A pilgrimage is a ritual journey with a sacred purpose. Every step along the way has meaning.
The pilgrim knows that life giving challenges will emerge.
A pilgrimage is not a vacation;
It is a transformational journey during which significant change takes place.
New insights are given.
Deeper understanding is attained.
New and old places in the heart are visited.
Blessings are received and healing takes place.
On return from the pilgrimage, life is seen with different eyes.
Nothing will ever be quite the same again.
It was a beautiful experience to be within a group of 20 people from across Mary Aikenhead Ministries, in Ireland in May.
Of course there were many opportunities to see the sites of significance in the life of Mary Aikenhead, but in true Mary style, the Spirit moved in and through the group and moved us all.
In the words of the pilgrims:
I love this image I took at Glendalough…
The journey ahead may be long and winding but along our path there is much beauty should we choose to see it.
Be purposeful in mind, be giving of heart and trust in the divine providence. We are where we are meant to be right now, so stop, rest, look up and enjoy.
I was particularly impressed by how sincerely and vitally the Sisters live and practice their fourth vow of service to the poor. Most of the Sisters are still amazingly engaged with life because they have done such fulfilling work in the service of others in areas of need including Zambia, working with the blind, working at Foxford Mills, teaching and advocating for the homeless. As a result they have countless interesting stories to tell and are across contemporary social issues. One conversation with Sr Lillian comes to mind where we spoke about everything from the referendum to the implications of artificial intelligence.
The Hospitality offered by so many, including the sisters who welcomed us into their homes was a standout for me. Sr Josephine seemed to meet us everywhere sharing her knowledge and appreciation for Mary’s story, the people of Foxford who so proudly spent the day with us, the children who played Irish music before the tour, the Principals, teachers and students at Cork, those who accompanied us to Mary’s grave and more. It was their passion and love that was so evident. Inspiring!
When the school principal described the challenges of introducing a new initiative to help the community, she said “we just do it anyway” (or words to that effect). For me this summed up much of what we learnt. That the spirit inspires and encourages, and while obstacles occur the determination and steadfast commitment to good inspired by Mary Aikenhead prevails. Divine inspiration at its very best!
It all seems very dreamlike now as each day of the Pilgrimage was filled with amazing experiences and special moments. My favourite of all was the travelling mass at Glendalough. To stand together at the ruin of St Saviour’s church and celebrate mass in such a sacred place was unforgettable to me, especially as our beautiful journey was coming to an end.
Linda Ferrington rsc, Trustee of Mary Aikenhead Ministries, and Lisa McDonald, Group Mission Leader, St Vincent’s Health Australia