IT was not only strong friendships that were renewed when a group of people who together walked the Ignatian Camino pilgrims’ trail through Spain reunited in Warrnambool on the weekend.
Some of the group also revived all-too-familiar blisters on their feet when the group renewed the “camino” experience with a 20-kilometre walk from Illowa.
They followed the Port Fairy-Warrnambool rail trail to Point Ritchie at the Hopkins River mouth, then wound back to St Joseph’s Church in Warrnambool.
The 16 walkers included Warrnambool priest Father John Fitzgerald. They were all part of a hardy band of 20 who last September walked 686 kilometres along the Ignatian Camino, or Path of Ignatius as it roughly translates into English.
Father Fitzgerald said the Ignatian Camino was hard but its toughness helped forge close bonds between the people who came together again on the weekend.
The group took a month to complete the camino, which winds from St Ignatius’ home town of Loyola in the Basque country of Spain’s central north to Manresa in Catalonia in the north-east.
It follows the path St Ignatius took in 1522.
Father Fitzgerald, 62, said his camino had helped him and others on the walk realise that life was a journey and that bonding with others made it more rewarding.
The 27 kilometres they covered on average each day, often in hot conditions, caused numerous foot blisters and heat-related ailments.
But Father Fitzgerald said the participants cared for each other to help everyone complete the trek.
He had been encouraged to take part in the camino by Father Pat Mugavin of Hamilton, who also did the walk.
The route was chosen by Father Michael Smith, a Melbourne priest from the Jesuit order that was founded by St Ignatius.
It took them from mountains, across plains, through desert and through mountains again.
“It had a profound effect on everyone,” Father Fitzgerald said.
People taking one of the many pilgrimage caminos through Spain often did so as a way of opening their lives up to change, and many of those who did the Ignatian Camino with him had made significant changes to their lives, Father Fitzgerald said. His group was the first of predominantly Australian walkers to do the pilgrimage, he said.
He was the only Warrnambool person in the group and said the others had travelled long distances for the reunion.
Although a regular walker, Father Fitzgerald said he had no plans to undertake another camino.