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A TASTE OF INDIA
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THIS IS THE sentiment of four local
women preparing to walk the world
famous Camino de Santiago (Way of
St James) in May. It reflects both the
simplicity and profundity of the journey
they have chosen. Like thousands of
pilgrims through the centuries, whom
some might call 'a cloud of witnesses',
they will walk part of this sacred journey.
I spoke to April, Carolyn, Mary and
Bernadette some two months before they
planned to leave. In the midst of excited
conversations about the most suitable
backpacks, books they were each reading
to prepare, and fitness plans, there was a
deep sense of the inner journey.
These four independent women should
be an ideal pilgrim group. They include a
former geography teacher, nurse, massage
therapist and IT specialist, each relying on
the skills of the others to help her through.
It is their common thread of pastoral
ministry that has brought them together.
Bernadette works with Uniting Care; Mary,
Carolyn and April are in Pastoral Care at
the Calvary Mater Hospital. Like other
pilgrims before them, the decision to walk
the Camino is intensely personal.
For Mary, the Camino offers the
opportunity to walk a path, travelled by so
many before her, to feel again the deep
connection with life.
Bernadette hopes "the weather is fine, but
importantly, this is a time to reflect and
move from the business of a working day,
to listen to the silence and to absorb the
history of this great pilgrimage."
Carolyn is "looking forward to being open
to the experience of a simple lifestyle, to
April, a mother of three, is particularly
conscious of the impact on her children.
"I need to step out of my busy life and
be nourished...but I also hope it will
encourage them to seek out their
The pilgrim route begins in St Jean Pied
de Port in France. For these women
however the journey will start in Sarria.
Time constraints necessitate that on this
occasion they are unable to walk all 798
kms of the path. But in many ways this
pilgrimage began the day they each said,
"Yes, I will go." The physical, mental and
spiritual preparation needed to undertake
this journey began over a year ago.
A feature of this particular Camino is the
choice of nightly accommodation: rustic
style family homes. The hosts provide
meals and an opportunity to learn a little
about the local way of life. Bernadette is
providing small gifts for the host families
as a sign of goodwill.
All four share a strong sense that what
may follow the Camino experience is as
important as the walk itself.
As April said, "I believe that everyone is
on their own pilgrimage. Each of us has
had significant challenges in our lives that
we have had to navigate. Like our stories,
the path ahead is winding, uncertain and
possibly dangerous. However, in trusting
this process, surrendering to the mystery
of the Camino, we are open to its gifts
for transformation. This is an invitation
available to everyone..."
"We have nowhere to sleep, until we walk."
By TRACEY EDSTEIN
Legend has it that St James the
apostle fled persecution in the Holy
Land and came to northern Spain.
There, he preached the gospel until
his return to Jerusalem, where he was
martyred in 44CE. His remains were
brought back and buried in Spain,
where in the 9th century they were
rediscovered in a field indicated by a
bright star. Santiago de Compostela
means "St James of the star field".
Pilgrims and penitents have made
the pilgrimage to Santiago -- the most
arduous in Europe -- since medieval
times, when they would gather at
monasteries to travel in groups for
safety. Four routes through France meet
at the Spanish border. Pilgrims carry a
shell, the symbol of St James, as it is
said that an early pilgrim who fled to
the sea to escape vagabonds returned
to land covered in shells.
Jennifer Westwood, On Pilgrimage:
Sacred Journeys Around the World
April, Mary, Carolyn, Bernadette.
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
April 2011 | No.101
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