Pilgrims put their stamp on the very Aussie Camino

IT’S been dubbed the “poor man’s Camino” or the “Australian Camino”.

Pilgrims have even got their own pilgrim passport along the lines of Spain’s Camino de Santiago credentials to collect stamps at parishes and checkpoint towns along the way.

For David Schutz and fellow pilgrimage enthusiast Sean Deany, their recent entry by foot into the south-eastern point of the Archdiocese at Bombala was another milestone on their pilgrimage from St Mary MacKillop’s birthplace in Melbourne to her tomb and shrine in Sydney.

By the time they arrived in Eden on May 26, they had completed 250km since leaving Orbost in Victoria on Easter Tuesday.

The saint’s mother, Flora MacKillop, was one of 76 people aboard the Ly-ee-Moon who drowned on May 30, 1886.

St Mary of the Cross MacKillop visited Eden on a couple of occasions in 1899 and 1901 in appreciation of the support that the people gave in taking care of the body of her mother.

Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish in Eden has established a special museum to St Mary and her mother.

Archbishop Prowse, who is known to Mr Schutz from their days working together for the Church in Melbourne, is keen for Eden to further its status as a place of pilgrimage.

Mr Schutz and Mr Deany were accompanied and assisted on this section of the journey by driver and cyclist Mr Paul Coghlan.

They were walking the second stage of the mapped out MacKillop-Woods Way which goes from Port Augusta to Melbourne (via Adelaide and Penola) to Sydney via the Great Dividing Range.

The Way is named after both St Mother Mary of the Cross MacKillop and co-founder of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, Fr Julian Tenison Woods.

The idea for the MacKillop-Woods Way originated in 2010 when Mr Deany approached the Mary MacKillop Centre in Penola with the idea for an affordable pilgrimage option indigenous to Australia.

It has been endorsed by the centre in Penola and the congregational leadership team of the Sisters of St Joseph, and has the blessing of Archbishop Christopher Prowse, Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart and Sale Bishop Patrick O’Regan.

By 2015, Mr Schutz and Mr Deany had already walked the most established part of the Way from Portland to Penola – a section officially known as “The Aussie Camino” – on a number of occasions.

Mr Deany had also cycled the section from Port Augusta to Penola via Adelaide. So in 2016 they turned their attention to the stretch between Melbourne and Sydney.

The Melbourne to Sydney leg has been organised over four sections with the crew intending to walk two weeks every year in the Easter holidays over four years from 2016 to 2019.

Starting off after Easter last year on the 150th anniversary of the foundation of Josephites, Mr Schutz, Mr Deany and a third pilgrim, Josh Martin, set out from St Mary MacKillop’s birthplace in Fitzroy, Melbourne, making their way 340km across Victoria through Gippsland to Bairnsdale.

The three completed the next 100kms to Orbost last October.

Now, having covered the next leg from Orbost to Eden, Mr Schütz, Mr Deany and Mr Martin plan to reunite in Eden next Easter to continue their pilgrimage as far as Ulladulla.

If all goes to plan, they will finally reach their destination at St Mary’s shrine and tomb in North Sydney at Easter 2019.

“The local parishes in Gippsland showed their enthusiasm for the idea of The MacKillop-Woods Way, by offering accommodation on the way, and we have found Bombala and Eden also generous and enthusiastic in their hospitality,” Mr Schutz said.

Archdiocesan Vicar General Fr Tony Percy and a number of Eden’s Our Lady Star of the Sea parishioners welcomed the pilgrims into town at the end of their recent journey with Mass and morning tea.

The group averaged 27.5km a day and were feeling the affects of a fortnight on the road in some of Australia’s most rugged terrain.

Mr Schutz says he would welcome contact from anyone who would like to learn more about the route they took, the accommodation and other logistics.

MacKillop-Woods Way 2016-2019 Pilgrimage Chronology

  • 2016 – Fitzroy to Bairnsdale (28 March to 9 April, 2016)
  • 2016 – Bairnsdale to Orbost (30 September to 5 October, 2016)
  • 2017 – Orbost to Eden (17 to 27 April, 2017)
  • 2018 – Eden to Ulladulla (16 to 28 April, 2018)
  • 2019 –Ulladulla to Sydney arriving at St Mary of the Cross MacKillop shrine and tomb (During Tasmanian Easter School Holidays).

– Mr Schütz, works for the Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne. To follow his blog with a day to day account of his pilgrimages go to http://scecclesia.com/MWW-Pilgrimage . Mr Schütz can be contacted at schutz@scecclesia.com