Pilgrimage 2009 – North American Martyrs, Canada
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When the early colonialists dare not venture from the Atlantic shores, eight Jesuits were already a thousand miles inland in North America, preaching the Gospel to the native Indians. They all gave their lives in violent martyrdom. We’re going to visit their Shrine in Midland, Ontario, to learn from these great ones what it is to live and die for Christ the Lord.

By Fr. Paul Ward

Published in The Compass, February 16, 2009, vol. 4, issue 3

            "Having found Jesus Christ in his cross, you have found the roses in the thorns, sweetness in bitterness, all in nothing." - St. John de Brebeuf, Jesuit Relations.

            Rolling hills, plush pine forests, beaming summer days and Catholic youth walking the route of the Church’s great saints. What do they seek? Holiness, of course.

Continuing the fabulous tradition of youth pilgrimages, Trailblazers is happy to reveal what most of you know we’ve been preparing for months: a pilgrimage to the shrine of the North American Martyrs in Midland, Ontario.

Like all Trailblazers youth pilgrimages, the spiritual life always takes first place in everything we do each day. Yet many other important elements are included in the pilgrimage to address the needs and goods of the whole human person.

For example, our young pilgrims will enjoy the exchange with and hospitality from many local Canadian Catholics. The athletic components of the many miles of walking each day and the opportunity for sports (if we still have energy!) provide a healthy opportunity for the formation of many virtues and the cultivation of friendship. Hours of conversation, cultural experiences portraying the hard life of these martyrs, exploration of this foreign land, and daily conferences and discussions form part of our upcoming adventure.

           Starting near Barrie, a large city north of Toronto, our youth will hike for four days through undulating hills on chosen paths all the way north to Midland, on Georgian Bay. We’ll be camping almost every night, and therefore each will need a hiker's backppack, tent and sleeping bag... if you're a newbie to hiking and camping, you will certainly not be alone, and everyone will have lots of help on how to do such thing. We will visit the Wye Marsh campgrounds where we can canoe a bit – the standard system of transportation employed by the holy martyrs. Then we’ll visit St. Ignace, the very place in the woods where St. Jean de Brebeuf and St. Gabriel Lalemant endured a prolonged and amazingly brutal martyrdom for love of Jesus Christ; and on location we’ll have Mass. We’ll recover from our labors with a full day at the Shrine, a day more than the rest dedicated to the spiritual life. On our return home, we won’t miss the opportunity to stop and have lunch at Niagara Falls.

Various parishes will receive us and provide us with meals. Volunteer parents will serve as a support team with emergency vehicles on hand (we're always looking for more help, so please pass the word!). Our trails will follow mostly routes through the woods which were formerly railroads, but some back-roads as well. Several local Canadians are offering some generous assistance. Trailblazers will provide a number of walkie-talkies to the whole group, and have very basic first aid on hand. All meals will be provided, except those during transit to and from Detroit on the first and last days. We’re still hoping a certain fine young Canadian priest will join us with some youth whom he may be able to muster – so let’s all pray that they join us! All of this promises a wonderful opportunity for our young people.

            Each day, the Trailblazer’s spiritual life consists in basic forms of time-tested, standard Catholic piety. This means daily Mass and rosary, the divine mercy chaplet, opportunity for spiritual direction, adoration, spiritual talks at the end of the day, morning and evening prayer from the Chruch’s liturgy of the hours, and night prayer. Even if we put much into the administrative organization of our pilgrimages, the real criterion of evaluation is this: that the youth come back more holy, more on fire for God and the Church, than when they left.

We have put great effort into securing excellent prices in spite of providing so many services, for which I offer great praise to the volunteer corps, youth and adults, who have helped me design this pilgrimage. Special mention goes to Mr. John Zurakowski from Toronto, Canada, and Mrs. Lisa Flynn who is both Canadian and living in Michigan with her large and beautiful family.

Please review the flier, designed by Henry McGuckin, which will provide more details regarding the calendar, the costs, packing, and so forth. More specifics will be provided for pilgrims when they sign up, but if you have questions, please call Amy McGuckin (see contact info at bottom of page), our fearless secretary, who will gladly fill in the blanks. We may also provide some brochures, if you wish to pass them out to any friends for whatever reason.

Remember that we are always striving to expand our readership of the Compass. We have too much good stuff to offer, here at Trailblazers, to keep it secret. So please invite your family and friends to sign up for the free newsletter, the Compass.

We are a non-profit corporation of the state of Michigan, preparing our filing for 501c3 status. All donations welcome.

            Click on the images below to see the fliers (links open .pdf files, they may take a minute to load).

Contact us:
Editor of The Compass - compass@trailblazerswyd.org
Virginia: Senior editor of The Compass - virginia-editor@trailblazerswyd.org
Amy : Trailblazers Secretary- secretary@trailblazerswyd.org
Father Paul Ward: Trailblazers Director - director@trailblazerswyd.org
(248) 722-5808     *     www.trailblazerswyd.org
Mailing Address: 13770 Gratiot Ave., Detroit, MI 48205