By Briony & Jesse Mowbray
Dating back to the 9th Century, the Camino de Santiago is undoubtedly one of the best known and most walked of the world’s great pilgrimages. The number of pilgrims completing the journey has increased more than ten-fold over the past 30 years, reflecting the growing interest in pilgrimage throughout the world. But while places like Europe, with its long and rich Christian history, enjoy an abundance of pilgrimage sites, here in Australia such opportunities are few and far between.
The Epiphany Pilgrimage in the Diocese of Parramatta grew out of a desire among a small group of young people for a local pilgrimage deeply rooted in the Australian context. Through ongoing prayer, discernment and conversation, significant ideas began to converge and important aspects of the pilgrimage began to take shape. In the absence of a physical Christian history to mark the pilgrimage route, the spiritual aspect of the journey emerged with inspired clarity and the Feast of the Epiphany was chosen as the centrepiece of the pilgrimage.
The first Epiphany Pilgrimage took place in January 2016 when a group of nine pilgrims walked for six days through the heritage-listed Blue Mountains bushland from Our Lady of the Way Parish at Emu Plains to Sacred Heart Parish at Blackheath.
To view a gallery of photos, click here.
After each day of walking through the national park, the pilgrims emerged at one of the local parishes that punctuated the route where they experienced the welcoming hospitality of the Blue Mountains parishioners and spent time in prayer, adoration and fellowship. The journey provided an opportunity for pilgrims to engage profoundly with the Christmas season and, like the Magi, to journey in faith, to encounter Jesus and to respond in kind to God’s offering of himself in the Christ child.
The pilgrimage finished at a property in Bell, a small hamlet in the Blue Mountains. The property is the site of a new chapel, conceived as the church of living stones (1 Peter 2:5), which is to gradually take form over many years of pilgrimage along the Way of the Magi. Throughout the journey, each pilgrim had carried a stone, symbolic of their life, which they had placed before the Blessed Sacrament during adoration each night as a sign of their personal offering to Christ. At the chapel site, these stones were placed together for a final time to begin the construction of the Chapel of the Magi, making manifest the mystery of the Church built of living stones. Over the years to come, the chapel will stand as a witness to the faith of the pilgrims and as a living sign to the glory and majesty of God.
The planning for the 2017 pilgrimage from 2-8 January is well under way. There are many ways that you can participate, either as a walking pilgrim or in the evenings of prayer, adoration and fellowship. In 2017, the recently commissioned altar will be on site in Bell for the closing Mass and so you might want to come along and bring your stone to place. For more information, to register or to submit a prayer request (these are prayed throughout the pilgrimage), visit www.epiphanypilgrimage.org or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Meet some of the 2017 pilgrims:
Fr Piotr Kruk OP
Fr Piotr is a Polish Dominican priest serving in St Joseph’s Parish at Kingswood. With his great sense of fun and good humour, it was Fr Piotr who suggested that St Philip Neri (also known for similar qualities!) could be one of the patrons of the pilgrimage along with Blessed Pier Georgio Frassati and Our Lady of the Way. Fr Piotr participated in several days of the 2016 Epiphany Pilgrimage, but will be completing the full 100km pilgrimage in 2017.
Sr Rosie Drum MGL
Sr Rosie is a consecrated sister from the Missionaries of God’s Love who radiates with the joy of the Gospel. She is currently working with the youth of the Diocese of Parramatta as the Assistant Director of CYP. Sr Rosie completed the full 2016 pilgrimage and earned the nickname ‘Shortcut Sally’ (although her ‘shortcuts’ usually took longer than the main track!). Sr Rosie is in full physical and spiritual preparation for the 2017 pilgrimage.
Al and his wife Ally (affectionately known as A2) are parishioners at St Nicholas of Myra Parish in Penrith. Having been on a bus pilgrimage through the Holy Land back in 2011, Al has pilgrimage experience behind him – although the 100km walk does require a bit more leg work than the bus steps. Al is about the friendliest and most helpful guy you’ll ever meet, so he’ll be sure to give you a hand up any of the tricky bits on the 2017 walk!
To register for the Epiphany Pilgrimage, click here.