Pilgrimage Across Poland: Our Experience Walking in Uniform from Warsaw to Czestochowa
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For over 300 years, the people of Poland have kept an annual tradition of walking across the country to make pilgrimage to the monastery of Jasna Góra, there to venerate the centuries old Byzantine icon and national treasure, the Black Madonna of Cz?stochowa. The pilgrimage itself has become a part of national heritage and lived cultural expression, being one of the largest visible features of Polish national identity. In August of 2019, the 28th International Military Walking Pilgrimage, organized and supported by the Polish military and inviting the participation of several international military partners, included two local men from EIU as participants. Representing the Illinois National Guard, they joined the national military of Poland along with other international military delegations from Germany, Slovakia, and Lithuania. In this pilgrimage of peace, they served as ambassadors, seeking to build bridges, cultivate mutual understanding and promote good will among the nations. One a Catholic Chaplain and faculty member at EIU, the other a Religious Affairs Airman and civil service employee at Booth, each of these men brought to and took away from this pilgrimage something uniquely valuable to them personally and professionally as Illinois Guardsmen. Indeed, every participant in the pilgrimage reflects the unique experience of each, whether Catholic, non-Catholic, or not religious at all. This extraordinary encounter will be recounted from two distinct perspectives in an attempt to share a truly once in a lifetime experience walking over 200 miles in 10 days across Poland.