In the week of Divine Mercy, a group from the parish ventured to Poland. Most of us were expecting some Spring sunshine, but icy winds were blowing across the Silesian prairies, and snow banked up on the exposed hillsides. But nothing dampened the hearts of our merry band of pilgrims. The pilgrimage was not always easy to bear. On our first day we lived once again the experience of the cross, visiting the concentration camps of Auschwitz. Despite the darkness of that place, it was wonderful to be able to pray at the cell of St Maximilian Kolbe and to remember that love could never be totally extinguished, even in that dark hellhole. Our hearts were revived by visiting the shine of the Divine Mercy where we learnt about the apparitions of Our Lord to St Faustina, and a visit to the shrine of the Black Madonna at Czestochowa where we were able to entrust all our prayers and intentions before the Blessed Mother. The experience of pilgrimage is a beautiful one, growing together, learning from each other and praying together.
One of the pilgrims, Bernadette, reflects upon the week: "On Monday 17th April, parishioners from St Joseph’s church, Lancaster set out at 6am, heading for Krakow and a memorable five day visit to this historic and beautiful city. During this week of Divine Mercy, it was a great opportunity for us to visit the shrine of the Divine Mercy, celebrating Mass in the small basilica, where St Faustina had worshipped, and to hear about not only the life of this amazing nun, but also to listen a member of her order today, speak about the wonderful compassion of Our Blessed Lord. We were also very blessed to celebrate daily Mass in the small but beautiful chapel of the Kopernika Convent on our arrival in Krakow, and at St Peter and Paul Basilica on the Tuesday evening, after a very sad day spent at Auschwitz Birkenau extermination camp. It was fitting that this day was very cold, wet and blustery, which helped us to focus on the extreme conditions that the people transported there had suffered. We were warmly dressed and well fed, they weren’t, and many silent prayers were said during that day. We also visited Czestochowa, and the shrine to Our Lady on another very cold and this time a very snowy day, and again celebrated Mass together. During the week we had opportunity for some sightseeing around the city itself, the covered market being a favourite venue as well as the many fine and inexpensive restaurants from around the world. Finally on Friday we celebrated early Mass in the basilica of St Florian, where Father Wojtyla, now St Pope John Paul, had been a curate between 1949 and 1951, and where there isperpetual adoration throughout the day, with people coming and going all through this time, ad no need for a rota! This was a fitting end to a memorable week, and a week where we were able to experience the difference in being in a Roman Catholic country, where the Faith is truly evident in daily life, from the very young to the not so young. Thanks must go to our spiritual leaders, Father Philip Conner, Canon John Gibson from Our Lady of Lourdes, Carnforth and Deacon Stephen Pendlebury, for their uplifting and thoughtful sermons, and to Paulina our tour guide for the week".