Baden Ellis counts walking the Camino, the ancient pilgrims’ track across France and Spain, last year as one of the most significant experiences of his life, reports Tracey Edstein in Aurora.
It’s characteristic of Baden, 21, that he planned everything. 'Being a Scout, I knew how far I would walk each day, how much money I would need for each section, how many cafés and bars there would be and if there were none, how much food and water I would need for that day. In my bag was A Pilgrim's Guide to the Camino de Santiago by John Brierley. I carried the bare minimum.'
However, just like life, his plans soon went awry. 'On the second day, setting out just before sunrise from Virgin del Camino and following painted yellow arrows, walking well-worn dirt paths and roads through beautiful sunflower farms, we had a plan to reach Villar de Mazarife, 14km away. At the end of the day, a local farmer told us that the pilgrim hostel was closed.
'I knew at that moment I wasn't going to stick to this plan, and after all, this wasn't my plan, it was God's plan. This became more apparent as the pilgrimage unfolded.'
Despite being a ‘planner’, Baden’s decision to walk the camino was all but spontaneous. When he learned that his friends, teachers Brian and Sue Morgan, were plotting their third Camino, he impulsively asked if he could join them. 'I thought it would be a great opportunity, and I’ve always enjoyed hiking. There’s something I love about walking, it's just you and God's great land.'
Faith in God’s plan is a thread running through Baden’s life, although it’s not always been easy to maintain. Being a Catholic is not just about 'going to Mass'; belonging to a community that met at Mass (amongst other gatherings) was nourishing for Baden. He was an altar server for several years, and used his musical talent to contribute to the liturgy at St Francis Xavier’s, Belmont.
Like many young people, he has experienced criticism for putting what he believed into practice. 'Towards the end of my primary school years I stopped going to Mass because of the lack of young people and the criticism I received.'
A turning point for Baden was joining Antioch, at the suggestion of his parish priest, Fr Gerard Mackie. Antioch supports young people in their faith through community activities and mutual support. Baden says, 'I loved Antioch! By the time WYD came around in 2008, I was playing guitar at Mass and helping prepare for Days in the Diocese. I was beginning to feel needed.'
He also became a Youth Vinnies leader, and is currently on the organising committee for [email protected] Heart.