One project was crystal clear: it was time to call in prayer support. With the help of our summer communications intern and 2019 study abroad alum, Cameron, (and our kids), we sent over 100 letters to religious orders asking them to spiritually adopt the JP2 Project.
That includes prayers for YOU!
Encouraging responses have flowed in from Carmelites to Visitation Sisters pledging their prayers for us.
“We will be very happy to be your prayer warriors – that’s what we are called to do as contemplative nuns. Your apostolate, as you know, is something very close to the heart of our Religious Family of the Incarnate Word – working to bring the truth of the Gospel and Love and Truth Himself to the world especially to our young people. What a beautiful thing for our future generation to know about love and truth – the only thing necessary”.
- From the Brooklyn contemplative branch of SSVM, an awesome community born under the pontificate of our patron.
From July 27-29th, Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration in Alabama said the entire community would offer up all their prayer and works completely for the JP2 Project Family. Perhaps there is a fine line between presumption and faith, but I’m certainly expecting big graces!
It is incredibly important to put in great human effort in order to make great progress with any endeavor. However, as Jean-Baptiste Chautard in his spiritual masterpiece The Soul of the Apostolate, makes abundantly clear, “God wills that the life-principle of our work be Christ Himself” and “the active life should be nothing but an overflow from the interior life.” And so in the apostolate that is the John Paul II Project, we need more than anything to depend on God's grace.
So let us both, you and I, increase our interior life in Christ Jesus, our God, so we can receive His abundance of grace and do His work in building the “Civilization of Love and Truth”!
Co-Founder | Director of Operations and Development
PS Here are the two latest on the JP2 Project Team :)
Pandemic. Fear. Racism. Riots. Violence. Suicide. Depression.
Life. Trust. Dignity. Peacemakers. Healing. Resurrection. Joy.
Some of us may be suffering greatly from the current circumstances or different painful trials that befall us. Some of us may be frustrated by the present, finding reason to cast blame and complain.
Christ tells us, “I will make all things new” (Rev 21: 5). The reality is that He invites us to transform this present world into a civilization of love and truth.
God is entrusting to you the task, at once difficult and uplifting,
How many of us are seeing a path to Christ? How many of us are actively spreading the light of Christ?
John Paul II has spoken vastly on upholding and defending the dignity of the human person, condemning violence and calling Christians to become peacemakers. Chances are high that you’ll find these themes in any given homily, letter to young people, or address to government leaders.
Though at the foundation and at the forefront of his teachings, you’ll hear John Paul II direct us to the Gospel message and exhort us to intimacy with Jesus. His words to little children, and his words to young people, in the following two addresses, strike me as most apt for us during these times.
Corpus Christi Homily for Little Children receiving their First Holy Communion. June 14, 1979
Message to Young People for the 17th World Youth Day in Toronto 2002.
Save to kindle, or download and print. Set aside some quiet time.
I highly recommend that in preparation for Solemnity of Corpus Christi, which we celebrate on Sunday, all- even our scholars and elders- meditate on that homily for children.
If you are finding yourself in constant discussion about the challenges and horrors of our present age, I recommend that message to young people.
We’ve been condemning and analyzing the darkness, with reason. Now, let us lift our gaze and be the light of Christ. Let us not undervalue, rather let us unleash, the power of the presence of Christ. Let us build the civilization of love and truth.
Please keep us in your prayers, as you are in ours.
Co-Founder | Executive Director
Have you heard it too many times? Are you numb to God’s Mercy?
What if you give Jesus a serious chance tomorrow, on Divine Mercy Sunday?
Saint John Paul II is widely known for his contribution to the fall of communism, the New Evangelization, his renown Theology of the Body. But the day he instituted "Divine Mercy Sunday" and canonized St. Faustina Kowalska 20 years ago, Pope John Paul II was widely reported as saying:
"This is the happiest day of my life!"
Encountering Jesus' Mercy is a cornerstone of every JP2 Project program. Next to our residence in Krakow is the epicenter of Merciful Love: the Divine Mercy Shrine, where Jesus appeared to Sister Faustina.
Marlena shares her powerful experience there from the Young Adult’s TOB Pilgrimage.
