Wednesday, July 27, 2016

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 10

The camp

Auschwitz's infamous gate. The ironwork greeting reads: Work will set you free.
Today was a difficult day. Not just because of exhaustion and short tempers, but because of the final destination of our day: Auschwitz.

Just the name sends shivers down my spine. Many people are familiar with the atrocities committed within the camp's grounds. Hundreds of thousands were snuffed out with cruel efficiency, including St. Maximilian Kolbe (see Day 2 of the blog series).

However, it's one thing to read about these crimes, or to see them on paper, but it's another thing to see the places where they were committed. To see a concentration camp is to comprehend the reality of it all, to feel some of the worst crimes in history slam upon you.

As we entered the camp, a hush fell across our World Youth Day group of pilgrims. This quietness was seen in many other visitors, with people speaking in quiet tones and the occasional sound of laughter feeling as sharp and out of place as a rifle shot.

Perhaps in preparation for the large amount of pilgrims coming to Poland, the camp's building interiors were all closed off to the public.  We wandered a preset path throughout the camp instead, reading various signs with facts about the camp.

"At least 1,300,000 people were deported to Auschwitz of whom 1,100,000 perished. About 90% of the victims were Jews. The majority of them were murdered in the gas chambers upon arrival."

The air seemed much thicker within the camp, and I often found it hard to breathe, whether from psychological effects or the faint smog that seemed to cover the camp.

As we passed a gated courtyard, many individuals knelt before the wall and prayed. Several pressed their heads against its cold brick walls.

"You are now entering a courtyard where the SS murdered thousands of people. Please maintain silence here: remember their suffering and show respect for their memory."

I turned away from the courtyard to see my brother Jacob staring at a seemingly blank yard. Approaching him, I noticed a small bird in the centre of the yard, fluttering sporadically.

"What's that bird doing?" I asked.

"Dying," came his brief response, before he turned and walked off.

I stayed and watched the bird flutter its wings, before finally ending its struggle and laying still.

A WYD pilgrim stands in front of a rebuilt chimney from one of the furnaces used to burn
dead bodies at Auschwitz.
When our group finally left Auschwitz and got on the bus, a heavy silence fell upon us. Most people turned to the silence of sleep, or the solace of their music. One of the pilgrims, Norman, even invited me to listen to some music to possibly cheer up. However, I declined, deciding to type this post while my memory was still fresh.

Father Richard Au noted the importance of prayer as a weapon against sadness and fear, imploring us to pray the Rosary. Finding peace of mind within Christ is one of the ways to combat the spiritual darkness the camp's history held.

The heavy feeling upon our hearts will allow us to remember humans are capable of great evil. We cannot allow such acts to happen again. This camp of death, Auschwitz, stands as a reminder of humanity's sins. But at the same time, it serves as a space to reflect on our own sins and our collective responsibility.

I hope that I, and all the other pilgrims who visited the camp, find the spiritual growth needed to improve as those who will stand up for what is right, to prevent such horrendous acts from occurring again.

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 9

A never-ending journey

Joshua Tng snaps a selfie with  his fellow Canadian World
Youth Day pilgrims as they trudge down the streets of Krakow,
Poland, in the midst of World Youth Day.
A five hour train ride, 30 minutes of sleep in the past 24 hours, and a six kilometer walk to the school where we are staying? Sounds like a recipe for success!

Our group of pilgrims arrived in a small rustic town relatively close to Krakow. Everyone was exhausted from travelling and lack of sleep, but we still had to trek up a hill to the place where we are staying.

After an hour and a half of walking, everyone briefly passed out on the floor before setting off once again towards the main city of Krakow.

In the midst of the city, pilgrims from all over the world cheered, clapped, and yelled in all of our faces. Despite the noise, our spirits were lifted and our energy levels were restored a little bit.

It is a really incredible feeling to see so many people from all over the world on the same spiritual journey.

