By Natashya Fernandez
It was the spiritual journey of a lifetime for eleven Year 10 and 11 students and staff from Holy Cross College (HCC), Ellenbrook who retraced the steps of Dom Rosendo Salvado in April during Holy Week.
The group walked 120 kilometres of the ancient pilgrimage route, the Spanish Camino de Santiago, from Tui to Santiago de Compostela.
With strong links to the New Norcia Benedictine community and in honour of Dom Salvado who used to walk from New Norcia to Perth to help support and sustain the community, the students and staff of HCC were able to experience what the Camino pilgrimage was all about.
The second Camino de Santiago pilgrimage for the College, Principal Mandy Connor said that the first Camino pilgrimage took place in 2014 to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Dom Rosendo Salvado.
“The College hopes to offer the experience of the Spanish Camino to senior students every couple of years,” she said.
As one of the pilgrims this year, Ms Connor said that she was privileged to make the journey together with the students to understand the liturgies and processions in the Spanish tradition.
“Pilgrimage is an important faith practice at Holy Cross College. Our aim is to engage and encourage students to encounter God, themselves and others and to reflect on their experiences,” she said.
The first day saw students and staff enjoy the sights and sounds of Lisbon before moving on to Tui, the birthplace of Dom Salvado where they reported to encounter a peaceful calm and serenity.
It was there that they visited the statue of Dom Salvado, toured Tui Cathedral as well as many old churches before settling in for the night for the biggest part of their journey.
Commencing the Camino on Palm Sunday, Ms Connor said that the group attended Palm Sunday Mass and were blessed by a local priest as they headed off to their first destination, O’Porriño.
While students and staff faced a few challenges along the way, Ms Connor said it didn’t deter their spirit and the importance of why they were making the pilgrimage.
“We were greeted along the way by locals who wished us in Spanish saying, ‘Buen Camino’, which means ‘good journey’. This gave a great sense of community and welcome,” she said.
Hitting the half way mark on the third day of their journey in Arcade, the group set off for the city of Pontevedra and on the journey encountered their first Australian pilgrims.
The last leg of the journey saw the pilgrims celebrate Holy Thursday in Caldas de Reis and Good Friday in Padrón, where they walked along the Camino and reflected on Jesus’s life, teachings and the crucifixion.
Exhausted from the last six days, it was a welcome relief for the pilgrims as they reached Santiago de Compostela and Ms Connor said the students cheered each other and felt accomplished and overjoyed all at the same time upon seeing the Cathedral.
Being truly thankful for the opportunity to have taken the trip, student Meagan Jones said that to be on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage offered her many opportunities to build relationships with others, to be surrounded by nature and God.
“The Camino was a truly life-changing and memorable experience that I will take with me for the rest of my life,” she said.
Staff member, Simon Falcone, reflected that he was truly grateful to have been part of an experience that can offer such a spiritual value as well as a challenging physical journey.
“I will cherish the opportunity to share this pilgrimage with a group of students who were determined and resilient in accomplishing the Camino De Santiago,” he said.