On June 2, 1979 the plane with John Paul II landed in Warsaw. The bells were beating in all churches in Poland. After leaving the airplane, John Paul II made a greeting sign and kneeled and kissed the land. The crowds of believers welcomed him everywhere. That was exactly 40 years ago. Many people know these events only from different media, but there are some, who experienced it themselves. In this jubilee year, commemorating the first pilgrimage of the Holy Father to Poland, a group of more than fifty pilgrims from the Polish Parish of Aulnay sous Bois went to Poland together with their Pastor Fr. Jarosław Koch SChr. The main purpose of the pilgrimage was to participate in the night vigil in the intention of Polonia. The vigil was organized by the Society of Christ Fathers in the heart of our spiritual capital in Jasna Góra in front of the image of Our Lady of Czestochowa. On that night in front of the miraculous image gathered about two thousand pilgrims, Poles on exile, from different countries of Europe among who was our group from Aulnay sous Bois. The Holy Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Wacław Depo, Metropolitan of Częstochowa along with more than 60 priests.
During a short stay in Poland, in addition to the celebrations in Jasna Góra, we also followed the footsteps of John Paul II. We first of all visited Krakow, the City of Kings and the Pope, and the cradle of the Divine Mercy, where the message of God’s merciful love spreads to our entire homeland and to the whole world. We started our pilgrimage from here. It was in the Lagiewniki in the Basilica of Divine Mercy, which Pope John Paul II consecrated in 2002, we were able to benefit from the sacrament of reconciliation. We visited the tomb with the relic of St. Faustina Kowalska, which is located in the Sanctuary of the Divine Mercy. Also, over there, in a straight line just about one kilometer away, there is the Centre of John Paul II “Do not be afraid.” In this Sanctuary, there is the John Paul II Relics Church. The Church is encircled by chapels with the Priest Chapel as the biggest one. In that Chapel there is a plate from the former tomb of the Polish Pope and relics of his blood.
On the next day, together with our guide we are going to tour the city. We continue to follow the footsteps of John Paul II, whereas a young priest and then as the Bishop and Cardinal, every day he was going through the streets. We started from the Kazimierz district, through the churches of Corpus Christi and St. Catherine of Alexandria. We also went to Skalka, that his to the St. Michael the Archangel and St. Stanislaus B & M. Churches. Over here, on June 8, 1979, the Holy Father met with young people. He asked them: “Can I tell you something?” In response to the question he heard loud “Yeees!” And, then the Pope said, “I like you very much!” It is very difficult to describe what happened after these words. There was no end to the joy and singing.
The Wawel Castle with the Cathedral was the next point of our visit. Going through the Royal Route, we reached the Franciszkanska Street with the famous Papal window. In the St. Anna Church, Fr. Jarosław celebrated the Holy Mass. After the Mass, our parish choir “Soli Deo” presented a verbal and music program dedicated to our beloved Holy Father, John Paul II. The concert “I came from a faraway country”, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the first pilgrimage of John Paul II to Poland and the 100th anniversary of the birth of Karol Wojtyła. The program was prepared by Elisabeth and Czesław Noster, parishioners from Aulnay sous Bois, who are also members of the John Paul II Foundation. The “I came from a faraway country” concert was organized as one of the Foundation Chapter’s event.
So, we made it to the end of our pilgrimage. Before boarding the plane on Sunday, in the Chapel at John Paul II Airport in Balice, in front of the Holy Father’s image that is located at the altar, Fr. Jarosław Koch celebrated the Holy Mass along with the Chaplain of the Chapel. During the Eucharist, we thanked our Lord and the Most Holy Mother for our pilgrimage.
By Elisabeth Noster
Photographs: Zbigniew Adamek