I never really thought I’d be a tree hugger. The first time I saw a woman do that, up on the Main Range Trail of Kosciuszko National Park, I thought she might have been lacking some basic necessities such as water. But I’m a convert, and when I accompany pilgrims on the aMeN CaMiNo I have to admit, strange as it may look, I stop to hug a tree now and then. Hugging a tree increases levels of oxytocin: the hormone responsible for feeling calm and making an emotional bond with nature. It’s a great form of holistic healing. Being out in the bush, without the distractions of everyday life, allows one the opportunity to ‘Let go and let God’.
But the aMeN CaMiNo offers so much more than tree hugging! It is an opportunity to become a pilgrim, to encounter God through nature, to escape from the busy-ness of life and to connect with others. During this one hundred kilometre experience you will walk with others over a variety of terrain, exploring bush, beach, lake and mountains. As the days pass and you experience self-emptying, an awakening of the senses is heightened, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the wonder and awe of God’s creation. There will be many moments to reflect, pray, journal and be still, all within our very own Maitland-Newcastle Diocese.
Many have joined the pilgrimage since its inception in 2018, and in the past two years the Pastoral Ministries team have worked towards providing opportunities to further build community connecting to a wider outreach. Anyone within our diocese is welcome to join others on the pilgrimage from St John’s Chapel in Maitland to the Sacred Heart Cathedral in Newcastle. You just need to start walking!
Sue Morgan, past school principal and founder of SIMS Cambodia, knows too well the benefits of pilgrimage.
“Pilgrimage is an age-old journey to a sacred destination, but it doesn't just have to be about the external journey. It is for me about an inner journey as well. This inner journey gives me time to have conversations with God and gain clarity on my life, big decisions and the everyday. One of the most special things about being on pilgrimage for me is the connection with fellow travellers. This oneness with others on a sacred journey is beyond words.
By being on pilgrimage I am awakened to my own human failings, often physical but also emotional and spiritual. I don't walk in great grief about my inadequacies but seek joy in meeting the challenge and rising above my limitations. I am very aware of the beauty around me and treasure the in between moments of deep reflection as well as the conversations with other pilgrims.
The aMeN caMiNo was one of the highlights of any pilgrimage I've done, not only because of the spiritual moments that were so very special and the opportunity to deepen my connection to God but also because it was a chance to reconnect with dear friends and form new friendships. Nothing strips you barer than a full day of walking, then having your new friends support your depleted state. On this journey I discovered my new 'favourite' places to walk and had the opportunity to do this with my husband.”
Here’s what some other pilgrims had to say about their aMeN CaMiNo pilgrimage experience…
“The caMiNo allowed time alone as well as time to reflect with others.”
“Being out in the rugged elements really put a focus on just being. One foot in front of the other.”
“I think there are a lot of people on my staff that would get a lot out of such an experience.”
“The opportunity for space for yourself in a busy time of year.”
“It’s a place to go and test yourself, let go of work for a while and connect with some great people.”
“Everyone needs to nurture their faith. The aMeN CaMiNo gives you hope that there is so much more. The experience renews and inspires you to be a hopeful people of faith.”
“Walking single file through God’s wonderous creation and the rhythm of the walk allows for reflection and prayer. It is extremely rewarding and nurturing.”
Dates for 2023 include June 17-21, July 8-12 and August 5-9. Expressions of interest are now open. aMeN caMiNo EOI 2023
You can find out more by attending our Online Information Session on November 9.
So, grab your boots, poles and pack… and we’ll see you on CaMiNo! (You might even feel tempted to hug a tree).
aMeN to that!