A pilgrimage is a journey with a religious purpose: to visit sacred places, often associated with a saint, where people can feel near to the saint either through relics or miraculous stories. In April Luke Mills and three others set out on a pilgrimage they called 'The Aussie Camino'.
- Luke Mills, Kairos/CAM
Australia is not a country that people associate with pilgrimage. For pilgrimage to become part of the Church’s witness in a particular country, one needs saints and a kindling of the desire to visit places associated with their lives.
In April, Steven Murphy, Anthony Mills, Michael Dillon and myself, who work together at St Francis Xavier College, Beaconsfield, set out on a journey from Portland, Victoria, to Penola, South Australia, a pilgrimage we have called ‘The Aussie Camino’.
The pilgrimage was inspired by the film The Way, starring Martin Sheen and his real life son Emilio Estevez. In the film, the son (Estevez) is killed in a freak storm the day before he was to begin el Camino de Santiago de Compostela (the Way of St James); the father (Sheen) undertakes the camino in honour of his son.
The movie struck a chord with us. Why are there only caminos in Europe and the Holy Land? Can we have one here now we have a saint of our own, St Mary MacKillop? Where would it begin and end? Mary MacKillop was a traveller. Her work took her all over Australia and New Zealand. We decided it should be from Portland to Penola.
St Mary MacKillop traveled widely but her last teaching post as a lay teacher was in Portland. From here, she was called by her mentor and co-founder priest Fr Julian Tenison-Woods back to Penola, where they had met a few years before.
Penola is widely accepted as the birthplace of St Mary MacKillop’s order, the Sisters of St Joseph. A town with a population of only 1300, it is 383 kilometres from Adelaide and 412 kilometres from Melbourne.
It was when St Mary was called from Portland to Penola on 19 March 1866 that she wore her black habit for the first time and declared herself Sr Mary. Although her path is not recorded, she would have passed through many of the same towns we did as we walked the Aussie Camino.
An important part of the camino was to provide structure through ‘bookending’ it by visiting the Mary MacKillop museums in Melbourne before we began and then in Penola at its conclusion.
FULL STORY 'The Aussie Camino'