to share with their fellow pilgrims during their travels. Kate Velcamp bought green rubber bracelets inscribed with the words “F.R.O.G.” and “Fully Rely On God” on the other in gold letters.
She shared in a blog post that, “This is how I have lived my life for the past few months at Loyola. I know that God has a plan for me and that there are is a reason why certain things happen. This is why I loved the bracelets so much. I know God is in my heart and by listening to my heart I can get to where God wants me to be to continue his plan. It took me until our last day of pilgrimage to realize how perfect the bracelets turned out to be…That’s when it hit me. Our whole group had gotten through this pilgrimage because of our love of God and the belief that God was there for us. God was with us for all 115 kilometers. We all believed that there was something great coming our way by completing the pilgrimage. Like Ignatius, we left our land and our comfort, changed our habits and learned to accept the unexpected. And we did it by accepting that we were being led by God. God was in all our our hearts, pushing us, making sure that we get to our goal safely. It was God that helped us take that first step, and then the next, and before we knew it we were in Manresa.”
While the Loyola University Maryland pilgrims were traveling to Manresa, 265 miles to the north, in Puente La Reina, a group from Marquette University was taking a break from their own pilgrimage to Javier, the birthplace of Jesuit Saint Francis Xavier.
In this video, Magis pilgrims John and Patricia discuss what they’ve been doing on their pilgrimage and how they are looking forward to what World Youth Day has in store.
Six students from Jesuit colleges and universities in the Maryland, New England and New York Provinces of the Society of Jesus have volunteered to report on their experiences at Magis and World Youth Day.
Look for their tweets, photos and commentary here and on our twitter feed throughout the month!
These Magis/World Youth Day reporters are:
|Caroline Davis is often thinking about sports. A junior at Saint Joseph’s University, she’s majoring in sports marketing and is junior manager of the men’s basketball team. When she graduates she hopes to work on public relations or marketing for a sports team. She is well-connected to the Church as well. A parishioner at St. Barbara’s in Philadelphia, she is head sacristan for campus ministry, a leader and participant in Koinonia. When members of her parish went to WYD in Toronto, she decided then she wanted to go a future World Youth Day. When Caroline’s parents threw in their support, she knew it was a go. Now she just has to pack. The meetings and retreats are over. Once she figures out how to get everything in her bag, she’ll be ready. Oh, there’s one more thing: she’s been looking for an item to trade with other WYD participants. And she’s hit on it: the rally towel used by Philadelphia Phillies fans. “Since baseball is the great American pastime, I was thinking it would be a great thing to bring,” she said.
|Elena Habersky has a long answer for what she does at the University of Scranton: Hoping to work in Foreign Service or for an NGO in the Middle East or North Africa, she’s a double major in International Studies and Philosophy, Minor in Arabic, Concentration in Peace and Justice Studies, and her extra curricular activities include Justice Club, University Ministries, United Students for Fair Trade, Invisible Children Club, and I work at The Language Learning Center for the Department of World Languages and Cultures. Oh, and she’s spending her junior year at the American University in Cairo. She’s leaving two weeks after she returns from World Youth Day. Elena has been hearing World Youth Day stories since her Aunt Janice went to the Colorado pilgrimage in the 1980s. In fact, she’s taking her aunt’s WYD shirt with her. Elena, a parishioner at St. Therese’s Church in Shavertown, Pennsylvania, has been hoping she’d have the chance to go her self for a long time. She knew she was going after she handed in the deposit and got an email saying she was going. “That was a great email,” she said.
|Beth Villanyi, a sophomore at Saint Joseph’s University, has wanted to go to World Youth Day since she heard stories from friends who attended WYD in Sydney in 2008. Although she’s signed up and she’s ready to go, ”It still hasn’t hit me that we’re going,” she said. “I probably won’t realize we’re on the way until I set foot on the plane.” A psychology major with a minor in fine arts, Beth keeps busy at SJU. She plays rugby, and takes part in Appalachian Experience, the Students for Peace and Justice, Koinonia and the school’s weekly service program. A parishioner of Church of the Resurrection in her hometown of Ellicott City, Maryland, she looks forward to meeting people from around the world, even if she’s worried about language barriers. “I’m very excited for the Magis program and to be part of this experience.”
