by Noreen Manzo
Can you believe it? Every IVC volunteer in the New England region traveled the Camino de Santiago de Compostela last year.
Well, at least that’s what we invited them to figuratively do during our annual retreat.
Although we didn’t travel physically, we still “journeyed with purpose,” as author Sally Welch writes in Making a Pilgrimage, her book on the Camino.
The Camino, also known as “The Way of Saint James” or “The Way,” is a European pilgrimage dating back to the 9th century. The Way is a network of ancient pilgrim routes stretching across Europe that ends in Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Many walk hundreds of miles as a spiritual retreat and often make the journey seeking forgiveness, healing, or in gratitude for a grace granted. The traditional pilgrimage starts in Oviedo, Spain, and ends in Santiago de Compostela.
Although our IVC volunteers didn’t take a literal step on the ancient route of St. James, we made our pilgrimage in the same way any pilgrim would. When pilgrims prepare to walk the Camino, they go with a purpose and anticipate the ultimate destination. They know the reason for walking and carefully pick a route, deciding to walk alone or with others. Pilgrims pack only the essentials they’ll need. And finally, they set out, carrying “an attitude of expectancy, of hopefulness or willingness to be changed and transformed,” writes Welch in Making a Pilgrimage.
So, too, IVC volunteers travel. Their destination: To serve God in God’s poor and marginalized people. The route: A placement in a not-for-profit agency that needs our expertise or at least another set of willing hands.
We choose to travel with companions — our fellow volunteers who wish to journey together in the spirit of St. Ignatius. We pack for the journey our gifts, our talents, and yes, even our shortcomings, some of which weigh us down and make the journey more difficult.
But most importantly, we journey in hope, open to the unexpected, to the wonders we encounter in the people we meet and the opportunities for growth that come our way.
In The Soul of a Pilgrim, author Christine Valters Painter helps us understand both the essence of our journey and the purpose of our annual retreat: “The purpose of pilgrimage today is perhaps not to arrive, but to journey well; not to solve things but to make us more aware of them. It is at least as much about traveling hopefully as it is about arriving.”
What is the Camino God is calling you to walk at every point in your life?
Noreen Manzo has served as an IVC reflector for the New England region since 2016. She, along with her husband, received the Madonna Della Strada Award in 2016.