Mendicant pilgrim Ann Sieben is leading four men across Europe on foot for World Youth Day. Every week, we are updating you on their progress via their pictures and journal entries, which they are sending us throughout their journey. You can read the introductory post here.
Náměšť nad Oslavou, Czech Republic
The first night in the Czech Republic, no priest could be found. He lives in a different town, and was unavailable by phone. We appealed to the secular community of a few hundred inhabitants, were directed to the mayor, and after presenting a Czech translation of the archbishop of Denver’s letter of introduction and offered the use of the community hall. The mayor presented each of us a golden medallion of the town’s seal, a lapel pin with the coat-of-arms and some postcards of the prominent sights.
We put our collective languages out on the table—English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, a bit of Italian, a bit of Polish…we’re met with their languages and hope to find some commonality. It’s the best we have to offer in the Czech Republic. Sometimes we devolve to signs and laughter. It’s a myth that English, the language of the world, is spoken everywhere we get by.
It’s been a UNESCO World Heritage week for us. We passed through the fairytale town of Český Krumlov and spent the night in a hidden gem. Franciscan sisters care for a historic Marian shrine in Kasov where Philadelphia’s St. John Newman visited on pilgrimage. We slept in the converted stables.
We then followed up with stays in the UNESCO towns of Telč and Třebíč—world heritage under our feet—a 12th century Benedictine monastery.
We stumbled into a weekend blueberry festival—of all things—and couldn’t find the priest. Helpful young town greeters got us to the sacristan, who cheerfully opened his doors—his generations old complex with horses, chickens, and garden orchards—for a comfortable night’s stay. His one year long ago spent working in Cuba gave him the foundation in Spanish to have a language common to all of us. His service to the Church represents the latest in a long, uninterrupted line of the men of his family serving as sacristans in the same parish.
The atmosphere of the Czech Republic is noticeably different; there’s a different vibe than in Italy or Austria. People seem very reserved—not greeting each other in the street, but open up warmly when approached.
We are 1,641 kilometers from Rome (wow!) on our 54th day of walking. Only 12 days to Krakow, only one week to Poland’s border.