|Andrew Bevilacqua, a junior at Fordham University, doesn’t expect to have language problems during Magis and World Youth Day. He’s majoring in Spanish and English and hopes to teach after college — perhaps at a great Jesuit high school such as his alma mater, Saint Joseph’s Preparatory School in Philadelphia. A parishioner at St. Anastasia in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, he’s active at Fordham. He’s a Christian Life Community leader and a liturgical minister, as well as a tutor in a weekend program for kids in Bronx grade schools. When Andrew went to an information session about World Youth Day he wasn’t sure he wanted to go — until he saw video from the Sydney WYD. “As the meeting went on and we heard more about our pilgrimage and watched some promotional videos for the 2008 World Youth Day in Sydney and this year’s in Madrid, I started thinking that going would be an amazing experience,” he said. Now he can’t wait. “I talked to a good friend of mine who went to the last World Youth Day in Sydney, and he said that it’s an earth-shattering experience for your faith, because you meet so many different people from different places but are able to bond instantly with them because you’re sharing that powerful spirit that brought you all to World Youth Day. So, I’m looking forward to that feeling of camaraderie and fellowship — with my own Fordham group and everyone else — the most.” He expects he’ll be talking a lot about World Youth Day when it’s over.
|Kimberly Vo – she likes to be called Kimmi — is a sophomore at Boston College. A business major, Kimmi is also a member of the college’s hip-hop dance company, Synergy. “I’m looking forward to the whole experience a lot. I don’t know how I feel about trekking in 90 degree weather for hours at a time, but I’m sure that’ll just add to the experience,” she says with an optimistic spirit. She’s been preparing for her adventure by attending retreats, including one sponsored for WYD participants at BC, and attending church more often. A member of St. Ambrose Parish in Dorchester, Massachusetts, Kimmi decided she wanted to take part in World Youth Day during a talk on “BC Hook-Up Culture” with Professor Kerry Cronin. Professor Cronin had talked about seeing the pope at World Youth Day. WYD pilgrims have to pack lightly but Kimmi’s debating whether to take her ukelele and her koala toy Walli.
|Gabriella Karina, a junior communications major at Boston College, is active in Smart Women Securities as well as two Catholic student groups, the St. Thomas More and Gratia Plena, and in the spring, an ambassador for the Options through Education program at BC. In addition, Gabriella has danced in BC’s culture shows with the Southeast Asian Student Association and the Korean Students Association. She works as a receptionist at the Jesuit residence, St. Mary’s Hall. Gabriella, a parishioner at St. Antoninus in Cincinnati, calls Cincinnati home since she has lived there for the past six years though she grew up in Jakarta, Indonesia. Although she considers her dream job to be as an event planner in Los Angeles, she said, “I’ll just follow whatever/wherever God leads me.” Gabriella was not able to go to World Youth Day in Sydney in 2008 so she made a concerted effort to attend WYD in Madrid. “I think I look forward most to 1) MAGIS 2) meeting a lot of people from literally, all over the world with the same faith!!! That thought alone blows my mind away, let alone attending Mass with the Pope and the adoration!” she said.|
World Youth Day 2011 is set to begin in Madrid, Spain in just a few weeks. Pilgrims from all over the world will be in attendance, ready to share the common bond of their Catholic faith.
While many of those pilgrims are still a few weeks away from boarding planes or taking trains to Madrid, an initiative known as MAGIS will be sending students all over Spain and Portugal to participate experiences in preparation for World Youth Day.
This initiative was started in 1997 (World Youth Day Paris). In 2005 in Cologne, it was called MAGIS for the first time. In 2008 it was celebrated in Sydney and in 2011 it will be celebrated in Madrid in the days leading up to World Youth Day. The motto for this MAGIS is “with Christ at the heart of the world.” The Society of Jesus, along with other religious institutions and laypeople throughout the world who follow Ignatian Spirituality, have invited pilgrims to find Christ at the center of their lives.
Throughout the past year and a half of planning, ideas have become realities and all that is left to do are the finishing touches.
After the initial selection, more than 400 volunteers began working in teams to go about organizing the potential experiences, working on content and logistics, and finalizing plans. There are six types of experiences: Pilgrimage, Social Service, Art and Creativity, Faith and Culture, Spirituality, and Ecology.
Recently released, MAGIS has posted a list of the experience locations and what work will be completed at each; these include visiting Fatima, volunteering in a prison, accompanying marginalized families, serving pilgrims at Lourdes and restoring a hermitage. For the full list, click here.