First Austin Taizé pilgrimage unites Christian denominations

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This spring, Campus Ministry and St. Edward’s University students experienced first-hand the Taizé Pilgrimage of Trust while the Taizé spiritual community gathered in Austin March 21-23.

“Our students had a wonderful opportunity to partake in this unique Christian ecumenical community,” Associate Director of Campus Ministry James Puglisi said. “It embraced Christians of all denominations in promoting peace, reconciliation and solidarity while deepening one’s personal faith.”

The Taizé community is originally from Taizé, France, which for the last 40 years has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of young adults between the ages of 18-35. Every year the Brothers of the Taizé community lead a pilgrimage to other areas of the world to engage in meditative prayer and promote peace.

Students at St. Edward’s have been involved in the Taizé community in various ways since the community started, but this year Campus Ministry helped facilitate bringing the pilgrimage to Austin and met with brothers from the Taizé community for preliminary planning. 

“This semester, two volunteers from the Taizé community came and met with classes here at St. Edward’s, attended our campus prayers and let the community know about the upcoming Pilgrimage in Austin,” Reverend Jennifer Veninga of Campus Ministry said.

The Pilgrimage was a momentous opportunity for Campus Ministry, the students from St. Edward’s who attended and the thousands of people all over the world that joined and rejoiced.

“This will perhaps be the one time in our lifetime that the Taizé community makes a visit to Texas,” Puglisi said. “And students did not have to travel to France to participate in the work of this unique faith community.”

Freshman Gabrielle Castillo attended the Taizé pilgrimage and felt the experience was well worth it.

“I met some amazing people from other universities, as well as having the opportunity to worship with people who are of different Christian backgrounds. It was amazing seeing all of this come together at the Taizé pilgrimage,” Castillo said. 

Students initially became involved in the Taizé community through participating in meditative prayer services. These services were a focus of the recent pilgrimage and are characterized by repetitive songs that are designed to calm participants down, allowing them to internalize the words and embrace God’s presence.

“Most recently, a group of students have participated in our bimonthly Taizé prayer services on campus,” Veninga said.

As a result of the Taizé pilgrimages, this form of prayer and worship is now being used as a model for spiritual groups around the world.

“Times of silence remind us that our Christian faith is not a series of abstract ideas, of principles or rules, but a love relationship with God to be lived in a unique way by each one of us,” Puglisi said. “For our young adults, it is a unique opportunity to live a deep spiritual experience and meet so many other young adults from all over North America who are searching for God.”