Geraldton Camino: Pilgrims follow footsteps of Monsignor John Cyril Hawes

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Geoff VivianGeraldton Guardian
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Pilgrims led by Natasha and Julie Harradine, Ray Borcherds and Paul Davies set off on the first leg of the Camino from Sancta Maria in Ara Coeli to the Nanson Showgrounds.
Camera IconPilgrims led by Natasha and Julie Harradine, Ray Borcherds and Paul Davies set off on the first leg of the Camino from Sancta Maria in Ara Coeli to the Nanson Showgrounds. Credit: Father Robert Cross

Thirty footsore people completed a 60km walk from Northampton to Geraldton via the Chapman Valley recently while visiting the heritage buildings of architect-priest Monsignor Cyril Hawes.

After staying overnight at Northampton’s Sacred Heart Convent, they visited the town’s church of Santa Maria in Ara Coeli before walking to Nanson’s Our Lady of Fatima church and camping at Nanson showgrounds.

I try to encourage them at the beginning to find a stone and carry it in their backpacks or pockets and later offload that stone, symbolically.

On the second day, they stopped at Nazareth House, St Lawrence’s Church in Bluff Point and St Francis Xavier Cathedral in Geraldton.

Father Robert Cross said it was the second “Camino de San Francisco” he had organised, inspired by the growing popularity of Europe’s walking pilgrimage routes such as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

He said he timed this year’s event to coincide with the 2018 Regional Heritage Conference with the theme “sacred heritage”.

“I linked it with that event so people coming might be attracted to the Camino as an example of how we might realise the potential of our heritage to work for the community,” he said.

Father Cross said Yuna CWA and Nabawa Tavern catered for the “pilgrims”.

“The feedback we got was positive from our participants,” he said.

“They appreciated the heritage they got out of it and a different way to engage with that heritage.

“Seeing churches in action is an intangible part of that heritage.”

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Father Cross said some of the walkers were keen to incorporate elements of the spiritual pilgrimage tradition.

“I try to encourage them at the beginning to find a stone and carry it in their backpacks or pockets and later offload that stone, symbolically,” he said.

“To meditate on the question: what do I want to offload? Spiritual problems? Other people’s burdens? Maybe as you are walking you contemplate that problem.”

Father Cross said the final part of the pilgrimage involved walking the labyrinth outside St Francis Xavier Cathedral, an architectural feature rich in symbolism copied from Chartres Cathedral in France.

“It always walks you to the central point — it’s about a journey inwards,” he said.

Father Cross is planning next year’s Camino from Mount Magnet to Geraldton.

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