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Marian Pilgrimage through Europe

Marian Pilgrimage through Europe

This summer, 87 Jesuit students plus 23 chaperones embarked on a two-week Marian Pilgrimage through Europe. From London to Lourdes to Krakow to Gaming, and with many other amazing locales in between, the pilgrims were transformed by the remarkable experience. Jesuit senior Diego Mejia Omana ’24 was one of the pilgrims, and he shares below his powerful spiritual journey on the 2023 Marian Pilgrimage.  


2023 Marian Pilgrimage to Europe
Diego Mejia Omana ’24

Inside of a certain room in Auschwitz, we encountered one of the most moving sights of our European Pilgrimage. From its floor to its roof, this room was inundated with the identical, tattered shoes of thousands who had perished at this concentration camp. That same morning, only a few hours later, we found ourselves in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy, now beholding the original painting of Jesus’s Divine Mercy.

Both of these experiences are undoubtedly very moving when taken individually, but juxtaposed against one another – a place of no mercy versus one of infinite mercy – the experience became all the more transformative. It was only by first giving ourselves entirely to the experience of touring Auschwitz, by focusing solely on its injustice, that we were then able to see the image of Divine Mercy in a more radiant light and with a greater understanding of humanity’s need for it.

This occurrence, as illustrated in this story, characterized the entire pilgrimage: since we had left all else behind in Tampa and were therefore called to step out of ourselves, we naturally entered into every experience of the pilgrimage without reservation, with complete abandonment. In this way, we found even greater meaning in the theme for our 2023 Marian Pilgrimage: Totus Tuus – “totally yours.”

First attributed to St. Louis de Montfort and then promoted by Pope St. John Paul II, this Latin phrase reveals that we should be totally given over to Jesus Christ through His Mother Mary. But just as we intended to be totally given over to the Lord while on pilgrimage, we first found ourselves totally given over to each experience, both physically and emotionally.

In the times of great joy, we were totally abandoned to our experience of specific sites. This was true in London, as we gazed at its grand architecture and were enriched by its intricate history. This was true in Lourdes, as we greeted its devout visitors and prayed in its historic grotto. So too was it true in Gaming, as we wondered at its beautiful scenery and even went cave diving on the side of a mountain.

Nevertheless, the same was true for times of difficulty, when all we could do was accept our struggle and continue on as pilgrims. Due to our bus service’s mistake on our final day in London, a couple dozen guys had to walk to our morning Mass. But some of them saw that it was only because of this experience of hardship, of true pilgrimage, that they found greater joy in their arrival at the church and their participation at our Mass.

Finally, this total abandonment to each experience was also true for those experiences which particularly called us out of ourselves. In our viewing of the musical Les Miserables, we were consumed by the riveting plot. In a soccer tournament that broke out among us in Gaming, we were immersed in competition and brotherhood. Likewise, in our hour of silence at the Kartause, we were captivated by the tranquility that penetrated the former monastery and the meaningful reflection that revealed our hearts. All in all, on pilgrimage we found great meaning in being called out of our daily life, allowing us to be totally given over to each and every activity: Totus Tuus.

This meaning went further than just a full experience of each event on the schedule. Our total abandonment to each experience served, above all else, to lead us to a total abandonment to the Lord and to the transformation that pilgrimage offers. The miracles that resulted were countless in number. One friend of mine decided to join RCIA in order to become Catholic. Another found a greater faith after hearing God speak to him in adoration. Another simply found freedom away from his phone and instead found love for adventure and travel. Yet another began to hear what might be a calling from the Lord to the priesthood. Graduating seniors were solidified in their faith which they will bring to college, and freshmen were immersed in their faith which they will bring to their remaining years at Jesuit. I personally found Lourdes, with its serene streets and miraculous grotto water, to be the most edifying. I embarked on the pilgrimage with high hopes and specific intentions and was in no way disappointed.

I returned with countless memories of brotherhood and joy and, specifically, with a greater love and trust in the Lord. Since at all times we were totally given over to the True, the Good, and the Beautiful, we found a love for them, and were transformed by them. It is in such a way that 110 of us return home from our 2023 Marian European Pilgrimage.

For photos from the Marian Pilgrimage to Europe, click here.