Tomorrow, we will visit Auschwitz.

jtng@rcav.org

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 8

Just around the river bend

World Youth Day pilgrims pilot kayaks within the river that forms the centre of the port
city Gdansk. While most Polish cities have a central square, Gdansk instead uses the river
banks as a center for the city. (Credit: Josh Tng.)
Kayaking is hard.

As we took to the waters to tour the city of Gdansk from its central river, I realized something very important: I am not very good at kayaking.

The sights were beautiful, but I was unable to enjoy them as I blundered the kayak into walls and other kayaks, narrowly dodging larger ships sailing down the channel.

My kayaking partner, Victoria, did her best to steer, but with the manifestation of a blind rhinoceros pushing the boat along, there was little she could do.

At the end of the kayaking trip however, we managed to get to end of the bank. Arms aching, clothes wet, I thanked the Lord for leading us to solid ground.

Kayaking is fun, but I definitely need to brush up on my skills.

Tomorrow, we will be traveling to Krakow, which is the main site of World Youth Day. There most likely won't be a blog tomorrow as a result. So until next time we meet, I'll see you all from Krakow!

jtng@rcav.org

WYD Trek TNG: Day 7

Pilgrims, blisters, and castles

Canadian pilgrims cheer and celebrate as they, along with thousands of other pilgrims,
parade down the main streets of Gdansk.

Today, we celebrated Mass with many World Youth Day pilgrims.

Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world gathered in Gdansk, Poland, to celebrate the Eucharist and gather together in solidarity.

The sight was breathtaking, as the Canadian flag stood proud alongside flags from all over the world, including Italy, Brazil, USA, and Singapore.

The Mass was celebrated by Gdansk's Archbishop Slaeoj Leszek Glodz, with many other concelebrants including the Archdiocese of Vancouver's very own Father Richard Au.

To see so many pilgrims in one place gave me a taste of what Krakow will be like, as the amount of people gathered there was like a grain of sand compared to what will await us later when World Youth Day opens.

After the Mass, we traveled by train to the largest Gothic castle in the world: Malbork. The castle had a very tourist-trap feel to it, but still held a lot of history.

We witnessed legitimate sword and shield combat, which was surprisingly more similar to American football in the way combatants would frequently charge their opponents and tackle them to the ground.

We had a very busy day. On the downside, my feet have produced four very well-shaped blisters.

Tomorrow we will be viewing Gdansk from a different angle; the river. We will be kayaking along the city's bank.
jtng@rcav.org

Monday, July 25, 2016

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 6

Organs and dancing pilgrims

The organ of Gdansk Oliwa Arch-cathedral, constructed in the late
1700s, is decorated with Rococo sculptures.
(Credit: Josh Tng.)
Pilgrims from all over the world, including Canada, perform the
Macarena outside of Oliwa Archcathedral.
(Credit: Josh Tng.)

Ornate Rococo decorations and paintings fill Gdansk's vast Oliwa Cathedral. The church was consecrated in 1594. As we entered, everyone's eyes were drawn to the organ.

The famous tones of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor filled the large cathedral, as the organist began to play. Little angels on top of the wooden instrument began moving their trumpets, as well as spinning ornate suns and playing little bells.

As I listened to the sounds emitted from the depths of the wooden beast, I could only imagine the wonder previous pilgrims would have felt when they first heard this organ play.

After the performance ended, we toured the cathedral, admiring the various bits and pieces of art gathered within, before heading just outside to have traditional Polish dishes served by World Youth Day volunteers.

A spontaneous dance movement broke out between the volunteers and the many pilgrims from all over the world.

Tomorrow we will be joining in a youth march, where all of the World Youth Day pilgrims in Gdansk will gather together and march through town.
jtng@rcav.org

Friday, July 22, 2016

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 4

400 steps to Heaven


The view of the Old Town district of Gdańsk from the top of St. Mary's Church.
(Credit: Josh Tng.)

Today we visited the city of Gdansk, mainly the city's Old Town district. The city was the birthplace of the Solidarity movement, which saw the freedom of Poland restored after many years of Communist rule.

