Jesuits’ MAGIS 2016 program draws young adults to Poland ahead of World Youth Day


LODZ, Poland — More than 2,000 young adults from all over the world who are involved in Jesuit ministries are finishing their 10th and final day of MAGIS 2016 in Poland. A young adult from St. Bernard of Clairvaux in Scottsdale is among the 1,600 pilgrims.

Pilgrims from Seattle University, including Margaret G, pose during the MAGIS 2016 which led up to World Youth Day. (Seattle University Campus Ministry photo)
Pilgrims from Seattle University, including Margaret Giradin, pose during the MAGIS 2016 which led up to World Youth Day. (Seattle University Campus Ministry photo)

Margaret Girardin, who is also an alumna of Notre Dame Preparatory in Scottsdale, is in Poland with fellow pilgrims plus 400 volunteers and 200 Jesuits hailing from 52 countries. Girardin represents the 140 Americans from various Jesuit high schools and universities across the United States. She attends Seattle University.

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MAGIS 2016 participants serve the local community, engage in intercultural dialogue and foster personal and spiritual growth before journeying on to World Youth Day in Kraków. Organized by the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, the program is held immediately prior to World Youth Day, a week-long gathering that includes worship and activities culminating with opportunities to see the pope, held every three years.

“During MAGIS, participants will put the Jesuit mission into action through prayer, conversations, service and engagement with diverse cultures,” says Jesuit scholastic Brad Held, a theology student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and the U.S. project director for MAGIS 2016. “Most young people’s experience of the Society of Jesus in the United States is at a particular school. Now through MAGIS they can experience and come to know that what they are a part of in the United States is something much larger.”

MAGIS 2016 kicked off in Łódź with a special Mass and commissioning. Pilgrims were then sent off on “Ignatian experiments” — activities loosely based on the life experiences of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. A total of 97 different experiments took place across Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania from July 17-23. These include walking pilgrimages, service projects, artistic expressions and other activities.

Girardin’s Ignatian experiment had an artistic theme. They made exact molds of their hands and face and reflected on God’s intention with their individual existence and His love for every part of them, especially in the flaws. She described it as an unforgettable experience regardless of their connection to the Jesuits.

“The atmosphere is one of enthusiasm, acceptance, and love despite language and cultural barriers,” Girardin emailed The Catholic Sun from Poland. “I was able to build incredibly close relationships with people from the Middle East, the Philippines, and around the US in a matter of days”

Each pilgrim’s day is similarly structured with time for individual prayer, service, Mass, small group sharing and an Ignatian daily examen, or personal reflection on the events of the day. Pilgrim groups bring together 25 young adults representing diverse nationalities and include a leader and Jesuit priest.

“By going into different and little-known situations, Ignatius teaches us how to look at God, ourselves and others in a new way,”

“By going into different and little-known situations, Ignatius teaches us how to look at God, ourselves and others in a new way,” says Polish Jesuit Marek Firlejczyk, coordinator of the Ignatian experiments for MAGIS 2016. The experiments are “intended to give the participant an experience of living in community, working with others and reflecting on these experiences to help the participants to discover themselves.”

Following the experiments, the participants will close the program by making a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Częstochowa, in Częstochowa, Poland, to gather and reflect on their experiences on July 23. Finally, they will journey on to World Youth Day in Kraków from July 26 to 31, meeting up with a larger Catholic international event that could number up to 3 million people — eager to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope.

The word magis, Latin for “more,” references the Ignatian or Jesuit concept of learning more, doing more, choosing more and giving more. The theme of this year’s MAGIS experience, “To give and not count the cost” (a line from St. Ignatius’ prayer for generosity), will ask its participants to do more and “be MAGIS.” The concept of “giving and not counting the cost” at MAGIS was inspired by the WYD theme this year, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy,” in light of Pope Francis’ Holy Year of Mercy.

The MAGIS initiative took root at the 1997 World Youth Day in Paris. In 2005, in Cologne, Germany, it was named MAGIS for the first time. The program has since been celebrated in Sydney (2008), Madrid (2011) and Rio de Janeiro (2013).