Three brave Methodist Ladies’ College (MLC) students and a group of teachers embarked on a journey of strength, spirituality and community building in September, as they took part in the Camino alvado Pilgrimage. The pilgrimage begins at St Joseph’s Church in Subiaco and ends in New Norcia, and exists in the spirit of the Camino de Santiago, an ancient pilgrimage through Spain and France.
Rev Hollis Wilson, a Uniting Church chaplain at MLC, with the help of a few teachers, led the pilgrimage, which required participants to walk for 20kms a day before being picked up and taken back to camp at Swanleigh, in the Swan Valley. Each morning they would drive to the starting point of the next 20km section, walking from about 9.30am–3.30pm for five days, before arriving at New Norcia.
The surroundings provided a great space for the students to engage with each other, their teachers and their spirituality.
“You’re walking through everything,” Hollis said. “Sometimes we were walking through national forest, through fields and canola fields. So the girls got to see everything.
“You got to have these great conversations as we walked”
Each day was set around a theme, with no rules for how to interpret that theme, but the freedom to express it however they felt moved. Themes included topics such as Salvado and service, chocolate, looking back, water, community and home.
“We just gave the girls the theme and they could take it where they wanted,” he said.
“We’d talk about it during the day as we walked. At night the girls did drawings and things like that on the theme. We left it open; the pilgrimage is really the way that you want to proceed.”
An interesting action played out on one of the days, as one of the students and a teacher decided they would carry a log on the journey. Hollis described the act as a “spiritual discipline”, as they took turns in carrying it along the way.
Upon arriving at New Norcia, the pilgrims had their feet washed in the abbey, right near Salvado’s tomb.
Hollis said that the participants and their families were appreciative of the opportunity to be part of the experience, which wasn’t just a school camp or outdoor education, but focussed solely on growing and exploring spiritually and building deeper relationships.
Milly McAuliffe, one of the students on the trip, was also grateful for the experience to grow as a person.
“The trip began a couple of days after the last of our exams and was an opportunity for self-reflection, to test our strengths and weaknesses, and to form closer bonds with those who travelled with us,” she said.
The Camino Salvado is an initiative of St Joseph’s Church, Subiaco.
There will be two pilgrimages running in 2016, in August and September.
To find out more visit http://www.caminosalvado.com/.
Top image: Foot washing on arrival at the Abbey at New Norcia.