"Partaking in the JP2 Project’s “Young Adults TOB” pilgrimage was an incredible experience. To have been able to walk in the footsteps of St. John Paul II, learn about Theology of the Body as well as learn of Poland’s history from Dr. Houde and Father Zack was so enriching and provided a full picture of an incredible man who truly emulated Christ.
On the pilgrimage, I experienced a deeper love and more intimate relationship with Jesus and our Mother Mary as well as peace and clarity. Before going to Poland, I knew Jesus was always with me, but envisioned Him like a lifeguard; watching over us all but from a little bit of a distance. While at the Divine Mercy Shrine, that vision changed.
A sister of the Our Lady of Mercy congregation retold a story from St. Faustina’s diary. At the end, she mentioned we were standing where Jesus appeared to St. Faustina in order to experience for Himself all the greatness she was accomplishing. It really struck a chord in me as I had recently read that excerpt before going to Kraków and had been deeply touched. As we walked out of the building, the wind picked up and I felt a surge of peace like I was being enveloped in a big hug. Though my feet were firmly planted on the ground, I felt for a moment that I was not on Earth but somewhere else with Jesus. When the moment passed, I thought maybe I was just really excited and had imagined the moment because Jesus can’t come that close with so many to take care of and love.
Shortly after, each of us chose (at random) a slip of paper containing different excerpts from St. Faustina’s diary. Sister told us the message we chose would be either for us or someone we knew. I turned over my chosen slip and it said,
“I am with you” -Jesus (Diary, 36).
It was in that moment that I realized what I had experienced earlier was, in fact, Jesus. He is not distantly watching like a lifeguard but walking with and next to me. This was the first, of three times, He specifically made His Presence known to me during the pilgrimage which changed my life and relationship with Him.
I am more fully committed now to living a life of “being not afraid and opening the doors wide for Christ” as St. John Paul II said as well as trusting in the constant intercession of our Mother Mary. "
- Marlena, 30 years old, Youth Minister from Colorado Springs
Dear JP2 Project Family,
Thank you all so much for your prayers and support during this time. When the Global Level 4 warning was raised on March 19, the Embassy in Warsaw, Poland told all US citizens temporarily abroad to make arrangements to return home immediately. After finishing their time in Krakow on retreat mode, with extra time for private prayer in the JP2 Sanctuary, on the same campus as the residence, some "family bonding time", intensifying their theology course with our on-site co-director, Dr. Madden, and of course, struggles with impact of the pandemic on life plans, the last students returned home safely on March 29th.
Personally, I was deeply touched with how everyone worked together during this time. Even with the struggle, the students stayed strong and demonstrated more grace than they realize. It was also very encouraging (and a relief) to have the support of their parents, and working through this together. Then our staff: thank you, Lord. Witnessing how the Madden family took care of our students during this time was expected but nevertheless impressive. Then the last two students flew back together into Chicago, where our Director of Outreach, Mary Kathryn, was able to give them a warm welcome. Seeing how the spirit of hospitality, so important to our charism in the Project, was extended beyond the Project's "home" in Krakow, was a truly a confirmation of how the Spirit is working. (By the way, this brings me back to all the hospitality our family received from you all when we toured the US with the relic of John Paul II).
Where are we now? While the our young people were still eager to come journey in JP2's footsteps this year, the circumstances make it impossible. We had more people than ever signed up for our summer study abroad that we were considering if we needed to buy more beds in April to furnish the rooms before they arrived. As you know, most all universities now have cancelled study abroad for the summer- and some for the year- including those schools from where our students were coming.
Students: I know you are crushed, but keep your trust in Jesus and his plan for you. We are looking forward to having many of you in Poland next year!
We can't run programs in Poland this year. What are we doing? Well, for the most part, a lot of the same behind-the-scenes work as always. This is the time when those of us not in Krakow should be doing all the planning and preparations for the next year. We're hoping that this quiet time will give us the opportunity to spring forward for the future. We have a few little surprises this year as well, but you'll have to stay tuned to hear about them. :)
Please continue to support this mission during this time. If we are going to continue with these transformative programs after the pandemic settles, we need your support now! We cannot stop building the civilization of love and truth, in a culture plagued with isolation, despair, vice, darkness, confusion on the dignity of the human person, and rejecting God who brings freedom and life!
