Digital pilgrims take the virtual road to encounter

By Daniel Petrie, 31 December 2022
Amanda Bentley, CEDP Mission Partner, and Tim Hardy, CEDP Head, Leading and Learning lead the 'Encounter: Virtual Progressive Pilgrimage'. Image: CEDP/Supplied


“It was not suddenly and unannounced that Jesus came into the world. He came into a world that had been prepared for Him. The whole Old Testament is the story of a special preparation… Only when all was ready, only in the fullness of His time, did Jesus come.” – Phillip Brooks.

Advent calls us to spiritually prepare for Jesus to be born anew in the cradle of our hearts. The Mission Team at Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta set out to design a fortnightly formation program to answer this call.

As a result, an Advent-focused formation program titled Encounter: Virtual Progressive Pilgrimage was developed for school leaders and CEDP leaders. This virtual pilgrimage leads digital pilgrims along the road to Bethlehem through an immersion into key Advent-related Scripture passages and locations.

This Encounter program draws on the discernment processes of listening to the Holy Spirit as we respond to Bishop Vincent’s call to lead and discern together as a synodal church.

How does a virtual pilgrimage work?

This particular virtual pilgrimage is led by facilitators Amanda Bentley – CEDP Mission Partner, and Tim Hardy – CEDP Head, Leading and Learning. Each of the five sessions focus on one key passage and a key location in the Holy Land that reveals core moments in the Advent narrative that leads to the Nativity.

During each session, pilgrims are guided by the following process. The facilitator offers a brief contextual overview behind the passage and the significance of the particular location. Then the scripture process begins:

  1. Listen to the scripture passage
  2. Silently reflect on the passage
  3. Listen to the scripture passage once again
  4. Silently reflect on the passage
  5. Discuss in small groups ‘What have I heard from the Spirit speaking to me through the scripture passage?’
  6. Share as a large group ‘What have I heard the spirit speaking to me through the voice of others?’

At the conclusion of the five sessions, digital pilgrims are invited to gather face-to-face for a dinner of celebration and reflection on the pilgrimage that has led to table. Such a conclusion is reflective of the Road to Emmaus where Christ was made present through the breaking of bread together in a meal. This formula of journeying together in Word and Spirit was first brought to life when the first Virtual Pilgrimage was offered in Term 2 this year. After its first popular uptake, it was repeated in Term 3 with an even wider audience. The focus on Advent now provides a platform for a new direction in the footsteps of the Magi.

Being deeply open and listening with the ear of the heart to the Spirit provides pilgrims with moments of intimate connection and many have described it as a powerful experience in which to start the day with their God.

The scripture below acts as islands in time upon which the hour each fortnight is dedicated to explore and wander with the Spirit as we prepare to make a way for the Lord.

  • Isaiah 11:1-10 – Prophecy of Jesus foretold, Bethlehem
  • Luke 1:68-79 – Canticle of Zechariah, Temple, Jerusalem
  • Luke 1:26-38 – Annunciation, Nazareth
  • Luke 1:39-56 – The Visitation, Ein Karem
  • Matthew 2:1-12 – The Magi, Bethlehem

As we continue our journey of preparation, the Mission Team at CEDP would like to offer you our deepest blessings and prayers as we draw ever nearer to Bethlehem.

Virtual Pilgrim Reflections

Pilgrim 1:

“This experience has helped me create space within myself at a time when I would normally be so busy. As I have walked through the shopping centres and seen the Christmas decorations hanging, I would normally feel that time was ticking and I had to create my shopping plan to be ready. This year seeing the decorations, I find myself reflecting on the scripture we explored at our last Virtual Pilgrimage session. I really feel like I am making room for Jesus in my life.”

Pilgrim 2:

“The Virtual Pilgrimage has made a difference to my daily work life. After our time of stillness and reflection in the morning, I find I have a sense of inner peace that I carry with me throughout my day. I find I am more present to my staff. It is a journey that I highly recommend.”


Daniel Petrie is a member of the Mission Team at Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta.

From the beginning of 2023, Catholic Education Diocese of Parramatta will be known as Catholic Schools Parramatta Diocese Ltd.

This article was originally published in the 2022 Advent | Summer 2022 edition of the Catholic Outlook Magazine. You can pick up your copy of the magazine in parishes and offices across the Diocese of Parramatta now or you can read the digital version here.


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