Day 1 – Depart for Warsaw
Make your way to your local airport where you will board your overnight flight(s) to Warsaw. Your meals will be served on board.
Day 2 – Arrive Warsaw
Welcome to Warsaw, Poland! Upon arrival, you will collect your luggage in the baggage claim area, and continue to the Arrival’s Hall where you will be greeted by a tour guide and/or driver. Make your way to the Bus where your group will transfer to your hotel. Following check-in at your hotel, your pilgrimage will officially begin with Mass. It will be celebrated at 3/9 Zytnia Street, the site where Helena Kowalska (St. Faustina) entered the convent (Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy). Following Mass, you will enjoy a delicious dinner and have the opportunity to explore the city of Warsaw before retiring for a restful overnight.
Day 3 – Warsaw
Your day will begin with breakfast followed by Mass at St. James Church, iconic for its tower and square base. This church is where Helena Kowalska prayed extensively upon entering Warsaw. Also, it is where she confessed all that burdened her soul, and asked for the advice of Rev. James Dąbrowski which eventually resulted in the Saint entering the convent. Following this prayerful morning, your day of sightseeing begins. Your group will explore the Old Town, comprised of beautiful maze-like cobblestone streets and picturesque architecture that are symbols of Poland’s successful rebuild following its destruction during World War II. Some of the sites will include the Market Square (the center of the city filled with restaurants, cafés and shops), the Barbican, defense-like structures that have been rebuilt following World War II, and the Warsaw Ghetto monument that commemorates the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of 1943 during World War II. You will also take in the Lazienski Park, a beautifully landscaped park, the Chopin Statue (a large bronze statue of musician, Frederic Chopin), and the Royal Castle (the official residence of the Polish monarchs). In the afternoon, you will visit the Stanislaw Kostka Church and view a special exhibit dedicated to Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko. This priest was a great personality of the Catholic Church, and killed by communists in 1984. In 1987, St. John Paul II visited here to pray in front of Fr. Popieluzko’s tomb. Your tour of Warsaw will conclude by returning to the hotel for a delicious meal, followed by an overnight at your hotel.
Day 4 - Warsaw – Niepokalanow - Swinice Warckie – Czestochowa This morning, you will enjoy a full breakfast followed a by a transfer to Niepokalanow (approximately forty-five minutes). This Franciscan Monastery is in the community of Teresin, and was founded by martyr, St. Maximilian Kolbe. This remarkable saint was arrested by the Nazis and died in Auschwitz, giving his life for the life of another prisoner. Following your visit to this Holy Monastery, you will transfer to the village of Swinice Warckie. In Swinice Warckie,you will visit the church of St. Casimir. This historically rich parish is the site of baptism for St. Faustina (formally known as, Helena Kowalska). Little Helena received her first confession, and First Holy Communion, at this parish. Additionally, she and her family attended Sunday Mass and other services at this church. After visiting this simple, yet elegant church, you will continue your transfer to Czestochowa (approximately two and a half hours). Upon arrival in Czestochowa, you will check-in to your hotel, enjoy a magnificent dinner, and a restful overnight.
Day 5 - Czestochowa - Wadowice – Zakopane
Today, you will awake in the home of the grandest pilgrimage shrine of Poland since the 14th century! You will begin your day with breakfast and Mass at Jasna Gora Monastery. This hill-top monastery is home to the beloved icon of the Black Madonna. Additionally, St. John Paul II is said to have made frequent visits to this monastery throughout his life. Tradition tells us that this icon was painted by Luke the Evangelist, discovered by St. Helen, and later enshrined. While here, you will have the opportunity to venerate not only the Holy Icon, but also many other priceless treasures that are contained within. Following your prayerful visit to the Chapel of the Black Madonna, you will continue on to Warsaw (approximately two hours), the birthplace of Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II). While in the small city of Wadowice, you will have the opportunity to visit the church of where this beloved Saint was baptized, and attended Mass as a child. Following this historically captivating experience, you will continue your transfer to the resort village of Zakopane (approximately one hour and forty minutes). Upon arrival in Zakopane, you will enjoy dinner at your hotel before resting up for the next day of activities.
Day 6 - Zakopane – Krakow
Today you will awake in the breathtaking, yet small and remote village of Zakopane! After breakfast, you will take a cable car ride to the nearby mountaintop. At the top, you will truly experience God’s magnificent Glory when you look out at the magnificent panoramic view. Following the many photos captured atop the mountain, your group will head to the Jaszczorowka Chapel. This architecturally distinct chapel was visited many times by the young, Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II). As a young boy, Karol Wojtyla often used the walking paths surrounding the Jaszczorowka Chapel for much prayer and reflection. After you experience this beautiful site that assisted in St. John Paul II’s Holy journey, you will continue your tour to the colorful, Krupowki Street. While on this street, you will have the opportunity to do some shopping at the local bazaar before transferring to Krakow. On the way to Krakow, your group will stop at the Wieliczka Salt Mines (approximately one hour and forty minutes), where you will find magnificent chapels and religious sculptures that are carved in salt. Following this interesting visit, you will continue on to Krakow (approximately twenty-five minutes). Upon arrival in Krakow, you will enjoy a beautiful dinner and an optional stroll through the old city before retiring for the evening.