Gdansk is a beautiful city, with rich architecture s and a colourful atmosphere. The world famous St. Mary's Church is the third largest brick church in the world.

World Youth Day pilgrims visit a section of the Berlin Wall.
The piece was transported to Gdańsk to stand alongside
a section of a wall Lech Walesa climbed to lead the shipyard
workers campaign. (Credit: Josh Tng) 
 St. Mary's Church is in the Old Town district. 400 steps separated us from spectacular views of the Old Town. 400 steps. After the 200th step, I was starting to pray to be put me out of my misery. But I made it, along with the rest of our group, and we enjoyed excellent views of the famous Polish port city -- if a little cramped.

Other tourists filled the small roof, leaving very little room to actually take pictures. But I managed to snap a couple, and after admiring the view a little more, I took off back down the never-ending flight of stairs.

As we were heading down, my brother Jacob groaned, "This was not worth a few pictures."

jtng@rcav.org

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Is your parish playing Pokemon?

Diocese of Green Bay promotes "Pokevangelization"
Father David Miloscia in St. Louis shows young people the game of
Pokemon Go on his phone. (Photo: Lisa Johnston, St. Louis Review / CNS)
Pokemon Go, part scavenger hunt and part virtual reality game, has become wildly popular since its release July 6. Within a week, 21 million people were collecting Pokemon, competing, and leveling up thanks to a new app on their phones.

Now, the Diocese of Green Bay in Wisconsin has released a primer suggesting how to engage Pokemon Go players on church doorsteps. Find out what they mean about "Pokevangelism" here!

Report finds church attendance lowers suicide risk

Study also shows Catholic women less likely to take their lives than Protestants
Women who attend religious services, especially Catholic women,
are much less likely to commit suicide. Photo credit.
Women who go to church are apparently five times less likely to commit suicide than those who don't.

That's according to a new study in the U.S. that tracked 89,708 women between 1996 and 2010.
"Attendance at religious services once per week or more was associated with an approximately five-fold lower rate of suicide compared with never attending religious services."
The women in the study were between the ages of 30 and 55 and most were Christian. They reported to researchers how often they went to church: 17,028 went more than once a week, 36,488 went once a week, 14,548 went less than once a week, and 21,644 never did.

The study also found that Catholic women were less likely to commit suicide than their other Christian sisters. Read the report here.

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 4 preview

Gdańsk and other Polish things

Gdańsk old town. (Credit: pyjama)

Today, we will be exploring the city of Gdańsk, a port city in Poland. Our group of pilgrims will be staying with various local families for the next four days.

My brother Jacob and I are being hosted by Olek and Magda within their cozy apartment. The couple have two very cute, young children.

While the adults speak English very well, the two daughters are much more fluent in their native tongue. The closest I've gotten to a conversation with them is a five minute laughing spree.

Laughter really is a universal language!

I'll have more to say about Gdansk later tonight. God bless!

St. Mary's to host Vacation Bible School

While playing, children will connect with God
Youngsters will learn about saints and Scripture during a children's summer camp at St. Mary's in Vancouver. Ron Nickel / Designpics.
St. Mary's Parish will host a Vacation Bible School for school-age children in August. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.

Also newly posted:

For international stories see The B.C. Catholic website.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 3 preview

On the tracks to Gdańsk (gəˈdänsk, -ˈdansk)

 Clockwise from top: View of Central Gdańsk and Main City Hall; Neptune's Fountain in Long
Market Street; (centre: the maiden in the window); Third Millennium John Paul Ⅱ Bridge;
Neptune's Fountain in front of Artus Court; Old Town and Motława River at night.
(Credit: www.slupczewski.pl, Michał Słupczewski)

Today promises to be a slow day as our group of pilgrims will be spending a large portion of it travelling from Warsaw to the port city of Gdańsk -- more than 400 km away. We are travelling by train to attend the meetings called Days in the Diocese.

