Pilgrims Walk from Rome to World Youth Day
It takes just over nine hours to fly from Philadelphia to John Paul II Airport in Krakow, Poland, for travellers who want to attend World Youth Day July 26-31 in that city.
Some are taking a more leisurely pace, maybe seeing some sites along the way.
Take Andrew Dierkes, 23, of St Agatha-St. James Parish in the University City section of Philadelphia.
In May, he flew into Rome, which also is also about a nine-hour flight from Philly, and joined up with a band of four like-minded travellers.
After a May 21 Mass at the Polish Crypt Chapel at the Vatican, the group set out on foot for a “Year of Mercy Pilgrimage” to Krakow, covering about 30 to 40kms a day.
In the spirit of medieval mendicants relying on the hospitality of others, they have been mostly spending their nights at monasteries or parish facilities.
Leading the group is Ricardo Simmonds, 35, a former director of the University of Pennsylvania Newman Center and founder of Denver-based Creatio, a group that organises youth mission trips.
Crucial to the group, especially as an adviser, is Ann Sieben, 52, a former nuclear engineer who is a dedicated mendicant, having spent most of the past nine years on the road in pilgrimages to shrines, totally dependent on the hospitality of those she meets on the journey.
Rounding out the group is Rafael Maturo, 23, from Peru and Nick Zimmerman, 22, from Denver. All of the young men are open to the possibility of a religious vocation.
“Honestly, I do not yet understand why, but I believe God called me to walk this pilgrimage,” Andrew Dierkes said via email while on his journey. “The desire to do this has been placed in my heart long before the opportunity presented itself, and the timing and the opportunity cooperated to make it happen.”
The pilgrimage route has meandered a bit as it winds through cities and towns in Italy, Austria, Czech Republic and finally to Poland. The group has been through Terni, Assisi, Arezzo, Bologna and Peschiera de Garda, in Italy; Solden, Innsbruck, and Bad Reichenhall (in Germany near Salzburg) and Andorf, in Austria; and Kajov, Trebic and Brno, in the Czech Republic. They were to arrive at the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Krakow by July 25.
Technically, the distance between Rome and Krakow is slightly under 1,000 miles, but because they have not followed a straight line, their journey is about 2000kms more or less.