Rockhampton Diocese's World Youth Day

from Rockhampton to Krakow

Day 5 -Wadowice & Krakow

Today Jared, Shaun and I climbed the mountain near our residence. There are 42 chapels littered around the complex, we only walked past 5 in our hike.


Later on we drove to Wadowice, the birthplace of St John Paul II. It’s a town of 20 000 people, yet has a church more exquisite than most in Australia. Conveniently JP2 grew up in the house next door which is now a museum dedicated to him. After we finished we were entertained by some African pilgrims – yep this is starting to feel like a World Youth Day.



Next it was off to the Shrine of Divine Mercy. Admittedly if I had read more than 5 pages of my St Faustina book, I would have enjoyed this a lot more. But it was still a very peaceful place to be. We spent some time there in prayer and reflection.


We finished the night off with a trip to Old Town, Krakow. The idea being to enjoy Krakow before 1 million other pilgrims invade the city, and enjoy we did. All of Krakow must have been asking – Who are these singing and dancing Australians? The group has really bonded today and it makes for a very enjoyable and exciting 2 weeks, but hopefully no more dancing to George Michael…


This ends the first phase of our trip. From Czestochowa, the spiritual heart of Poland to the death and despair of Auschwitz, a continual theme that sticks out is the Polish determination and stubbornness continually displayed through their saints.




Day 4 -Auschwitz

Today was much anticipated by both young and old pilgrims, our visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau. Personally, it has been a goal of mine all my life to stand on this Holy ground, the occasion did not disappoint. Yes, the facts of the atrocity are always mortifying but being there brings a new depth to your understanding. Standing in the very rooms of the victims, hearing the sound of hundreds of shoes grinding rocks on the wet path brings the grounds alive. Whilst many of us have seen the pictures of the gas chambers, incinerators, the collection of shoes and other items, the pictures simply don’t do it justice. What hit me the hardest was the amount of victim’s hair collected by the Nazis. The unfathomable collection still remains behind glass but must be seen to be believed. Seeing this put a life to the prisoner

A highlight of the tour was walking down to the basement of block 11 where a range of different cells were established to kill prisoners. Walking down these stairs you realise you are walking the same steps of many thousands of martyrs before you. You could almost imagine a situation similar to that of the stations of the cross, where victims fall, are humiliated or beaten, all the while Christ  stands with them, crying and preparing their way home. To think that St Maximilian Kolbe walked these stairs when he sacrificed himself for another offered excitement and a ray of hope in this dark place. Viewing his cell where he died, where a saint was made will certainly be a highlight of the trip for many.

Visiting this place challenges each person differently. Many were upset and needed just a minute to sit and regather. The thing that held me together was knowing that somewhere in our tour, I would have the privilege to look upon the ground where one of great modern day saints stood, St Maximilian Kolbe.

Sure, I encourage everyone to read about the death camps and watch the documentaries. But come, listen to a polish guide talk about it, and walk through the gates of Auschwitz and Birkenau and you will come to fully appreciate one of the most horrific moments in human history.

Greater love than this no man has that a man lay down his life for his friends – words that St Maximilian Kolbe lived by.




Day 3 – Czestochowa to Kalwaria

We started today by farewelling the Sister Servants who wonderfully accommodated and fed us for our overnight stay. 

We then went back to the Jasna Gora Shrine to meet for our official guided tour. While we waited we had our morning prayer in the courtyard. Singing our closing hymn – Amazing Grace – we became aware of the crowds watching us and a nun came out of the Information Centre to join us. Apparently it is not common for anyone other than Poles to pilgrimage to the site, at least in groups, so it was a special sight to see a group of young foreigners praying there. 

Our official guided tour of the Jasna Gora Shrine covered the history of the Madonna, how it got its scar and how they dress it with special layers that sit over the top of the picture, howthe sight has been attacked and grown over the years. Our group joined the locals in reverancing the icon by walking around it on our knees. We were shown other aspects and art of the shrine. Being Sunday and holidays and summer, crowds were quite large. The very deep devotion the Poles have to their faith and in particular to the Black Madonna here has really moved most the group.

An undressed replica of Black Madonna 


One of the modern Polish themed Stations of the Cross. 

We then did the 3 hour drive to Kalwaria. Along the way our guide told us she was so pleased we had chosen this trip. We were one of the few groups to do their full trip in Poland and because we were here earlier we are able to still access the full guided tours at a number of sites before they stop due to the massive influx of people in the next couple of weeks.
Kalwaria Zebrzydovska is our stop for the next few nights.  A Calvary or Way of the Cross set in the mountains.  Another pilgrimage site in Poland. A beautiful spot which we will find more out about tomorrow. Tonight we stay in the pilgrim house located on the sight – run by monks.

We shared our Sunday Mass together in another beautiful chapel next to the Basilica, celebrated by Fr Leo Burke who is traveling with us.

Day 2 – Warsaw & Czestochowa

We started out this morning with prayer at Victory Square. A large cross stands there to mark the visit of John Paul II. This is where we also introduced our own ‘Black Madonna’ as our pilgrimage icon. An image of the indigenous Our Lady and Child from the Darwin Cathedral.

    We were then taken on a guided tour of Warsaw which ended at the Uprising Museum. Warsaw has been a city marked by conflict and war and the museum shows a lot of this history.  It shows though how the Polish people have been, and still are, a very determined and proud people to get back their country and rebuild it from the ground up in some cases. 

    After an afternoon driving we ended up at Czestochowa and visited the Jasna Gora shrine, the home of the Black Madonna. This famous pilgrimage site shows the deep faith the people here have by way of the ornate and majestic buildings. We were very privileged to be able to share Mass together in one of the beautiful chapels.

    A short walk to our accommodation at the pilgrim house where we were welcomed by the lovely sisters and provided dinner.
    In the evening we went back to the shrine to sing Our Lady to sleep with the locals.  This happens every night and is televised across the country. Hundreds of people were crammed into the small area and sang beautifully and prayed together to end the night.

    Day 1 – Brisbane -> Warsaw

    While the day started by trying to find the most expensive duty-free Tim Tams at Brisbane Airport, We quickly spent the next 24 hours getting to Warsaw.


    We managed to take a quick walk of the city and celebrate Mass in the Cathedral.



    On Sunday night the World Youth Day pilgrims from the Diocese were commissioned. At the Cathedral – Jared, Shaun, Patrice and Brydie.

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    At Holy Rosary Church Bundaberg, Craig.

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    Jared, Shaun, Brydie and Craig will be part of a Darwin, Rockhampton and Brisbane Diocesan group of 46 people. Patrice will be part of the ‘Footsteps of JPII’ pilgrimage with the Sydney Archdiocese.

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