This comes with prayers for you, our JP2 Project family!
God bless you,
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Dear JP2 Project Family,
You may be wondering how the coronavirus is affecting our students or programs this year. The situation has shed light on the peace that comes from trusting in the Lord, and the ways in which God blesses this mission. We see:
1. Safety taken seriously. We are fortunate to receive professional risk management consulting from the inception of the Project's creation, from a global specialist (who is Catholic and supports the Project with this pro-bono service). We've had protocols in place - and continue to adapt them - to ensure the safety of our current staff and students abroad. Our professional support is a great help in assessing the developing situation and to carry forward with clarity.
2. We don’t fly solo. Our membership within the FORUM of Education Abroad has proven to be critical when it comes to developing and operating our study abroad programs according to standards of best practice in the field. The FORUM has provided us with excellent resources and insights into directives and peer decisions regarding implications of events surrounding coronavirus. It’s been extremely helpful to plug into their exclusive webinars and connect with expert peers in the field.
We recommend reading the letter the Forum issued to the CDC regarding study abroad recommendations and operating to serve students’ actual best interests.
3. Our current cohort is safe. The safety of our current students and staff abroad is our top concern, followed by their academic progress. Poland fortunately is one of the safest places to be in Europe right now. The on-site directors, Josh and Megan Madden, who live with their four children (ages 0-7), feel very safe not only in Poland, but also in our private residence hall. The “family” approach to community life is as important as ever, as the students have followed the emotionally packed media coverage. The university in Krakow has closed the buildings for 2 weeks as a preventative measure. Students are able to continue studies and look forward to resuming classes next to the Royal Castle soon!
4. Our small and private advantage: We are fortunate to have a small program that heavily focuses on clear and open communication, as in a healthy family. On a practical level, the size and nature of our program puts us at an advantage to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our students. One example is that we are able to manage the independent travel of students quite easily because of our policy of formally submitting requests for weekend trips for approval. Same for guests coming to the dorm. When the coronavirus outbreak happened, there was no need to freak out, nor did we need to implement a new system. It was simply a matter of specifying criteria based on current data for approving travel or visitors (i.e. no trips or visitors from Italy this semester).
5. Student Feedback for Upcoming Programs. Before making any rash decisions about cancelling or keeping our upcoming programs for 2020, in the spirit of our patron, we consulted with those whom it affects. On March 12th, we submitted a survey to all of our program applicants to gauge their feedback. The overwhelming response has been that students and pilgrims very much still hope to and plan on attending their program this year. Regarding study abroad, we’ve also begun reaching out to specific universities to ask whether or not they plan on running or cancelling their Summer or Fall programs. While few have already suspended all programming, the majority of schools are currently hoping to move forward with future programs in 2020.
6. Year of John Paul II. If the situation clears up soon, will run our programs for 2020. There will need to be no European travel bans at the time of our program dates, and be safe and advisable to travel. As everyone in the field has said, we have no crystal ball to tell the future. This is why we are very flexible for our deposits and payment deadlines this year, and ensuring that the travel insurances work in students’ favor. If the circumstances prohibit programming, then we certainly look forward to having these students and pilgrims in Poland next year, and offering some way for everyone to celebrate the Year of John Paul II in 2020.
7. Jesus, We Trust in You. The Lord has made it loud and clear that He wants this mission to continue. We are dedicated to forming young people as the builders of a civilization of love and truth, in the teachings and example of John Paul II- wherever and however God calls! We are not perturbed by this, rather we trust that even in the worst circumstances, God's great love can be made manifest. Sometimes bad things turn into great happenings, as we see in salvation history: from the crucifixion to resurrection!
In addition to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and John’s Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center, here are some links to other pertinent resources:
Thank you for your prayers and dedication to this beautiful mission!
God bless you,
Joe & Corinne MacDonald
Co-Founders of the John Paul II Project
In the JP2 Project, students don’t just hear about the truth, about holiness, about how life is meant to be lived. They are immersed in a deeply transformative environment, where they can actually live out their call to greatness! To become builders of a civilization of love and truth today, it’s not enough to know. The tide is much too forceful in the opposite direction. These young people have got to taste greatness, experience it over time and with others, know what it is like from within.
