On 2 January 2018, a group of pilgrims gathered at Our Lady of the Way Parish, Emu Plains to begin a spiritual and physical journey that would prove to be both inspiring and challenging in an adventure that would take them to eight parishes over seven days. This is the Epiphany Pilgrimage.
The Epiphany Pilgrimage provides pilgrims with the opportunity to engage with the Christmas season and prepare for the Feast of the Epiphany by taking the time to focus on listening to God’s voice, experiencing the beauty he has created in our surroundings, and enjoying the companionship of people who each come with their own stories and reasons for joining the pilgrimage.
One pilgrim, Fran Warner said: “I knew no one else who planned to walk this journey. I saw it as a great opportunity to meet others, particularly women and men of faith, who loved bushwalking. But also, as a great time to walk alone for part of each day. And it was a bonus that the pilgrimage would include prayer, Eucharist and a chance to visit and meet parishioners at the various Blue Mountains parishes.”
As is the tradition, the journey from Emu Plains to Bell starts with the pilgrims meeting each other and celebrating the Opening Mass together at Our Lady of the Way Parish, Emu Plains.
The pilgrims then set out armed with the prayer intentions of the parish and a stone that they will carry for the duration of the journey.
Over seven days and covering a distance of 110 kilometres, the pilgrims make their way up the mountain, on foot. Every day the pilgrims break their journey at a different parish where they meet the wonderful parish communities with whom they share Adoration, fellowship and Mass.
The theme of each night focuses on a different aspect of the Epiphany.
The pilgrims then share a meal before they retreat to their sleeping bags and swags for a well-deserved rest.
Before they leave the parish the next morning, the pilgrims celebrate Mass with the community and collect the prayer intentions of the parishes communities that they visit to carry with them on their pilgrimage.
Anne Tunks is a pilgrim who completed the journey in 2018: “During the seven days of the Pilgrimage, I found myself reflecting on my childhood where daily Mass and saying the evening Rosary were common place.
“I was intrigued to hear the stories from the other pilgrims and to try and work out what it is that keeps people connected to their faith – especially younger ones when there is so much competition for their time and attention. I found it inspiring to learn of other people’s struggles and I believe that all of us were united in a common search for a deeper connection with our faith.”
Every day, new pilgrims join the walk and pilgrims leave the walk, some walk the entire journey from start to end.
Every pilgrim has a different reason for beginning the journey and each pilgrim joins the walk according to their own needs, abilities, and capacities.
The journey officially ends at the Chapel of the Magi in Bell. It is here that the pilgrims leave the stones they have been carrying with them throughout the journey. The stones are added to those brought by pilgrims who have previously made the journey. As the stones increase in number, the altar of the Chapel of the Magi is formed.
The pilgrimage ends with a Mass that the pilgrims share with their friends, families and people from the communities they have met along the way.
In 2019 we will be blessed to have the Bishop of Parramatta, Bishop Vincent Long OFM COnv join the Epiphany pilgrimage on the final day to celebrate the close of the journey with us.
“Along the roads, through tracks, up steps, over logs, climbing ladders, the Rosary, marvelling at snatches of views, the birds calling, the Angelus, the trees straight and tall or stunted by the winds, with the cicadas noise that silenced everything else, we journeyed. The packs with water and rocks were an intentional and necessary burden, one to help focus our reason for walking and the other to refresh us regularly,” Patsy Di Mattina said. Patsy completed the pilgrimage in 2018.
“This Armenian Church reflection, for me is the essence of the pilgrimage: ‘These three wise men from the East set an example that we are still called to follow today. To trust, journey, seek, worship and offer the gift of our lives to the King of Kings’ (The Epiphany Pilgrimage Journal 2018, page 16).”
Registrations are now open for the 2019 Epiphany Pilgrimage (2 – 8 January 2019). We would love to welcome you on the journey with us.
Registrations close on Sunday, 9 December 2018 or when the pilgrimage reaches capacity.
The full testimonies and experiences shared by previous pilgrims can also be found on the website.
By The Epiphany Pilgrimage Team
Registrations for the 2019 Epiphany Pilgrimage (2 – 8 January 2019) are currently available on the Registration page. Registrations close on Sunday, 9 December 2018 or when the pilgrimage reaches capacity.
Blue Mountains Epiphany Pilgrimage
By Guy Di Mattina (2018 pilgrim)
Let’s not be slack
get out your pack
on a pilgrimage we can go,
the Blue Mountains calling
loose rocks are falling,
I think to Bell we should go.
Its all been arranged
by persons deranged
and a list of things we should take,
there’s toothbrush and soap
and a heart full of hope
and a rock that I can’t quite explain.
Its just a few days,
One hundred and ten K’s.
It’s not far if you say it quite quick.
In Church halls we camp
so we don’t get too damp.
and a Church for a prayer for the cramp
The food is divine
delivered on time,
and man can these mountain women can bake
there’s trifle and cake
its worth the backache
just to feast on the tucker and wine.
As we go along there’s a Dominican named Dom
imparting scripture and grace with a smile.
Mass in the morn after breaky at dawn
just to set us right for the day.
Then there’s Benediction at night
and prayers to sleep tight
It’s the old fashioned pilgrim way.
What more could one ask to tackle the task
Well this would be top of my list, a mattress much thicker
So sleep would come quicker
as my hip seemed to rest on the floor
but it’s all for the best
in Heaven we’ll rest
as for me I’m not so sure
but I’ll do my best
and I’ll hope for the rest
and God will tally the score.