21 July 2016 brought nearly 200 pilgrims from the United States (Diocese of Cheyenne, Wyoming state), Italy (Apulia region), Africa (Gabon), and Lithuania to Vilnius to make a pilgrimage along the Way of Mercy before travelling to Krakow for World Youth Day with Pope Francis. The day began with visits to St. Faustina’s House, where the Divine Mercy Chaplet was prayed. The pilgrims then heard a talk on the Divine Mercy at the Vilnius Cathedral; Fr. Lukas Laniauskas, SJ, a Lithuanian-American who currently works in Chicago, spoke to the Americans and Lithuanians, as Justin Gough, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Baltimore who is in formation for the priesthood at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, gave a similar presentation to the Italians and Africans.
The Way of Mercy took these pilgrims across the holy sites of Vilnius, including St. Michael’s Church (Church Heritage Museum), the Convent of the Sisters of Merciful Jesus, the Church of the Holy Spirit, St. Johns’ Church, and the Gate of Dawn. Local Lithuanians, nuns and priests, helped guide the pilgrims across the city, providing historical and personal insights along the way. The pilgrimage concluded with Holy Mass at the Shrine of Divine Mercy, celebrated by Bishop Arūnas Poniškaitis. In his homily (preached in both English and Italian), Bishop Poniškaitis reminded those gathered of the humility of St. Faustina and how blessed the People of God are today to see the image of Jesus that she herself had commissioned.
After the Mass, the day was brought to a close at Domus Maria with an evening of cultural heritage, as the pilgrims from near and from far tasted local Lithuanian cuisine, American S’mores, Italian appetizers and danced to traditional music. The Americans even gave the Bishop a soft toy of the mythical Wyoming jackalope (a rabbit with antlers), for him to remember them and, as to be expected, Italians brought a wine from their region. Pilgrims of Wyoming also had a sign of their pilgrimage showing similarities between the state of Wyoming and the Republic of Lithuania, which are as area codes – 307 and 370 and bucking horse and rider – one of the symbols of Wyoming and Vytis – coat of arms of Lithuania (an armour-clad knight on horseback holding a sword and shield).
Photo album of the event.