Student pilgrims prepare for Easter in Taizé

Prayer in the Church of Reconciliation at Taizé, Wikipedia Commons
Prayer in the Church of Reconciliation at Taizé, Wikipedia Commons

Students from universities and colleges throughout Britain are being invited to undertake a pilgrimage to Taizé for Holy Week and Easter. Chaplains in further education institutions are advising students that a coach will be picking up at Manchester and Birmingham, before heading for London from where they will leave Victoria Coach Station for Taizé in eastern France on Saturday 19 March.

“My experience is that it is around this time that students are starting to think about Easter plans,” says Fr Tim Byron SJ, the Chaplain at Manchester Universities’ Catholic Chaplaincy. “Because the Jesuits in Britain have agreed to underwrite the cost of running a coach for this year and students tend to book at fairly short notice, this means that we can take bookings right up to the last minute.”

Many university chaplains organise special events for the Easter period and Fr Tim believes that by being able to direct students to the Taizé pilgrimage, they will be free to concentrate on activities closer to home. The provision of a coach for university students also means that a pilgrimage to Taizé is viable, even if only one or two want to go. Although the fare for the coach is not free, by underwriting the cost of it, the Jesuits in Britain are guaranteeing the service will run and the cost of any empty seats will be covered. "Those who want to travel but can't cover whole cost will be put on a waiting list," explains Fr Tim, "and further subsidies will be available but we can't guarantee that until a week before. Also, students from outside the EU will need a Schengen visa to travel in France."

Prayer, sharing and community

The pilgrimage to Taizé over Holy Week and Easter is being organised by Metapilgrim, which specialises in facilitating pilgrimages and retreats throughout Europe. With a strongly ecumenical focus, Metapilgrim’s aim is to make a pilgrimage more accessible for those who might not otherwise consider or undertake such a journey. The social enterprise was co-founder by Andrew Walker who will be coordinating the logistics and will be accompanying the coach. “Andrew is trusted by the brothers in Taizé,” says Fr Tim, “and he has 20 years of experience in organising travel to Taizé. I will join them there for the Triduum.”

Founded in 1940 by Brother Roger Schütz, Taizé is known today as a place of pilgrimage, principally for young adults. The Taizé community is made up of more than 100 brothers, from Catholic and Protestant traditions, who originate from around 30 countries across the world. Each week, it is visited by thousands of visitors, generally between the ages of 17 and 30, for an experience of prayer, Bible study, sharing and communal work. Through the community's ecumenical outlook, they are encouraged to live in the spirit of kindness, simplicity and reconciliation.

The return coach to London, Birmingham and Manchester will depart from Taizé on the evening of Easter Sunday, arriving back in the UK the following day. Further information is on the Metapilgrim website, where bookings can also be made.