The 11-day ‘Footsteps of Mary MacKillop’ tour – Harvest Journey’s first domestic offering since COVID hit – brought together 27 Catholics from New Zealand, Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria.
Postponed several times due to border restrictions, the participants said they were overjoyed to be finally on the pilgrim’s road.
Beginning in Melbourne, the group travelled by bus along the Great Ocean Road following the path of some of the most significant sites relating to Mary MacKillop’s life including Apollo Bay, Portland, Penola, Victor Harbor, Barossa Valley and concluding in Adelaide. They spent a day of prayer and reflection at the Centre of Ignatian Spirituality at Sevenhill, also finding time to participate in some wine tasting.
While in Adelaide, Emeritus Bishop Greg O’Kelly SJ celebrated Mass for the group in St Patrick’s Church, Grote Street and then led a tour of the chapel at St Mary’s College, providing a vivid and moving account of how events of Mary’s excommunication unfolded. A visit to the Mary MacKillop precinct and museum at Kensington completed the day’s activities.
Tour leader Colleen Duffy said the pilgrims journeyed in the spirit of St Mary MacKillop, learning about her life and spirituality along the way. Surrounded by “like-minded people” they participated in communal and personal prayer, while visiting tourist sites and having plenty of fun.
Accompanying the group was Fr Michael Dyer from the Diocese of Wollongong, who commented on Mary’s lasting influence on the group.
“She is an inspiration for us all and a beacon for us to renew our faith,” he said. “It was also lovely to see the impact we had on the people we met along the way.”
Many in the group described the pilgrimage as “amazing” and having “exceeded expectations”.
School principal Danny Sykes and his wife Janet, also a teacher, have been working in Catholic schools – many of them Josephite – for more than 40 years, but said they learnt many new things about Mary.
“It was great to visit the buildings where Mary MacKillop started the first Catholic school in Penola,” Danny said. “Being on the pilgrimage has definitely renewed my commitment to the Catholic faith and teaching in Catholic schools.”
With border restrictions now eased, Harvest Journeys is planning to host the same pilgrimage again in August and October this year, delivering a steady stream of pilgrims into Adelaide. Emeritus Bishop O’Kelly will also be taking a group of pilgrims departing from Adelaide and going to Uluru and Alice Springs in August.
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