All in Pilgrimages


Here we have a photograph of the Pilgrims who visited the Hermitage in France in April 2010 as part of our Champagnat Pilgrimage. You can see we are standing near the Gier River, not far from the front entrance to the Hermitage, sharing our Good Friday liturgy together. It was a memorable experience.

The final pilgrim"s meeting taking place in LA Airport USA

The final meeting for the Pilgrims took place in LA Airport shortly before boarding the plane for Melbourne. It was a great opportunity to tie everything together and to round off an exceptional three weeks. John thanked and congratulated the Pilgrims on the manner in which they had entered into the whole experience, the sense of togetherness and community that had developed, the personal care shown to all (especially when a number became sick in the last few days), the manner in which everyone accepted each other irrespective of their different personalities and for the manner in which the Pilgrims allowed John and Marie to lead them. John also thanked Marie for the personal care that she showed to all and for picking up all of the left over pieces.

Br Cesair telling the pilgrims about the assassination of Oscar Romero.This is the altar at which Oscar Romero was saying mass when he was shot.

An outside view of the church.








Today began for many of us with a return visit to San Alfonso, the school that adjoins the Retreat Centre. The students and staff had been so generous with us the day before and were keen for some more visitors to their English classes. This visit was then followed by an excursion to the Church where Archbishop Romero was assassinated. It was quite moving to stand in that Church and look upon the altar behind which Romero was standing when he was killed. The beauty of the fronds from the trees that surround the church, and are incorporated in the architecture of the building through large windows, formed a poignant backdrop as we imagined Romero celebrating Mass and dying in this place.

Yesterday we bid extremely fond farewells to Br Edgardo – his humour, compassion and sense of fun were gifts to us – and made our way to El Salvador. As we crossed the border, we noticed that while the Guatemalan officials wrote out our passport details by hand, the El Salvadoran migration officials had computers. The border crossing also brought us better roads and thus our first impression of this place, new to us, was that it seems to have much better infrastructure than its neighbour. After lunching at a Marist school in Santa Ana (the second largest city in this densely populated country), we then visited a shopping mall and a petrol station – El Salvador was starting to look a great deal more like a place that we could recognize…

What a day. Our Pilgrimage reached its apex with our visits to two Marist schools in Guatemala City and a visit to the Hermanistas.

It was interesting to watch the inner and somewhat dormant teacher in us all come to life at the two schools we visited. We had the chance to mingle with students and staff and learn about the challenges and triumphs of Marist education here in Guatemala. The students were pleased and proud to practise their English skills with us and we were made to feel very welcome.

We have found a land of incongruous contrast in Guatemala. The vivid colours and beauty of the plants and mountains juxtapose with the myriad of armed security guards, barred windows and razor wire that encase almost every building in Guatemala City. We sleep at night behind high walls, iron gates and supported by a security guard.


Buenes Dias!

Early to rise Pilgrims had a scrumptious breakfast with a large number of other tourists in this ‘soft tourist’ destination. We walked the few steps to the markets and spent two hours weaving our way from one stall to another – what a magical tapestry of colours and smells! The crowds of early morning locals were clearly of Mayan descent and the tallest reached only to our shoulders. All Pilgrims, no matter how far scattered among the stalls, found their way to the Church which rose above the market-place. The strong smell of incense and the sound of bells were irresistible and some Pilgrims joined the Sunday service with the locals – but no-one lasted the three hour Mass.


We set off in a much larger bus (a coach by anyone’s standard) for Antigua and Chichicastenango. We arrived in Antigua just before lunch and spent time shopping for souvenirs and soaking in the Mayan village experience. Br Edgardo who accompanied us had warned all Pilgrims that pick-pockets were rife. Well, Paul Herrick can account for the accuracy of this advice! Having just jumped off the coach, Paul was persuaded to have his shoes polished by a small boy. He quickly discovered that his wallet was no longer in his pocket and he desperately looked for the local ‘tourist police’ to report the atrocity. The police were terrific and found the culprit and Paul’s wallet was returned – a lesson for all!

On Tuesday morning we arose bright and early, ready to set off to Rome for the next part of our Pilgrimage. We arrived at Lyon in plenty of time for our flight to London, where we would then catch another flight from London to Rome.

Excitedly, we boarded the plane and, excited by what was to come in Rome, we awaited take off. After 30 minutes on the tarmac, we realized that something wasn’t going quite as planned. It was then that we heard an announcement, stating that a minor technical hitch with the aircraft meant at least another 45 minutes delay to our journey.

On Thursday evening, 8th of April our Pilgrimage group was privileged to meet with the Superior General of the Marist Brothers, Br Emili Turu fms and the Vicar General, Br Joe McKee fms.

I was expecting to hear Br Emili speak about his role and that of the Marist Brothers in our world today. Instead, Br Emili, in typical Marist fashion, was more interested in our role as Marist Educators as well as our experiences on this Pilgrimage. He was also interested in our comments regarding the General Chapter. This approach again highlighted for me the commitment of the Marist Brothers to the continued strengthening of Marist/lay partnership. Most poignantly, when Br Emili was asked later in our meeting about what he believed the role of lay Marist to be he said the following…

Champagnat Pilgrimage 2007 at Lavalla in Southern FranceTwenty four pilgrims from Australia will be commencing their 2010 Pilgrimage to Champagnat Country in France, Rome, Guatemala and El Salvador. We leave on Saturday, 27 March and return on Sunday, 18 April 2010.

A recent edition of Encounter on ABC Radio bore testimony to another pilgrimage undertaken by Christians as they walked from Ballarat to Bendigo. These participants suggested pilgrimage includes a search for the holy.