Pilgrims return from inspirational journey
Tour group visits historic shrines in Eastern Europe
By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor
|CATHEDRAL MODEL: Tourists visited St. Ludwig Church in Munich, Germany. The church served as Bp. Francis Xavier Krautbauer's inspiration for St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. Construction of St. Ludwig's was completed in 1844. (Photo provided by Gary Mach)
Patricia Verbrick of Appleton has yet to fully recover from the 12-day pilgrimage to Poland, Austria and Germany, but that's a good thing.
"It was so wonderful," she said. "It was almost overwhelming. We are in recovery mode, but I hope I never recover."
Forty-two pilgrims, including Bp. David Zubik, visited the holy shrines of Eastern Europe, June 1-12. The trip, sponsored by The Compass, included tours in such historic cities as Warsaw, Krakow, Vienna, Salzburg and Munich.
Poland, the first stop on the pilgrimage, stood out spiritually for Sr. Elise Cholewinski, OSF, director of religious education at Holy Spirit Parish, Darboy/Kimberly.
"My pilgrimage through Poland was an experience of the Paschal Mystery," she said. "On the same day that we saw the remains of the horrors of Auschwitz, we heard children singing an
Easter song in Polish in Wadowice, Pope John Paul's hometown. On that same day our tour guide gave us a detailed description of communism in that land, but also stated that communism could do nothing to the church in Poland because the faith of the people was so strong. For me, the trip brought a growing realization that Jesus continues to die and to rise in his people, that through the power of his spirit, resurrection is an ongoing event."
Judy Marchewka of Crivitz has fond memories of Czestochowa, Poland, the home of the Black Madonna, the country's holiest icon brought from Jerusalem in 1384.
"We were able to celebrate Mass right up at the beautiful altar, all by ourselves," she said. "Pope John Paul II's blood-stained white sash is encased on the altar right next to the Madonna."
Marchewka added that she enjoyed the camaraderie of the tour group.
"Our group traveled well, prayed well, and enjoyed a lot of laughs with Elizabeth (tour guide) and Bp. Zubik," she said. "She (Elizabeth) encouraged us to write limericks as the trip enfolded. Some of these were quite humorous. Our resident photographer, Gary (Mach), did a marvelous job keeping a visual log of all our events and prayer sites."
The pilgrims experienced the history and culture of the Poles, Bavarians, Austrians and Germans. One experience reminded Verbrick of her childhood. She enjoyed red dumplings made out of bread at the Melk Abbey overlooking the Danube River in Lower Austria.
"I have to send an e-mail," she said. "I'm going to get the recipe."
Tour arrangements were made by Pentecost Tours in cooperation with Bp. Zubik and The Compass.
Bp. Zubik, whose grandfather was from Poland, chose Eastern Europe in part due to its link in heritage to many people in northeast Wisconsin.
Getting to know Bp. Zubik on a personal level was also a highlight for Verbrick, music coordinator at St. Thomas More Parish in Appleton.
"Everyone should get the opportunity to know our bishop like we did," she said. "He is a humble, holy man, extremely well organized with a great sense of humor."
A 2008 tour, sponsored by The Compass, is being planned. Details will be released when available.
Verbrick said she would like to go on another pilgrimage.
"Next to my honeymoon, it was the best two weeks of my life," she said.