The Charles Bridge paves the way into the Old Town section of Prague. The diocesan director of pilgrimages says the upcoming journey to Poland and Prague offers the opportunity to unite faithful “as a communion of believers.” Jennifer Mauro photo
The Charles Bridge paves the way into the Old Town section of Prague. The diocesan director of pilgrimages says the upcoming journey to Poland and Prague offers the opportunity to unite faithful “as a communion of believers.” Jennifer Mauro photo

This spring, the Diocese of Trenton is sponsoring a pilgrimage to celebrate the centennial of the birth of a modern-day saint.

“In the Footsteps of St. John Paul II,” a 10-day journey through Poland and Prague, will be held April 29 to May 8 and conducted by Catholic Heritage Tours. It is open to all who wish to immerse themselves in the life of the popular Polish pope.

The selection of the Catholic Heritage Tour company was well-considered.

“They speak the language of faith,” Carolyn Norbut, director of diocesan pilgrimages, said as she described how a tour representative paused to pray the Angelus with her during a phone call. “It is seamless with our vision for the department.”

Father Marian Kokorzycki, parochial vicar in St. Mary of the Lake Parish, Lakewood, will serve as pilgrimage chaplain and will celebrate Mass with the pilgrims as they wind their way through numerous Polish cities and villages, as well as Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic. A native of Poland, Father Kokorzycki was ordained there in 1998 and arrived in the Diocese of Trenton in 2007. He serves as diocesan spiritual director for the Legion of Mary and was bestowed the title of Honorary Canon of the Chapter of the Cathedral Basilica of Czestochowa by Polish Archbishop Waclaw Depo last May.

The pilgrimage begins with an excursion through Warsaw and Niepokalanow, the “City of the Immaculate Virgin,” where a Franciscan monastery was founded in 1927 by St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was martyred in the Auschwitz death camp. Czestochowa and the image of the Black Madonna is next on the list, followed by time in Krakow and Wadowice to explore sites where the young Father Karol Wojtyla, who was elected and became Pope John Paul II, lived and worked.

Also planned is a visit to Auschwitz to learn about St. Maximilian Kolbe’s sacrifice to spare a fellow inmate and a trip to the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow, the site where St. Faustina is entombed. St. John Paul II canonized both these saints during his papacy.

Prague’s cathedrals, shrines and historic sites will fill pilgrims with wonder, Norbut said; relics of King St. Wenceslas, the first Czech saint, and St. John Nepomuk, martyr of the seal of the confessional, are enshrined there. Ample time both with pilgrims and on one’s own, will be hallmarks of the trip.

Stressing the excursion was a true pilgrimage, not merely a sightseeing tour, Norbut explained, “There is a spiritual aspect praying through and with the saints of the Church. It unites us as a communion of believers.

“This is the new evangelization,” she continued. “We have a tendency to think this [now] is the only time we see hardships in the Church, but that is not true. We must see how we can overcome them, see God’s plan in all of it.”

As with any pilgrimage that requires extensive daily walking, those interested should consider their physical ability as well as their spiritual desire. The tour recommends that the elderly or those unable to walk up and down slopes and on uneven surfaces be accompanied by a travel companion able to assist them.

Cost for the pilgrimage is $3,300 per person, double occupancy, which includes round-trip airfare from Newark Liberty International Airport, first-class accommodations, most meals, private motor coach transportation and professional guides. Deadline for the initial $250 non-refundable deposit is Jan. 6, 2020; the full balance must be paid by Feb. 4, 2020.

This pilgrimage will mark Norbut’s third trip to Poland, and she expressed joy and excitement about her return with fellow pilgrims next spring. When queried why, she smiled and pointed to the picture of St. John Paul II adorning the pilgrimage brochure.

“You can’t help but love the one who loves you,” Norbut said. “He had such love for the Church, the youth. That’s just Papa!”

 For more information, including the full pilgrimage itinerary, terms and conditions, see the brochure at CatholicHeritageTours.com/DTPP or contact Carolyn Norbut at pilgrimages@DioceseofTrenton.org.