By Doris Yu
July 12, 2016 — Any student attending a Jesuit high school or university has no doubt heard the word magis dozens of times. Latin for “more,” the word references the Ignatian concept of learning more, doing more, choosing more and giving more.
MAGIS is also the name of an international immersion experience immediately preceding World Youth Day, for young adults from Jesuit schools, parishes and ministries. The theme of this year’s MAGIS experience, “To give and not count the cost” (a line from St. Ignatius’ prayer for generosity), will ask its participants to do more — a lot more.
“During MAGIS, participants will put the Jesuit mission into action through prayer, conversations, service and engagement with diverse cultures,” says Jesuit Brad Held, a theology student at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry and the U.S. project director for MAGIS 2016. “By the close of the event, these young adults will have acquired a more profound understanding of magis inside and out, in a deeply personal way.”
Brad Held, SJ, is the U.S. project director for MAGIS 2016.
“MAGIS is ultimately a pilgrimage, an experience of prayer,” Michael Wegenka, SJ, said. A member of the USA Central and Soutehrn Province, he is assisting Held with many of the technical and financial details of the experience. He and Held are already in Poland learning the local logistics.
MAGIS pilgrims will be immersed in a truly global environment: Held in a different country every three years, the program will take place in Poland from July 15-25, and it immediately precedes World Youth Day, July 25-31 in Kraków, Poland.
“MAGIS is great way to live out our Jesuit mission on the international level,” says Held, who has been tasked with ensuring all the moving parts of a trip for 140 American pilgrims across Poland goes smoothly. Planning began back in September 2014.
Saint Joseph’s University students at MAGIS 2013.
The Americans will be just a fraction of the total 1600 pilgrims, 500 volunteers and 250 Jesuits hailing from 52 countries. Of the U.S. participants, 24 are from Saint Louis University and Regis University in the USA Central and Southern Province.
“On July 25, as we board the train in Czestochowa, Poland, to head to World Youth Day in Kraków, I hope that we’ll be traveling with young people who have made some new friends, have encountered God in a deeper way, and are ready for more at World Youth Day,” Held says.
A group of pilgrims from Mexico at MAGIS 2013.
“For my students, I hope they hear stories of how other young people sacrifice a bit for others, especially those who live in poorer conditions than we do,” says Mike Hayes, director of campus ministry at Canisius College in Buffalo, New York, which is sending a group of 11 pilgrims to MAGIS this year.
One of Hayes’ students, Megan Smith of Rochester, New York, is a recent college graduate and soon-to-be Jesuit Volunteer. “This has kind of been the theme of my year — leaving the familiar behind in the hopes of discovering something magnificent,” she says. “I have never been out of the country before, except for Canada, so this trip to Poland is going to be completely outside of my comfort zone.”
Pilgrims will gather inód , in central Poland, on July 15 for the kickoff of the program and for a special Mass and commissioning from Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus. For most in attendance, this will be the first time they encounter the worldwide head of the Jesuits, who will send the pilgrims off on “Ignatian experiments,” activities loosely based on the life experiences of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.
Fr. Nicolás, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, celebrated Mass at MAGIS 2013.
“By going into different and little-known situations, Ignatius teaches us how to look at God, ourselves and others in a new way,” says Polish Jesuit Marek Firlejczyk, coordinator of the Ignatian experiments for MAGIS 2016. The experiments are “intended to give the participant an experience of living in community, working with others and reflecting on these experiences to help the participants to discover themselves.”
During the registration process, participants are asked to choose among several major experiment categories. A total of 97 different experiment groups will take place across Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Lithuania from July 17-23.
Polish Jesuit Marek Firlejczyk (far right), coordinator of the Ignatian experiments for MAGIS 2016, with fellow Jesuits helping to plan MAGIS.
Those selecting the pilgrimage option will embark on a four-day hike to various religious sites, and those choosing the service option will minister to others in cooperation with partners of the Society of Jesus and in care for the environment.
“I am really looking forward to the opportunity to ‘find God in all things,’ especially in the nature of the mountains as I hike,” says Erin Canning, a member of the class of 2016 at Saint Louis University. “Being outdoors gives me space to think and pray and wonder.”
Spiritual category participants will explore deep prayer through different Christian traditions. The sociocultural category will focus on engagement and dialogue with diverse religious, cultural and social groups, and the artistic category will stimulate creativity through folk art, architecture, painting, iconography, acting, music, singing and other forms of expression.
“When I think of magis, or ‘the more,’ I always thought about doing things such as service, prayer, or something that helped others but I never thought of expressing my faith through art and theatre,” says Andrea Garcia, a pilgrim from the south side of Chicago who attends Marquette University in Milwaukee. “I’m excited to combine my creativity and my spirituality with help from people from all over the world to create something that is an interpretation of our faith.”
Regardless of the experiment category, each pilgrim’s day will be similarly structured with time for individual prayer, service, Mass, small group sharing, and an Ignatian daily examen, or personal reflection on the events of the day. Each group consists of 25 pilgrims of diverse nationalities, a leader and a Jesuit priest.
Brad Held, SJ, second from right, and other Jesuits prepare for MAGIS in Poland.
Following the individual experiments, the nearly 2,000 participants will close the program by making a pilgrimage to the shrine of the Black Madonna, Our Lady at Czestochowa, in Czestochowa, Poland, to gather and reflect on their experiences on July 23. Finally, they will journey on to World Youth Day in Kraków from July 26-31, meeting up with a larger Catholic international event that could potentially number up to 3 million people — eager to celebrate Mass with Pope Francis, the first Jesuit pope.
“I hope that MAGIS and WYD strengthen my understanding of and deep appreciation for the universal community that is the true Church,” says Hannah Sattler, a rising senior at Saint Louis University. “One of my favorite questions is ‘Do you feel big or small in this moment?’ I imagine I will simultaneously feel big and small because individually we seem small but together we make up a massive community!”
Pope Francis heard the confession of a young woman during World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013. (CNS photo/L’Osservatore Romano)
The concept of “giving and not counting the cost” at MAGIS was inspired by the WYD theme this year, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy,” in light of Pope Francis’ Holy Year of Mercy.
“In the past couple of years, I have come to see that the world does not owe me a thing and that I must stay humble in order to recognize the blessings that this world has to offer,” says Felicia Sciortino, who graduated in 2016 from Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York. “I’m really looking forward to meeting more people along the way so that I can hear their stories and continue to learn about myself and others during this trip.”
Shemesh De León Báez, a recent graduate of Le Moyne College, looks forward to gathering with other young adults at MAGIS 2016.
“I cannot wait to be surrounded by a community of young people who, like myself, find something great to identify with within our church,” says Shemesh De León Báez, who also graduated from Le Moyne this year. “To be able to share time with people from all over the world who might share your interests, who have great stories to tell, who can share talents and passions, and who are willing to be completely immersed, is a great opportunity.”
A group of participants at WYD 2013 in Brazil.