From Days in the Diocese page of the WYD 2016 Krakow website:
In the days preceding World Youth Day, Days in the Diocese provides a wonderful opportunity for the young pilgrims to become more familiar with local parishes, their people, and the country’s culture. By praying and volunteering with the people of the parishes, the youth naturally will experience enrichment of faith and cultural interchange.
Time spent during Days in the Diocese includes moments of prayer and meditation, direct involvement in Christian missionary work, specific service projects, and intercultural exchange with people from the home country of Poland, as well as with fellow pilgrims from around the world.
We will be meeting our host families after arriving. They have graciously agreed to host us for five days.

See you in Gdańsk!

Gdańsk flag.

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 2

Visiting the Sanctuary of St. Kolbe (and how St. John Paul II inspired Poland)

A statue of Pope John Paul II stands outside the sanctuary of St. Maximilian
Kolbe in Teresin, Poland. (Credit: Josh Tng.)

A visit from St. John Paul II allegedly inspired Poland to overthrow communism.

Today we visited the place where Pope John Paul II spoke to the people of Warsaw. When he spoke he inspired so much power in the people, they apparently chanted, "We want God! We want God!"

Father Richard Au, the spiritual director for our WYD group, and impromptu fun fact guy, shared this and several other fun stories throughout the day as we visited the Sanctuary of St. Maximilian Kolbe.

St. Kolbe died in the Second World War. Learning about his history taught us a lesson in purity and martyrdom. St. Kolbe was imprisoned in Auschwitz, where he was killed.

His death came about because of his selflessness. After three prisoners escaped, 10 prisoners were chosen to be killed through starvation, as the Nazi jailors wanted to send a message to the other prisoners. When the last man, Franciszek Gajowniczek, fell down to the ground, he cried, "My wife! My children!" He begged the guards for mercy and St. Kolbe volunteered to take his place.

St. Kolbe's suffering inspired several prisoners. After two weeks, only St. Kolbe was alive. The guards decided to murder him by injecting him with carbolic acid.

Gajowniczek was present for St. Kolbe's canonization in 1982.

Franciszek Gajowniczek, 1941, Auschwitz prisoner 26273.
(Nov. 15, 1901 March 13, 1995)
Looking through St. Kolbe's room and viewing some of his relics revealed to us who the saint was: a peaceful, prayerful man who lived for his faith. Hopefully, many will continue to be inspired by the saint's acts of kindness, love, and self-sacrifice.


Port chaplain retires from mission to seafarers

Father Eason will continue to bring the Gospel to sailors as a volunteer
Father John Eason (second from left), chaplain to the Port of Vancouver, and volunteer Douglas McDonald (back row) stand among sailors. Father Eason, 74, is retiring but plans to continue helping out as a volunteer. "I hope to die with my shoes on," he said. BCC file photo.
A Vancouver port chaplain is retiring after two decades of bringing the Gospel to seafarers. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.


Also newly posted:

For international stories see The B.C. Catholic website.

Martin Mark makes plea to help Yazidis and other vulnerable minorities
Martin Mark, the director of the Toronto archdiocese's refugee office, appeared before the House of Commons Citizenship and Immigration Committee during hearings on the protection of vulnerable people July 18. Deborah Gyapong (CCN).
Martin Mark, who heads the Toronto Archdiocese's refugee office, pleads for policy changes to protect Yazidis and other vulnerable religious minorities. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

WYD Trek: -- TNG: Day 2 preview

St. Maximilian Kolbe

Fr. Maximilian Kolbe in 1939.

Today we travel to the west of Warsaw about 50 kms to visit the St. Maximilian Kolbe sanctuary called Niepokalanów, located at Teresin.

St. Kolbe was martyred in 1941 in Auschwitz. St. Kolbe was canonized in 1982 by Pope John Paul II and declared a martyr of charity.


Warsaw to Teresin.

