Why we’re doing the Columban Way Pilgrimage

On 24th May, a group of Columban pilgrims, joined by virtual participants, will embark on a faith-filled journey that will take them from the shores of the River Camel to the mouth of the River Fowey in Cornwall. Some of the pilgrims explain what is motivating them to take part and what they hope to experience along the way.

Journey along the shores of the River Camel in Cornwall
The Columban Way pilgrim walk will begin by the shores of the river Camel in Cornwall

Life is a series of pilgrimages; journeys at different times in our lives through which we navigate stormy waters to move closer in love and understanding to God’s people and creation.

Often we are not privileged to choose when these journeys happen or the course they will take, but there is always something to be gained, which makes the journey worthwhile. Perhaps this is why we choose to be pilgrims when the chance presents itself.

The timing of this pilgrimage is no coincidence. We will be walking the Columban Way Pilgrimage in the last days of the Easter season and secure in our belief that suffering can lead to joy. The challenge is to face our insecurities and to transform the joy we know in our hearts to be true into daily action, so that others may know God’s unbounding love for each one of us.

Of course, we would not be doing this particular pilgrimage were it not for St. Columban, our patron. His missionary spirit lives on in the lives of Columban missionaries in Britain and around the world. It is their experience of life with the poor and the marginalised that calls us urgently to put our faith into action for the life of the world.

Read here the thoughts and reflections of the Columban Way pilgrims in their own words.

Teresa Chuah
Teresa Chuah: I genuinely want to share the joy of the Gospel and share the goodness of the Lord as expressed by St. Columban's famous quote – “Let us be Christ's, and not our own” – in any way, God has called me. St Columban prays for us and continues to inspire us to follow Christ.
Fr. Pat O’Beirne
Fr. Pat O’Beirne: I am going on the pilgrimage to walk part of the path taken by St Columban, who became a lifelong wanderer for Christ. When we are on pilgrimage, we can find ourselves in vulnerable situations where our defences are down and our hearts are a little more open to allowing ourselves to be taken by God. The experience of encountering the divine in the places and the people we meet along the way, hopefully, lead to some transformation within us where we are given the grace to shed old ways of being for the new life that God holds out for us.
Sam Mapletoft
Sam Mapletoft: I am taking part because I want to support the work of the Columban Mission, in prayer and pilgrimage, money and miles. I deeply admire their work and commitment to the preaching of the Gospel. I especially respect their promotion of justice, and supporting some of the poorest and most vulnerable around the world. And now, more than ever, it is important that the Gospel message is coupled with work to protect our common home, as Pope Francis encourages us to do in Laudato Si'.
Fr. John Boles
Fr. John Boles: From time immemorial, walking for a spiritual purpose, mirroring an "inner journey" of self-discovery and discovery of the Divine, has been part of the human condition. This "prayer in motion" takes on particular significance when the route follows the footsteps of a ‘holy person’ – in this case, our patron, St. Columban. Pope St John Paul II said that walking is good for the body and the mind, and we must maintain in good working order the body and mind God has given us. On the pilgrimage, we are bound to come across interesting people and places, and we will be enriched as we journey across Cornwall.
Helen Dufficy
Helen Dufficy: Since working with the Columban Fathers, I have witnessed the work of the Columban mission in Britain and Chile and I have great admiration for their resilience and community spirit, their warmth and generosity, and their selfless humility. As the daughter of Hungarian refugees, I understand the importance of justice and freedom. I feel privileged. Part of my reason for undertaking the Columban Way Pilgrimage is to walk in the footsteps of our patron, Saint Columban; the other is to give something back to a Society which has always put the needs of the poor and marginalised first.
James Trewby
James Trewby: As the Columban’s Justice and Peace Coordinator/Education Worker, what a privilege it is to accompany people as they explore the relationship between faith and action for the common good. I have friendships with Columban Missionaries around the world, including many who work on the front line of environmental crises. I’m taking part in this Laudato Si’-themed pilgrimage for them and those they work with, for communities facing flooding and extreme heat in Pakistan, for Filipinos struggling with the increased intensity and frequency of extreme weather events, for families in Fiji seeing their ancestral land being swallowed by rising sea levels, and for so many more. I pray that this pilgrimage is rooted in prayer, reflection and solidarity and inspires action for change.
Stephen Awre
Stephen Awre: It’s been quite a ride since I started work for the Columban Mission Office in 2012 and ‘pilgrimage’ is probably the best way to describe it. I pray that this pilgrimage will be an immersive experience for all of us in the company of Columban missionaries near and far, with time and space to reflect on how what we truly believe in can be truly lived in our daily lives. I’ve already encountered God on this pilgrimage in the support we have received from St Mary’s parish, Bodmin, and from CAFOD, Caritas and the Youth Ministry in Plymouth diocese. I’ll be on the lookout for God present in the places we go and the people we meet.

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