St. Philomena Walking Pilgrimage
Spending Time With God
By Karen Ziegler
When Deacon Dave Hudy and his spouse, Bev, spoke about the St. Philomena Walking Pilgrimage from Yorkton to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Rama, I felt called to again become a pilgrim. My husband Dennis and I walked the Camino de Santiago in 2016 and I am still feeling the graces of that pilgrimage. To walk with St. Philomena in Saskatchewan somehow seemed a continuation of walking with St. James in Spain. Bev’s slogan, “Spending Time With God”, rang a chord deep within my spirit. I registered to go.
Deacon Dave and Bev created this annual 4 day walking pilgrimage from Yorkton to Rama, August 11 – 14, to correspond with Rama’s annual pilgrimage. Those who signed up were people who walked the entire 100 km distance, those who walked single days, and those who volunteered to be part of the support team, helping the pilgrims along the way. We pilgrims always felt supported and encouraged with nourishment, refreshments, a ride if we couldn’t make the day’s route, and even with clean portable toilets along the way, lol! We knew there was a place to stay at the end of the day and all our gear would be there.
For me, the walk was full of graces. We walked sometimes together while praying the rosary and singing hymns. Often times we walked in pairs or small groups, sharing each other’s stories and our lives of faith. A couple of times I walked alone. During one of these times, I spoke out loud to God, “I wish I could see You, experience You near to me here and now, hear You speak, feel Your touch, Your hug”. Then I fell silent. I was aware of the sound of the birds. I felt the breeze caress my cheek. The warmth of the sun enveloped me. The mooing of the curious cows made me laugh. God was alive and present to me. I felt full of joy.
That evening in our camp Warren Crossman, a faith filled gentleman from the local United Church gave us a presentation. His talk ended with the poem And A Meadow Lark Sang by Ravindra Kumar Karnani. The poem speaks about a child asking God to speak to her. The child hears a meadow lark sing and the thunder roll across the sky. The child asks God to let her see God and the child sees a bright star shining and a life being born. The child asks God to touch her so she would know that God is here and a butterfly touches the child.
The poem affirms what I had experienced that day on the way and what I already knew. God was one step ahead of me!
This is only one of the grace filled experiences I had on the St. Philomena Walking Pilgrimage. As I return to everyday life, I am aware of God’s presence with me every moment. I look forward to next year’s pilgrimage and to whatever God has in store for us as we walk along together.
Fruit of the St Philomena Walking Pilgrimage
By Deacon Dennis Ziegler
Sept 1, 2019
Over a year ago, my wife Karen and I were asked by fellow Deacon Dave Hudy and his wife Bev to help plan a four day walking pilgrimage to Our Lady of Lourdes shrine in Rama, which would correspond to the Rama pilgrimage that happens every Aug 14. We agreed to help because we thought we would love to walk the four days from Yorkton to Rama. I thought to myself, this would be nothing to walk after all I walked the Camino in Spain (800 kms in 30 days). Little did I know what opportunity this would create for me.
We planned it and got everything organized to start the walk in Yorkton on Aug 11 and arrive in Rama on Aug 14 in time for the celebrations that day at the Shrine. As August drew closer and closer it became more evident that I would not be able to walk this pilgrimage because of my hip. Instead I would be one of the support people for the pilgrims. I was disappointed as I was looking forward to doing the walk.
A week before our pilgrimage started we held a get together for everyone who was to walk and help with the pilgrimage in order to meet each other and to have reflection time on the upcoming pilgrimage. It was during this reflection time that I shared with Jesus my disappointment of not being able to do the walk. I also remembered walking the Camino. I thought about being a pilgrim and how vulnerable we were on the road. We only had what was in our pack on our back. We were totally dependent on others for their hospitality and service for our water and food and lodging.
I sensed Jesus saying, I don’t need you to walk this time, but I need you to offer humble service and hospitality to the pilgrims just like you received on the Camino. Can you do this?
I didn’t know exactly what this would entail, but said, “yes Lord if that is what you want I will do it with your help”.
My feelings of disappointment started to change to excitement and my outlook on this pilgrimage started to change.
I thought that I would be pulling the trailer with everyone’s tenting equipment to the next camp site, so they wouldn’t have to carry the load. This won’t be so bad, I thought. That is what I did, but after I dropped off that trailer I had to pick up the trailer that had the two portable toilets on and drive them from rest stop to rest stop. So I hooked up to the toilets and headed off to the next rest stop. The roads we used were some really rough back roads. When I arrived at the next stop and opened the doors to the toilets I saw what the rough roads caused. The holding tanks splashed their contents all about and the toilet paper all rolled of the roll. It became clear at that moment what humble service meant.
I cleaned up both toilets and was rolling the toilet paper back up on the rolls as the first pilgrims arrived at the rest stop. They all had a great laugh and realized what was being done for them. I saw that their spirits were lifted as they were being cared for in this way and that provided them encouragement to carry on the journey.
I didn’t hang up the toilet paper anymore, but I did have to clean each toilet every time I stopped at a rest stop.
I felt at peace, it was good to be there. I was grateful that Jesus gave me this opportunity to serve in such a way as to teach me humility.