Local memorial honours victims of Baghdad attack

Downtown vigil recalls deceased family and friends in Iraq, including a 14-year-old soccer fan
Doctor Mudaffer Al-Mudaffer holds an Iraqi flag and a candle to remember 14-year-old Zain Al-Abedeen Al-Mudaffer (inset), his cousin's only son and one of nearly 300 victims who died after a bomb went off in a busy shopping district in Baghdad July 3. Photo submitted.
Candles flickered in the rain outside the Vancouver Public Library as about 100 people honoured the victims of a massive attack in Baghdad. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.


Also newly posted:

For international stories see The B.C. Catholic website.

Basilian shocked at being named auxiliary bishop
"I find this appointment shocking and really hard to handle," he said in a June 17 interview. When he started receiving mysterious phone messages from Ottawa one Friday afternoon, leaving a woman's first name and a number to call, he deleted them from his phone. Maybe it was a telephone solicitor or some sort of scam. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.

Monday, July 18, 2016

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 1

Group arrives in Warsaw
By Josh Tng

A cross outside the chapel at Heathrow airport.

After seventeen hours of travel, our group of pilgrims has reached Poland. Energy levels range from exhausted (myself) to ecstatic.

Before arriving in St. John Paul II's homeland, we celebrated Mass in a chapel in Heathrow airport. Now we ready ourselves for a new day and the excitement ahead.

We will see what Poland has in store for us!

WYD Trek: TNG -- Day 0

Youth embark on pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Poland
By Josh Tng

Josh Tng (back row, left) and other World Youth Day pilgrims from Vancouver gather for a photo
before embarking on their journey to Poland July 17.

World Youth Day: a spiritual frontier.

This blog will document the voyages of Joshua Tng. My mission for this travel blog: to explore Europe, to seek out deeper faith and prayer, and to boldly go where many pilgrims will go as well.

As I write this, my group is at the Vancouver airport. We will be flying to London, before heading to Poland. I will attempt to add updates daily after we arrive.

Please pray for us and all the pilgrims from Vancouver, and from around the world, as we participate in the 31st World Youth Day.


Visit this link for Papal World Youth Day messages.

Many about to journey to Krakow for World Youth Day

Archdiocese of Vancouver will send one of Canada's largest delegations
Caption: Staff at the John Paul II Centre rejoice with some of the pilgrims preparing to go to Krakow.
Millions of pilgrims from around the world will flood the streets of Krakow, Poland, July 25-31 for World Youth Day. About 3,750 of them will be Canadians. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.


Also newly posted:

For international stories see The B.C. Catholic website.



Refugee numbers climb to 65 million
Caption: A 17-year-old refugee from Eritrea smiles while playing soccer on a street in Rome July 14. Several refugees who live on the street said they were planning to head north to countries such as France and Germany. CNS photo / Paul Haring.
It's only a number, but 65.3 million for Martin Mark is heart-breaking. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Community celebrates generosity after big blaze

Event honours White Rock firefighters and residents for helping more than 100 evacuees
Knights of Columbus serve hamburgers to about 150 of their neighbours in the Star of the Sea Church parking lot. Greg Egan / Special to The B.C. Catholic.
White Rock residents rallied together six weeks after an apartment fire left more than 100 of their neighbours homeless. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.


Also newly posted:

For international stories
 see The B.C. Catholic website.

http://www.bccatholic.ca/international-news/international-news

Bishop Donald Bolen appointed Archbishop of Regina
Archbishop-elect Donald Bolen / Tim Yaworski / Prairie Messenger (CCN).
After six years as Bishop of Saskatoon, Donald Bolen has been named the Archbishop of Regina. For full story see The B.C. Catholic website.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Arizona bishops oppose recreational marijuana

They call it harmful to children and families
Four bishops have signed a joint statement against legalizing recreational marijuana in Arizona.
It "sends a message to children and young people that drug use is socially and morally acceptable," they wrote June 30.

"It is anticipated that legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Arizona will lead to more abuse by teens, more emergency room visits, more traffic deaths, and more societal costs."
Other U.S. bishops have spoken out against legalizing pot, and still others have spoken in favour of it for medical use. This comes after nearly 260,000 people signed petitions to put the question to Arizona voters. Read the full article here.

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