Each year since 1994, the Sisters of Saint Joseph have offered the people of Australia the opportunity to go on pilgrimage, “Walking in the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop”.
Several weeks ago I received a phone call from a person who was interested in participating in the national pilgrimage entitled “In the Footsteps of Mary MacKillop”. One of the questions asked was about the itinerary and what a typical day during the time of pilgrimage would consist of.
As the conversation unfolded, it became clear that in the enquirer’s mind the words pilgrimage and tour were synonymous. This however, is not the case. There is significant difference between the two words. To a degree the day-to-day routine does look as though people are tourists enjoying a trip. There is the getting on and off the coach; meeting new people; journeying with an interesting combination of personalities; receiving information about significant sites; opportunities to purchase mementoes of places visited. This is however, where the similarities end.
So what then is a pilgrimage? It is a journey to a sacred place which takes the pilgrim out of her or his usual day-to-day routine into a sacred time and space. Some would say that the time of pilgrimage is a liminal time, “an in between time”, a graced time allowing for the possibility of transformation in a pilgrim’s life.
As Macrina Wiederkehr writes in her book Behold Your Life:
Each year the Sisters of Saint Joseph offer people the opportunity to journey in the footstep of St Mary MacKillop, by visiting places of significance in her journey of listening and responding to her God. This journey is an invitation to see, listen and reflect on Mary’s relationship with God and her ability to trust implicitly in God to provide in all things. The journey will be filled with challenges, joys, disappointments, frustrations, unexpected delights…. God is there gently calling the pilgrim by name to enter more deeply into relationship with
Mary as guide and inspiration. Pilgrims are invited to reflect on where they see God in their journey; to what is God calling her or him and how they respond in trust to God as did Mary.
Returning from the time of pilgrimage the pilgrim is changed. She or he is open to responding more deeply to the word of which each is a part; more aware of the presence of God with and in them and in all creation.
Our pilgrimage for 2019 commences in Melbourne on 22 October and concludes in Sydney on 2 November. If you would like to join us please email us for further information and/or to request an Application Form.
Information is also available on the Mary MacKillop Place website.
Annie Bond rsj