Only with the power of the Holy Spirit and your collaboration, is this possible.
Hear from Bernadette, the journalism student responsible for why our Instagram posts were so good last Fall:
" I had a weird feeling for a long time, what some would call "a calling" but I would call "a tugging", that I had to go back to Poland to finish college. The feeling came when I visited the Divine Mercy shrine during my spring break trip in March and looked out at the JP2 Center from the tower and the second time the day after Easter. I was never as scared in my life as I was in that moment when I knew that God wanted something from me, something I couldn’t explain until I came here.
I’ve been to Poland plenty of times before, as my parents were both born in this country and most of my immediate family still lives here. But this time was different. It wasn’t just a trip to visit family. This was an opportunity of a lifetime to discover and further from the roots that have been with me all my life. Poland has such a deep cultural history.
The Polish people have suffered greatly, something anyone can relate to. The art, architecture, culinary practices, the church, poetry, philosophy and theology reflect this tension and release from suffering. Out of the rough waves of history, a pearl was forming. Here, I learned so much about what makes man human. I studied John Paul’s Theology of the Body and met people from all over the world. I had late night conversations about what the good life means and I spent time with some of the most incredible people.
At the JP2 Project, I always felt at home. Our program directors are great examples and mentors to us: Dr. Madden brings his broad intellect and humor to dinner discussions, Megan would care for her newborn while telling us something fascinating about what she learned that day, and together they show us what good spouses and parents are. Their kids sometimes would run around in the common area and bring life to the space, reminding us of what it meant to be a kid again. The other students were amazing and each of us brought our unique personalities (and our quirks too!) and built a community together that truly cared for each other and aimed toward everyone wanting the best experience here in Poland for each other. We were also obsessed with playing Monopoly and I can’t believe I finally found a group of people who were willing to FINISH A GAME not once, but many many times.
During my time here, I felt as if I was cut wide open and renewed from within. I fell in love with reading again. I fell in love with photography again. I fell in love with so many things over and over again that had become numb and mundane over the course of time. There’s so much life and beauty in Krakow. It washed over me and gave me new eyes into knowing more about who I am and who I was meant to be. I still don’t know why I felt tugged to come here but I do know that it was good, and if it’s good then that means there’s no way God wouldn’t have wanted it.
I don’t know the effects that will come from being here; but I know that I prayed more during my time here, I loved others more, I trusted more, and I’m a better person now than I was four months ago. There is something absolutely beautiful about Poland and it’s not just a place for the Polish people — it’s a place that has so much to give to people from all over the world. "
— Bernadette Berdychowski, Kings College, NYC
Student Leadership in Poland's Capital
Just recently, we took a weekend pilgrimage to Warsaw. We invited another group of American students studying in Rome to join us. With growth in leadership being a theme of the John Paul II Project study abroad programs, we had the students lead parts of the pilgrimage and teach the group about different sites we were touring.
One of our students this semester, Bernadette, is an aspiring journalist and works as our social media intern. She is Polish-American with family in Warsaw and couldn’t wait to go on this pilgrimage and share her favorite city with us. She lead the main part of our tour, giving detailed historical information mixed in with some fun personal facts like what church her grandparents were married in!
Jacob, Peter, and Anna, our other American students who were less familiar with the city, had presented on specific sites they had researched.
Mixed in with the history, we had silence and reflections on homilies JP2 gave in various places. The most powerful was in Victory Square where JP2 called down the Holy Spirit on Poland. The people who actually witnessed this event say they truly could feel the Holy Spirit coming. When we read that homily out loud, standing in that very same square, we were all left in awe and silence as we felt the power of his words even to this day. From what I hear, the other JP2 Project alumni reading this must be reminiscing, “yes, I remember that happened to us too.''
POLISH PEOPLE AND CULTURE
The day of our long tour was ice cold and I found myself having to focus most on keeping my new baby warm, but I didn’t have to worry about the students: they had it covered and they loved leading, presenting, and receiving what Warsaw has to offer. In the evening we all dispersed among Polish host families who warmly welcomed us with traditional food, music, song, and stories of the old times in Poland. It was enlightening and refreshing to immerse ourselves more fully into the culture and learn more of the trials Poland has faced in the past on a more personal level.
