Mary MacKillop is significant because of her links to education and our many Josephite schools. She was a woman of integrity and courage, prepared to stick to her principles in the face of great opposition. She was also a woman of great heart and forgiveness.
Mary was a pioneer and we became pioneer pilgrims, traversing the frontiers of our endurance and spirit.
Pilgrimage takes people out of their comfort zones and into liminality: the place where heaven meets earth, the place where Jesus waits. It strips you, at each stage, of yet another piece of unnecessary baggage, until, lighter, we walk more gently.
The experience can ravage, soothe, surprise and challenge. No one went unchallenged. It was in our stride that we rose to new challenges each day, in hope and self-belief.
Living the Paschal Mystery − travelling through pain, fatigue, a myriad of small deaths to the luxuries of blister-free feet, pack-free backs or privacy; encountering humanity at its very best; walking with humility as pilgrims shared astounding stories of grief or hardship and joy, then falling into bed and rising again full of optimism in the new day − was extraordinary.
Walking through the Australian landscape was an experience of the scripture of this great land with its breathtaking and wild coastline, the wide open spaces of stock routes and pine forests. It was a place of deep silences, never-ending sands, roaring winds and hail, a place of forged friendships, tears, prayer and laughter.
Walking for kilometres on end, staring at the never-ending horizon, you have hours on your hands to collect your thoughts and engage in conversations you don’t normally have in everyday life. Whilst we may have experienced self-doubt, fear and anxiety at times, it was the anticipation, deep conversations and moments of fellowship that truly made this experience one to remember.