Day 7 - Krakow - Auschwitz - Krakow
After breakfast, you will explore Krakow's Market Square as the sound of the silver trumpet from St. Mary’s Tower fills the air. The captivating beauty of this square is largely due to the fact that it has remained unchanged for almost 700 years. It contains a number of buildings that hold important historic value such as, the Town Hall Tower, the Cloth Hall, and the Burgher’s houses. Following your time in this longstanding square, you will make your way to Wawel Hill, where you will visit the beautiful Cathedral, and Coronation Chapel. These are among the most important sites in Poland as the Cathedral has been the coronation site of the Polish monarchs and has held numerous pieces of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Classicist and Modern art. Also at this site, you will have the opportunity to pray at the tomb of the patron saint of Poland, St. Stanislaus. Your tour continues with a transfer to Auschwitz (approximately one hour). Auschwitz is notoriously known as a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. Upon arriving at the former camp, you can feel the darkness and sorrow that overtakes the atmosphere as there were numerous unspeakable atrocities that occurred at this site. Additionally, while on this visit, you will have the opportunity to view the cell that imprisoned the Christ-like, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and visit the Martyrdom Museum. After this reflective day, you will return to your hotel in Krakow for dinner and a restful overnight.
Day 8 - Krakow – Divine Mercy - Lagiewniki - Krakow
On your last day of touring, you will depart for your excursion to Lagiewniki, the capital of the Divine Mercy (approximately three hours). Through the mediation of St. Faustina, Christ passed on the message of Divine Mercy at Lagiewniki. While here, you will have the opportunity to visit the Shrine of Divine Mercy that contains images of the Merciful Jesus, relics of St. Faustina, as well as, the Saint’s convent chapel and her Tomb. Also, you will visit and celebrate Mass at the Shrine of Divinity, which was recently visited by St. John Paul II in 2002. Following Mass, you will pray by a relic of St. John Paul II before returning to Krakow for your farewell dinner and last overnight.
Day 9 – Return Home
After an early breakfast and heartfelt farewells, your group will leave by motor coach and transfer to the Krakow Airport for return flights home.
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Karol Wojtyla (St. John Paul II) was born in the Polish town of Wadowice on May 18, 1920. He moved to Krakow with his father in 1938, where he attended Jagiellonian University and began studying for the priesthood. He was ordained as a priest on November 1, 1946 and went on to continue his studies in Rome until 1948. He returned to Poland that same year for his first pastoral assignment in the village of Niegowic, which lasted seven months. He then was transferred to the parish of St. Florian in Krakow, where he also spent time hiking in the mountains and canoeing with young people.
Karol Wojtyla’s personality and ability to connect with young people attracted large crowds to his sermons. He not only had a group of people regularly attend his liturgy at 6:00AM, but also celebrate name-days and travel together to hike the Bieszczady Mountains and canoe on the Masurian Lakes. The group was very close, and referred to Priest Karol as ‘’Wujek,” which is Polish for Uncle.
Karol Wojtyla continued his theological studies, and in 1958 he was nominated Bishop. Soon after, he participated in preparations for the Second Vatican Council. Following the death of Archbishop Eugeniusz Basiak in 1963, he became the Bishop of Krakow and four years later was appointed Cardinal by Pope Paul VI.
Karol Wojtyla was a strong advocate of the youth movement, ‘’Light-Life,” established in 1969 by Fr. Franciszek Blachnicki. He appreciated the importance of the movement and the religious formation offered to young people through the creation of summer camps. Communist authorities saw the camps as alarming, and activists of the movement were persecuted. Many Bishops distanced themselves from the movement out of fear of endangering the Church. As a Cardinal, Karol Wojtyla officially approved the summer camps as part of pastoral activites in the Krakow archbishopric. He often attended meetings with students, preached at retreats, made surprise visits to offer confession, and unofficially supported the programs financially, including giving funds to the poorest students. John Paul II addressed the youth on the inauguration of his pontificate, in his first speech delivered from the window of the Apostolic Palace before the Angelus. He exclaimed, ‘’...my hope, because you are the promise of tomorrow. You are the hope of the Church and society.” Meetings with young people were immensely important for St. John Paul II, and he is notably behind the creation of World Youth Day.
St. John Paul II often returned to Wadowice, Niegowic, Krawkow and Zakopane, where his road to the Papacy all began. He recalled on a pilgrimage to his homeland, ‘’Here, in this land, I was born. Here, in Krakow, I spent the greater part of my life... Here, I received the grace of my priestly vocation... I was consecrated Bishop in the Cathedral of Wawel.” Karol Wojtyla’s journey to Rome for the conclave started in Krakow, where he became an adult, an artist, and a devoted shepherd of souls.
After returning from a week long Lenten retreat, he was suffering from the effects of the flu, his condition continued to decline. He continued to resume his usual audiences and visiting with bishops until his condition prompted him to appear via television to Pilgrims. On April 2, 2005, his final hours were filled with uninterrupted prayer by those assisting him, and by thousands filling St. Peter’s Square. His last words, fitting to a life filled with prayer, were ”Amen, Amen”.
His miracle for Beatification came from a french nun, Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, who was struck with Parkinson’s several months after his death. His Beatification Ceremony took place on May 1, 2011, was the biggest event in Rome since his death, and is the quickest of modern times. With over 300,000 attendees, and over 2 million taking part in beatification-related activities. ”It’s not like Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II, will suddenly become a saint when the canonization ceremony occurs. The belief would be he is already in heaven with God, living the life of a saint. All that’s going to happen when the ceremony occurs is that the church will officially recognize that”