Cristina grew up a stone’s throw from the famous Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. She always knew she wanted to walk the trail one day. Here she shares how walking the Camino helped her find her inner strength.
The Camino de Santiago (the Way of St James) is a large network of ancient pilgrim routes. The roads stretch across Europe and come together at the tomb of St. James (Santiago in Spanish). Santiago de Compostela is in Galicia, north-west Spain, where tradition has it that the remains of the saint are buried. Many follow its routes as a form of spiritual path or retreat for their spiritual growth.
About 250,000 people walk all or part of the centuries-old Camino de Santiago trail across the Spanish countryside every year in a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The motivations vary. Some undertake it as a religious pilgrimage. There are hikers who walk the route for travel, sport, or simply the challenge of weeks of walking in a foreign land.
Throughout England and Wales, hundreds of people are getting ready to Share the Journey with refugees by planning walks in solidarity with those forced to flee. Our free guide can help you organise your own walk – by yourself or in a group, as long as you want and wherever you want! To give you some ideas here are some of our favourite walks.
Jeremy: A walk from Seahouses to Low Newton, Northumberland
For some the Northumberland coast conjures up images of horizontal rain and freezing winds. Instead, imagine long stretches of golden sands, dunes teeming with wildlife and cosy coastal villages.
Park the car at Seahouses, head down to the harbour, trying to resist the ice cream and fish and chip shops, and turn right. The beauty of this walk is that that’s just about all the directions you’ll need: keep the sea close on your left and you’ll be fine!
Once you get to Beadnell harbour- and as long as the tide is out- you can drop down to the beach. If you’re walking with children this is going to slow you down seriously, as they stop to do all the things kids do on beaches, but that’s all part of the fun!
This year, November marks the end of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. Leah Parker-Turnock spoke to one CAFOD supporter, Judith Tooth, who was inspired by her faith to undertake a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago to stand in solidarity with refugees.
Central to Judith’s pilgrimage were those affected by the global refugee crisis. “Walking a pilgrimage can be challenging,” said Judith. “But it’s nothing compared to the perilous journeys so many refugees face. As I walked the long, hot road, I tried to imagine being on such a journey, and, worse, being separated from my four children, not knowing when, or even if, I’d see them again. It was unbearable to think about. And thousands of families are still trying to escape war, poverty and persecution, often only to be met by hostility and further hardship.”
Judith carried a special cross on her journey – the Lampedusa cross. In 2013, hundreds of refugees who were fleeing Eritrea and Somalia drowned off the coast of Lampedusa. Francesco Tuccio, a carpenter from the small Italian island, was moved to gather the driftwood from the wrecked boats and turn them into crosses. He offered the crosses to survivors as a symbol of their rescue and a sign of hope.
The cross was also a powerful symbol for Judith throughout her pilgrimage: “I fixed the 30cm cross to my backpack along with my scallop shell – the symbol of the pilgrim route. Fellow pilgrims were profoundly moved when I explained to them that the carpenter had offered the crosses he’d made to survivors as a symbol of their rescue and a sign of hope, and that I was carrying one of those crosses to continue that message of hope.
Susan Kambalu works in our schools team, and recently joined CAFOD schools volunteers reflecting on the refugee crisis with our Lampedusa Cross pilgrimage resource. She describes her thoughts and feelings as she went through the stations.
“Look down at what you are wearing. If you have a bag with you, consider what is in it.”
It was a warm day; I wore a dress and cardigan but no jacket, and soft shoes. They would not last long if I had to flee like Amina, a refugee in Darfur; if the weather changed I would have no protection against the elements. I happened to have my passport in my handbag that day, an unusual occurrence for me, but an important document that links me to the country of my birth. I had my house keys: but what use would they be if I could not go home? My wallet had a few coins, a bank card, a passport photo of my husband – the money would not get me far, neither would the contents of my bank account if I could no longer go to work. My mobile phone would provide a link with my family, directions to another destination, photos that would provide me with memories of my life and home – but only until the battery ran out, as I had no charger with me.
What prompted me to reflect on my clothes, my handbag? To wonder how I would get on with only the items I had with me, away from home? I was taking part in our new Lampedusa Cross refugee pilgrimage, an ideal opportunity to reflect on “welcoming the outsider” during this Year of Mercy.
It has been a privilege to be involved in this term’s training days for our school volunteers. Last week I spent the day with about fifteen volunteers in Portsmouth diocese; last month I spent a day visiting our Birmingham volunteers. Over the past term, 100 schools volunteers have been trained in leading this poignant pilgrimage. They now have the resources to support your local Catholic primary or secondary school in learning more about the current refugee crisis and praying for those looking for a safe place to stay.
CAFOD volunteer Kris Pears from Coventry went on a pilgrimage to Walsingham and spoke to fellow pilgrims about the Lampedusa cross
“Hello my name is Kris and I am a CAFOD volunteer”, an opening line that I have used many times in the past, but this time it was very different.
Pentecost Sunday 2016 was the third and final day of the weekend pilgrimage to Walsingham by my parish, St Thomas More’s. The day before I had been privileged to serve Mass for Bishop Robert Byrne at the climax of the Archdiocese of Birmingham’s Diocesan day pilgrimage to the shrine. This morning the crowds had gone and as we left Elmham house to walk the pilgrims’ mile down to the shrine.