The Carmelite Way pilgrimage 2016

Monday 21 November 2016

By Irene Hayes, Centre Leader, The Carmelite Centre Melbourne

Led by Fr Ken Peterson (O. Carm.) and Brother Matthew Tonini (Carmelites of Australia and East Timor), a group of 19 people participated in the seventh annual 45 km pilgrimage in the beautiful Yarra Valley. The pilgrimage took place over three days and was organised by the Carmelite Centre Melbourne. The walk was along the rail trail from Lilydale to the Sancta Sophia Meditation Community in Warburton.

After being commissioned in a special liturgy at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Middle Park on Sunday 6 November, the group left in two buses supplied by Whitefriars College Donvale and Bethlehem, Sacred Heart Mission, on Friday 11 November at 8am. The group travelled to Lilydale and walked to Mt Evelyn. As has become the custom, the pilgrims were joined at Mt Evelyn by Fr Ken Peterson and Sr Kathleen Murphy from the Sancta Sophia Mediation Community in Warburton. Here the pilgrims were welcomed to the Yarra Valley and shared prayer and reflection on finding God in the environment and using walking as a time for meditation and focus. The pilgrims were encouraged to remain open to how this experience may change them over the coming weeks and months as they continued to reflect on and absorb the pilgrimage experience.

The walk was broken into three sections where pilgrims respectively travelled 16km, 18km and 6km. The pilgrims were transported to and from walking tracks via bus and the accommodation at Pallotti College, Millgrove.
On the first evening Fr Ken Petersen presented a DVD by the late Thomas Berry, a Catholic priest and ecotheologian who believed that our task as humans is to embrace being part of the interdependent 'communion of subjects' on earth and in the universe, rather than seeing the world in isolated parts. Berry reminds us that 'we are not a collection of objects but a communion of subjects'. Fr Ken said being in such a beautiful part of the world during this pilgrimage weekend was a good opportunity to reflect on the important task of caring for our world.

On the second evening Damien Peile, Pastoral Advisor at the Carmelite Centre, led a reflection ‘Seasons of the Heart’ based on the thoughts of John Welch O.Carm on the spiritual dynamic of the Carmelite Life. Reflecting on the influence of the Song of Songs on many Carmelite writers, Welch suggests the story of the human heart evokes a core dynamic of Carmelite spirituality.
The session identified five ‘seasons’ for discussion:
  • a longing heart (desire for God)
  • an enslaved heart (worship of false gods)
  • a listening heart (contemplative prayer)
  • a troubled heart (the suffering in life)
  • a pure heart (transformation).
On Sunday morning pilgrims travelled from Pallotti College to the Sancta Sophia Meditation Community for a Mass of Thanksgiving, celebrated by Fr Ken. A delicious BBQ kindly prepared by members of the Sancta Sophia community was then enjoyed by all prior to returning home.

Feedback from participants indicates it was a special time of solidarity and contemplation that is difficult to find in the hectic pace of day to day living. Pilgrims also commented on the peacefulness of the stunning scenery and the support of being with like-minded people. This experience is summed up well by one of the participants—a teacher from a local secondary school:

I think that the pilgrimage attracts a certain type of person and on a personal level the biggest impact is the beautiful relationships and talks along the way. People have many stories to offer and it is so nice to hear about their life journey and often this involves their faith journeys. It’s nice to be able to talk freely about our relationship with Christ without being judged. There is a lovely balance of conversation. Thank you so much for the wonderful opportunity, I feel blessed to have been a part of this program for the second year.

The Carmelite Centre Melbourne will have other opportunities for reflective experiences in 2017, including the next ‘Carmelite Way’ pilgrimage (10–12 November 2017). Contact the centre to express you interest in participating, by email or via the website.
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