As I neared the final stretch of my walk with my host Fabian Hiscox, I encountered a waterways chaplain for the first time. These volunteers, organised by Watford Churches Together, put their faith into action by ministering to the needs of the people who live, work, fish, cycle, walk on or near the canal.
Walking alongside chaplain Malcolm Lee, I got yet another view on canal life. Although the role of waterways chaplain was unfamiliar to me, it was clear that the same human needs and problems are found everywhere.
It also provided another opportunity to discuss how campaigning can also be a way of expressing faith in action. When I tell people about my walk, they expect that I will be fundraising. But for many, campaigning is new and unexpected.
And then the rain set in, my companions left and I was walking alone again. Just as at the start of the journey when I set off on my own, it wasn’t long before something happened to cheer me up.
My phone rang. The news that we now had over 50,000 actions – and were still counting – gave me a real lift. I felt so proud to be associated in some small way with the successes of this Thirst for change campaign.
At the weekend, I spoke at four masses, to a Hoxton parish with more than 50 different nationalities. I shared stories from the campaign and encouraged people to take action. I sat at the front, so couldn’t see how people were responding. But then I heard a footsteps and a rustling behind.
Father Mark had rushed out to the cupboard for supplies and was handing out pens. This was the first time on the whole pilgrimage that I ran out of cards, and had to used disgarded blank water droplets for people to write their messages to David Cameron.
On my final day of walking, I was joined by my parish priest Father Eddie Clare, Rachel McCarthy from CAFOD’s campaign team and Lemlem Berhe Tsegay from CAFOD partner organisation the Adigrat Catholic Development Service in Ethiopia (all pictured above) and CAFOD Director Chris Bain. It was wonderful to share the last few miles with them.
At every stage of the walk, whatever companions I’ve travelled with, we have always shared a version of the Pilgrim Prayer – and, now that my walk is over, I share it with you now:
Open our eyes Lord to see your glory
Open our lips Lord to sing your praises
Open our ears Lord to hear your call in the voices of those without water.
Then guide us on your pilgrimage of faith that, with the help of the Holy Spirit,
we may walk with Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life
And find freedom in His service.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, Amen.