IN OUR LADY’S HEART: FROM KOLBE TO CZĘSTOCHOWA
On Sunday, the last day of our pilgrimage, we went to where St. Maximillian Kolbe settled and worked. There is a special adoration chapel that we were all quite eager to visit. The chapel has a monstrance shaped like Our Lady, with the Host on her heart. It is considered one of the “Crowns of Mary” scattered throughout the world in places of suffering by a particular artist. Story has it that after this monstrance was made they found writings by St. Maximillian Kolbe about having a place like this, declaring it a chapel for people to come, kneel down, leave all their worries and petitions there and let Mary “take care of their business.” We couldn’t wait to spend time there in prayer, and to offer all our petitions to Mary. I felt this emphasis very fitting, knowing that just a semester ago the founders had consecrated The John Paul II Project to Our Lady in this very place. Just as John Paul was close to Mary’s Heart, so have we given her this project, along with our students.
We concluded the trip by visiting Jasna Gora, the place of the shrine of Our Lady of Czestechowa. Our time there felt so rapid, where hours felt like minutes. All felt drawn to participate in the pilgrim tradition of circling the altar of the Miraculous Image on one’s knees.Even my seven year old daughter, Felicity, felt compelled to share in this experience, insisting she wanted to do it with me. It was the perfect conclusion to our trip.
Back at the Sanctuary, just a few days later, I finished a 54 day rosary novena I had been praying for the Project and our student’s intentions, which had been written out and placed in an envelope before an icon of Our Lady in my living room. I think it’s safe to say Our Lady is close.
Krakow Program Director
NEW FAMILY ON BOARD
I’m writing this newsletter from the place we now call home in Michigan, USA! Our move has not lacked chaotic logistical maneuvering, given that we had to start completely from scratch (already 5 years into our marriage with 2 kids and zero wedding registry). What has also not lacked has been God’s overwhelming generosity of practical items, such as household donations from people we don’t know, a fantastic community with great new friends, and total peace about this decision.
Why? What’s happening to the program in Krakow while we’re gone? It is THRIVING. The Project has definitely upgraded with bringing in Megan and Josh to replace us, and they love their new mission and home. Meet them in this short video here:
OUR AMERICANS & EUROPEANS; SEMINARIAN & ATHEIST
We look forward to sharing the adventures of our Fall 2020 group, who have already started their semester with an exclusive international seminar on “Human Dignity and Rights” in Vienna, Austria run by World Youth Alliance (WYA). Our students received 4 of the 5 sponsored appointments for the Polish youth delegation.
Josh and Megan were living in Austria prior to joining the project, as Josh carried out further studies at the International Theological Institute (ITI), which was founded by Pope John Paul II himself! God’s timing was perfect in bringing in these Austria-savvy folk on board. Before the WYA seminar began, the Maddens took our students on a cultural and pilgrimage experience, which included off-the-beaten-path encounters at the ITI. They were enriched, had a blast, and set their journey abroad in the right direction.
Pray for our current students, that they may continue to be open for the life-transforming graces. We have a seminarian, Daniel from Slovakia, joining us, who is taking classes with our students at the Pontifical University of John Paul II through the Erasmus program for European study abroad. Through last Spring & Summer programs, another Erasmus student joined, Tereza from the Czech Republic. Far from Daniel’s position, she came to us as an atheist. Don’t miss out on reading her brief yet beautiful testimony here.
Know this little blog comes with prayers for our readers and JP2 Project family!
Co-Founder and President
Tereza came to Krakow from the Czech Republic through the European study abroad network called Erasmus. She would classify herself as a gamer, scholar of Medieval Church Archives, and atheist who was quite comfortable in her large apartment within her family home in the Czech Republic. When she saw an English-immersion housing opportunity with the JP2 Project, she was prompted to inquire...and then dared to join. Her time with us spanned the course of both the Spring and Summer terms of 2019. Here's the testimony of this woman we all fell in love with immediately and miss a lot.
