Holy Island Pilgrimage 2014

By Joanne Taylor, CAFOD Leeds

While the majority of Yorkshire folk were awaiting the ‘Grand Depart’ 34 pilgrims from the Leeds Diocese travelled north to Holy Island to walk the Pilgrims way alongside their brothers and sisters from parishes across the diocese of Middlesbrough and Hexham & Newcastle. We travelled the two and half hours through the rain, passing the signs which warned of delays due to the bike race (there weren’t any) and hoping that we weren’t going to get any more rain (there was lots). As we walked, the rain came and went many times but the sun did eventually come out by the time we reached the other side of the causeway. During the walk across the causeway we stopped at different 5 stages to remember and reflect on members of our global family. During stages one to four pilgrims who has crossed the world earlier this year to visit El Salvador on the Oscar Romero Pilgrimage shared their experiences. The final stage addressed the impact of climate change on some of the world’s poorest communities and we were treated to a few words from Anthony Mbandi, Director of Caritas Kitui, who whetted our appetites for a talk later.

The pilgrims from Leeds

The pilgrims from Leeds

We then all crowded into St Mary’s Church for Mass, where Emeritus Bishop John Rawsthorne from Hallam Diocese gave the homily, linking the burdens alluded to in this weekend’s Gospel reading to the burdens carried by so many in El Salvador in the past and the present. He preached movingly about how Archbishop Oscar Romero gave his life as he became a voice for the voiceless. Bishop John implored the congregation to pray for the canonisation of the martyr and to pray for the safety of Pope Francis, whose speaking out for justice is also potentially making him a target.

Bishop John crossing the causeway

Bishop John crossing the causeway

Before we boarded the coach for the journey home we had the opportunity to listen to Antony Mbandi from Cartias Kitui, Kenya. He spoke about the support given by CAFOD which has enabled his organisation to fight climate change and how Green Energy can transform lives. His talk started with him thanking us for all the work we had done here in the UK to support those in Kenya. The projects included provision of water, solar energy and energy saving stoves. Anthony said, ‘If you don’t see a smile you haven’t achieved much but if you see the smile, you know you have achieved.’ Anthony and Caritas Kitui know they have achieved when they see the smiles of 138,000 school children who can study longer because they have solar lighting and can drink clean, pure water because of their work and CAFOD supporters’ efforts.

Antony Mbandi sharing storis from Kitui, Kenya

Antony Mbandi sharing storis from Kitui, Kenya

He finished his talk by telling us about Danlewise Mbula who used to make his living by damaging the environment but now his employment is ‘green’. Danlewise said ‘I used to think that for one to make money you had to be employed by someone or by a company to sell charcoal or sell sand, I now know that I can employ myself through sustainable agriculture and marketing my skills.’ A wonderful positive note to end on but with a reminder that climate change,’ Is not like a nuisance neighbour who we can close our curtains on! Climate change has no boundaries and we need to act, to do what we can!’

Plenty to think about then on the ride home which was delay free – still no hold-ups from Le Grand Depart traffic but many happy pilgrims, promising to go again next year! Will you join us?

Register your interest by emailing leeds@cafod.org.uk.

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