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Text and photos: Father Vernon Boyd, SJ

This past summer, a group of university students completed a four-day pilgrimage to Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, ON in order to be united in spirit with youth attending the international World Youth Day in Lisbon, Portugal.

The students departed from Holy Rosary Jesuit parish in Guelph on July 30 and headed to Martyrs’ Shrine where they gathered for Ignatian spiritual conversation, prayer, contemplation, and the examination of conscience. The theme of the pilgrimage was “adventures under the banner of the cross.”

Jesuit Father Vernon Boyd, SJ accompanied and led the students from Queens University, the University of Waterloo, the University of Guelph, and the University of Toronto. The pilgrims arrived on the eve of the Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, July 31, and were welcomed by Fr. Michael Knox, SJ, former director of the Shrine. Fr. Knox spoke on the spirituality of the Jesuits, the lives of the Canadian Jesuit martyrs, the political and religious context of the 17th century, the Jesuit Relations and First Nations. T he days were filled with powerful moments of personal stories, faith sharing, and the discernment of spirits seeking the will of God in their lives.

The pilgrimage included celebration of Holy Mass at the gravesite of St. Jean de Brébeuf in the Church of St. Joseph. Pilgrims also walked the 13-kilometre route to St. Ignace, the martyrdom site of Saints Jean de Brébeuf and Gabriel Lalemant. After Mass, the group set up camp for the night. On the final day of the pilgrimage, August 2, the students celebrated Mass on the Feast of Jesuit St. Peter Faber.

During the night the pilgrims observed a rare Blue Moon which cast a radiant light upon the cross that marked the place where Brébeuf and Lalemant were martyred. The phenomena led the pilgrims further and deeper into powerful conversation of the presence of God in all things under the banner of the cross.

The pilgrims were united in prayer with the 1.5 million youth attending World Youth Day in Lisbon. T he pilgrims received many graces during the pilgrimage and offered to God, through the intercession of the Canadian Martyrs, their heartfelt desire to serve God in the vocation to which each is being called under the banner of the cross for the Greater Glory of God.

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