The vision behind the Hunter-based camino is to bring together people from across the Diocese, including staff and parishioners, to take on a physical and spiritual journey surrounded by God's creation. In total, pilgrims walk almost 100km. Along the way they take in sacred Aboriginal sites and rolling vineyards in the Upper Hunter, beautiful bushland in the Watagans and Glenrock national parks, picturesque Lake Macquarie, stunning beaches, and finally the urban sprawl of Newcastle. The first aMeN CaMiNo included pre-arranged encounters with Aboriginal elders, the Bishop and Morisset parishioners. They each provided pilgrims with insightful glimpses into our Diocese's rich history, including Mary MacKillop's brief visit to Cooranbong.
The aMeN CaMiNo shares many similarities with some of the more well-known camino pilgrimages. The walk itself presents physical challenges for the body, abated by poignant reflections that soothe the weary soul. At various points, silence is observed, but mostly pilgrims take the opportunity to engage in one-on-one or small group discussions. These conversations tend to span many days and provide the foundation for new friendships to form between people whose paths may never have otherwise crossed, but who come to camino with a shared desire for renewal.
However, unlike many other famous caminos, the aMeN CaMiNo is a guided pilgrimage. Assisting pilgrims along their journey is a leader, spiritual guide, support person, and driver. Pilgrims stay together at various accommodation points and unite for an evening meal.
The aMeN CaMiNo, originally conceived by Catholic Schools staff John Wakely and Bernadette Gibson, was transitioned to Pastoral Ministries in 2020 to ensure its reach was far and wide ranging. Rose McAlister, Manager of Formation and Education in the Diocese of Maitland- Newcastle, says a committed and evolving group have organised every aspect of the expedition to ensure pilgrims can fully immerse themselves in the experience.
“I am grateful to the committed staff and volunteers who have created the aMeN CaMiNo team and aim to unite pilgrims from across our Diocese and deliver an offering that builds community and nourishes faith,” Rose says.
The feedback from the first pilgrimage indicates their efforts have been justified.
“I feel extremely privileged to be involved in the aMeN CaMiNo. I truly believe that pilgrimage leads to a trinitarian relationship with self, others, and God, and is a place where transformation occurs,” Rose says.
“When pilgrims share their story, you feel honoured to be part of the experience, and feel blessed to be accompanying them on the road. Sometimes you need to empty yourself to fill full again.”
This year, the Diocese will lead five guided aMeN CaMiNo journeys, with spaces for these initial dates snapped up by enthusiastic pilgrims when first announced in 2020.
aMeN caMiNo 2022 Information Session
For those interested in finding out about the 2022 aMeN caMiNo experiences, we will be holding an online Information Session on Saturday 28 August at 2pm.
You can register at: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/amen-camino-information-session-tickets-162230268099
Interested parties are invited to visit https://www.mn.catholic.org.au/church-mission/catholic-life/adult-faith-formation/amen-camino.