Since 2014, 400 pilgrims have walked the Aussie Camino, a picturesque 160-kilometre walk from Portland, Victoria, to Penola, South Australia, following in the footsteps of St Mary MacKillop. Source: ABC News.
For Melbourne’s Luke Mills, it was a life-changing family tragedy that deepened his interest in the Camino de Santiago, the Way of Saint James, a revered pilgrimage trail in north-western Spain leading to the resting place of the apostle St James the Great.
Mr Mills was grappling with his wife Gabriella’s unexpected death in 2008 and the reality of raising their three young children alone.
In the years after his wife’s death, Mr Mills’ yearning to walk the Camino grew, but he could not leave his grieving children or afford a plane ticket to Spain.
Then, in 2010, Mary MacKillop was canonised as Australia’s first saint and Mr Mills realised that Australia could offer its own Camino pilgrimage.
The high school English teacher delved into the saint's life story and found the inspiration he was looking for.
Following in her footsteps, he charted a journey from Portland on the far south-western Victorian coast — where St Mary had started teaching — to Penola, 160 kilometres away in South Australia, where she started the order of the Sisters of St Joseph.
After his first trip with two workmates, Mr Mills put the word out to see if there was any interest in others joining him and within days had 33 keen responses.
“That made it clear to me that there was something good about the Camino — and there is something good about this story, and there is something good about this place,” he said.
The Aussie Camino is a picturesque pilgrimage inspired by Australia's only saint, Mary MacKillop (By Bec Whetham, ABC News)