And just like that, I’ve been in Poland for over a week now. The last ten days or so have been busy, beautiful, exhausting, exciting, and so much more.
I arrived the night of February 10th at the Krakow airport and was picked up by one of our program directors, Joe, and we took a taxi to the John Paul II Center, which is where I would be living for the next three months. I met my roommate, Annalise, and went to bed after a long day of traveling.
Friday through Sunday were our main orientation days. We were given tours of downtown Krakow, taught how to use public transportation to get there, and given time to rest and get onto Polish time. One of the most beautiful parts of living here is that the building where my suite is is right next door to a chapel, where there is a Eucharistic Adoration as well as Mass celebrated multiple times a day. I knew wherever I studied abroad, my faith needed to still be very much present in my life. Attending this program which is completely centered on the faith has been such a blessing already.
The John Paul II Project is a new program and a bit smaller, so I am only with five other girls for classes. The classes we will take are specific to our program, and the main schedule will not start until the beginning of March. Until then, we have begun our intensive Polish classes, where we have two weeks of just Polish language class. These began on Monday, and so far have been going well! I love learning new languages, and it has been nice living with all the other students in this program so that we can all learn and practice together.
The mission of the JPII Project is to build up young people who will build the civilization of love and truth, which goes beyond taking classes in a foreign country. I also am living in community with the other students as well as the program directors and some of their staff. We have a floor on the JPII Center all for this program, and there are different suites we all live in. I have gotten to live “family style” since I’ve been here, meaning I eat almost all of my meals with the whole group, and we have shared common spaces where we’ve gotten to know each other through fun and beautiful conversations, usually after dinner time. I’m excited to build new friendships rooted in Christ through my time here.
This last weekend we took the train to Czestochowa and stayed with the Little Sisters of the Lamb for two nights before touring Czestochowa for a day. There were seven sisters who lived simple lives out in the countryside of Poland, but they opened their home to us so generously. It was beautiful to witness the lives of these women, whose whole life is dedicated to prayer. We joined them for Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, and Liturgy of the Hours throughout the day, as well as prayer, walks where we read the daily Gospel, and then had some silent time to reflect on these words. We also sang with these sisters, and their voices and harmonies were so so beautiful! I was so blessed to have some time away from the world to just be with others and be present.
We drove into the city of Czestochowa on Saturday and toured the Cathedral first. One of the priests there gave us a tour and explained the history of the beautiful and simple Cathedral. He also played the organ for us which was so beautiful. I closed my eyes and let the music flood over me and throughout the whole Church. The grandeur of European churches is just so unique and beautiful, and I’ve been doing my best since I’ve arrived to just soak it all in.
After the Cathedral, we went to the Shrine of Our Lady of Czestochowa. This painting of the Virgin Mary holding her Divine Son has had many miracles and healing attributed to it when people travel to this pilgrimage site. We were able to have Mass right in front of the image of Our Lady, and it was so beautiful. I would share pictures if I hadn’t left my phone at home for this weekend.
I feel as though this first week and a half I’ve only scratched the surface of the beauty of Poland. I’ve gotten to have brief visits to so many churches and beautiful sights that I want to return to and research more to fully understand the history behind these places. Now that I feel I’ve gained my bearings here and know my way around some of the main areas of Krakow, I can’t wait to have more adventures and explore new areas. These next three months are going to be absolutely amazing.
Please pray for me over this time. In many ways, I’m on pilgrimage as well as being a student. I felt God call me to this program to learn more about John Paul II and the ways he encouraged young people to use their gifts and talents to change the world. I know He has a plan for me here, and I want to receive it as fully as I can. Know of my prayers for you readers as well. Czesc!