“Over the last four months, thanks to JP2 Project, I've learned a lot of important information for my studies, but not just that. I went to the JP2 Project without expecting anything. All I needed at that time was a change. Change of my lifestyle and the way I look at it things that are happening around me all the time and in the whole world. I was probably the first non-Catholic person and, in fact, the first person with no faith at all, to join this project. I always thought that there is something beyond us, but I would never think about it the way I do now, without my adventure in Poland. Everyone who knew me thought I was crazy and maybe I was, but what I experienced with my new friends and my JP2 family showed me the opposite. Maybe it was a coincidence, maybe I knew deep down that I needed it and maybe it was the will of God that showed me the way. The JP2 Project allowed me to visit many places and experience a lot of unforgettable moments. I am not a Catholic and before I arrived in Krakow I knew little about my faith. It was all new to me, just to go to Mass and just try to speak to God; to meet so many amazing people from different countries, share our stories together and through that, discover trust, and realize how amazing and full of love is my life...I don’t have to be afraid of who I am and I should embrace it. I can open my heart and be the best person I can be. Although my path of faith probably just started, thanks to the Project, I believe that I am going in the right direction and again I believe that people can be good. Thank you" - Tereza, 24 years old
I honestly have the urge to start every newsletter with an appeal to join me in crying out, “THANK YOU, JESUS!”, followed by an extension of gratitude to all those who participate in the Project’s mission, by deed or prayer.
Our readers are interested in a bit more content than that. So I’ll try to summarize how God has given us reasons to be thankful.
Second summer study abroad term: successful beyond expectations. Our previous blog post mentioned how their time together, pilgrimaging through the "City of Saints", has been blessed beyond belief. Watch Dan's testimony here and more to come later!
We realized that we were too busy telling you about our first ever full semester study abroad group this past Spring 2019, that we never let you hear from them. To make up for it, we’ve published the full testimony of Justin Read, who came abroad after completing his undergraduate degree at Santa Clara University and before starting graduate school at The Augustine Institute. It is worth the read to understand what a full semester abroad can do.
TOB & FAMILIES
While on the firsts, we launched our first young adult Theology of the Body Program and our first Young Families Pilgrimage. Overwhelmingly full of grace and once again, exceeded our expectations by far. A book wouldn't suffice to capture the power of their experiences, but you’ll get to hear from them too. Not to be cliche, but it’s true that “life-changing” and “best time of my life” were used by participants of both programs.
I cannot omit a giant THANK YOU to those vital team members who joined to make those pilgrimages a success: Dr. Houde, featured in our promo video, Fr. Zack Swantek, a TOB expert and incredible chaplain, and our beloved board member, Fr. Spencer Howe, who served our families.
We also try to live our work in the programs with an attitude of learning and in a spirit of pilgrimage. This participation was on another level in the Young Families Pilgrimage, since Joe and I, with our 2 toddlers, form part of the target group! We cannot believe how beautiful and uplifting that time was for our family. We felt that God gave us the grace to relive the experience of John Paul II’s “Środowisko”, with the profound sense of community and authentic friendship. That was a primary goal, but it’s one that was only achieved by grace.
If you missed out on these, don’t feel bad. We are definitely repeating these two new programs next summer!
-Corinne MacDonald, Co-Founder & President
23. Where are you in the darkness?
22. Divine Mercy Sunday- 20 Years Later
21. Coronavirus Impact Update
20. Coronavirus Effects & Response
19. It's Not Enough to Know- Testimony
18. To Warsaw & Back Again- A Pilgrim's Tale
17. New Family on Board- Launching Fall 2019
16. Atheist Testimony
15. Summer Success
14. My Time Abroad, by Justin Read
13. Officially Consecrated, in Mary's City
12. Top 10 Semester Highlights of Spring 2019
11. Looking Forward in May
10. Institutions & Individuals, and You?
9. We Need Your Help to Get Some Wheels
8. Merry Christmas with a Testimony
7. Not Because of the Turkey, but seriously
6. Mercy Made Real on the US Tour
5. "This is Awesome. Can I do Something?"
4. Carrying the Torch Back to the USA
3. First Program: Mission Accomplished!
2. Springtime is beginning to dawn
1. Build for the Builders