Niall Leahy SJ, Brendan McManus SJ and Jesuit novice Patrick Corkery accompanied a group of twenty-three young people from Ireland to MAGIS 2016, which took place in Poland from July 15-25. MAGIS is a ten day international experience for young people (ages 18-30) organised by the Jesuits that helps participants to learn to live more for God in all aspects of their life through Ignatian Spirituality. The Irish group attended the opening of MAGIS in Łódź from July 15-17, the place where Saint Faustina had her first visions, and met with MAGIS pilgrims from all over the world. Following a sending-off Mass with Fr. Tomasz Kot SJ, assistant to Fr. Adolfo Nicolás SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, all 2,200 pilgrims were missioned to take part in ninty-seven different experiment groups in four countries. The experiments which took place over five days were designed with the theme of MAGIS2016 in mind, “To give and not count the cost”, and focused on living in community, working with others and reflection.
Máire Fitzgerald experienced MAGIS for the first time. She undertook an experiment working with children with special needs. “I think it was a fantastic experience”, she said, outlining how the Ignatian Spirituality approach wasn’t something she was overly familiar with before MAGIS. “I felt it had so much to offer, it really challenged me and made me encounter Christ in a new way”, she remarked. Maura’s project working with the children with disabilities and young people from different countries in the MAGIS group, revealed to her that love crosses all boundaries. “No matter what age you are, where you’re from, what language you have, you can communicate with people through that love of Christ, Christ loving through you, you can overcome any obstacles and you can find that unconditional love that comes from just giving of yourself and receiving in yourself”, she explained.
Máire had a very positive experience of the MAGIS circle (a sharing in small groups at the end of each day). “Knowing that everyone was really trying to live Christ in their life, to have that real encounter, was beauitiful. You could just see people just open up and completely give of themselves in the circle. It was a really special space and everyone came to know themselves better by sharing their stories with others. There was no judgement, there was no looking for answers, it was just putting it out there and trying to encounter Christ in everyone” Máire outlined. MAGIS for her was “just normal ordinary, confident, ambitious, young people all searching for that deeper something, and finding that deeper something in Christ”.
She said that when you are open to encounter Christ you can see “how easy it is to really feel him present, more than just an abstract idea or thought, but something so real and present, you come into an awareness of him in all things and in all people”. Máire explained how it is “in serving others, in giving that you receive so much more back in return”. She said that when serving others you’re no longer just keeping your gifts and talents close to you but that you just want to give. “Working in collaboration with each other we can do great things, fantastic things”, she said.
Marie Cummins participated in the ‘Do this in Memory of Me’ experiment, a spirituality project about living the Eucharist. “We learned all about God’s mercy, God’s love through the Eucharist. I met some amazing people there from Syria, Egypt, Portugal, there were some Irish people there as well” she said. The community component was a key aspect of the experiment according to Marie, “we really gelled together as a community, we learned a lot from each others’ different cultures and traditions. It is something that will resonate in my heart for the rest of my life”, she said.
Following the experiments all 2,200 MAGIS participants gathered in Częstochowa from July 23-25 to be reunited with one another again for a closing festival of faith. This was a time of prayer and reflection featuring a Vigil Prayer with Our Lady and a Reconciliation Service. A special celebration of culture ‘Festival of Nations’ featuring presentations of each nationality taking part in MAGIS also took . As part of the festival Fr. John Dardis SJ, president of the Conference of European Provincials of the Jesuits, celebrated Mass for the MAGIS pilgrims. In his homily he outlined how “God speaks to us personally” and he told the young people “you needn’t leave here untouched by God”. The great insight of Saint Ignatius he said was that “God speaks to us personally”, God searches for each one of us differently and speaks to our hearts he remarked. The way it works according to John is that “if you ask God, that provides a kind of meeting place for you with God…you ask and God reaches out and responds”, as he challenged the young people to “ask what you want…what’s your deepest longing right now, what are your biggest hopes”.
Thanking the 2,200 pilgrims for coming to MAGIS, he impressed on them the confidence that the Jesuits have in young people and the commitment of the order to young adult ministry. “Jesuits work with young people in schools across the world, and with young adults because we believe in you”, remarked Fr. John. “We believe in young people. We want you to go forward from here and to live lives of passion, creativity and generosity, and to really claim your space in the world”, he concluded.
Marie Cummins hopes that the successful pilgrimage to MAGIS2016 by the Irish group will bear fruit over the coming years at home. “We plan to have another MAGIS for Irish people” she said, explaining that “it will be amazing, to group up again, to really continue living the Spirit and the fire that we’ve received between Magis and World Youth Day, and to continue with that journey with Christ because it is a journey at the and of the day, and we’re always searching.” Outlining how Pope Francis challenged the young people at World Youth Day to have mercy and to be full of love, and to go forth and to spread the Gospel, Marie said “we’re being asked to do that”. She explained that one way to spread that Gospel message is “to meet up, to bring other people along and to really live out the faith as best we can, to be witnesses”.