The Camino de Santiago de Compostela

Some of our colleagues walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostela recently - here they share some reflections from their pilgrimage. 

A reflection from Mark Doyle

From 27 September to 5 October, I had the opportunity to lead a group from the ACU community (along with our Blacktown Campus Chaplain Fr Pawel) on a pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago, walking approximately 120km for the final leg of the Camino Frances from Sarria to Santiago over 7 days.

The Camino is a network of paths located throughout Europe which pilgrims have walked for centuries to the Cathedral of Santiago in Spain, where the remains of one of the original 12 apostles, St James, are buried. Pope Alexander VI officially declared the Camino de Santiago to be one of the "three great pilgrimages of Christendom."

In line with Catholic tradition, it is customary to carry the intentions and prayers of others from your community with you during the pilgrimage, so my pilgrimage began by reaching out to my own community to ask about their needs. I carried them with me as I walked and would lay them at the foot of the altar offering them to God as we celebrated our daily mass each afternoon.

Having no idea what to expect, I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the Spanish countryside and kept saying to my fellow Aussie pilgrims, “the light is different in Spain,” and it is. The golden glow of the sun in Spain made the countryside and even the most mundane landscapes come to life (check out the pictures on the Mission Alive Workplace group to see for yourself).

Being away from the daily grind of life, the to-do lists, the KPI’s, the general busyness, with nothing to do each day but walk for hours, freed my mind to be present in the moment, and attentive to my surroundings in a way that it hadn’t been for years. Being in the beauty of nature with a free mind is the surest way for me to connect with God, and the Camino offered this daily.

Sometimes I walked alone, sometimes I walked with others from our group and sometimes I found myself at pace beside other pilgrims that I had never met. I had many interactions with the locals throughout the time. My faith in humanity was restored through these interactions as the hospitality and kindness of both the locals and the other pilgrims was infectious.

I had never heard so many accents together in one place and would often ask the other pilgrims why they were walking. The reasons for walking were as diverse as the pilgrims themselves: to grieve loss; to ‘find themself’; for spiritual or religious reasons; for their honeymoon; their birthday; or to lose weight. Each brought their own ‘baggage’ along for the journey and each had their own tale of transformation to tell.

The learnings from my pilgrimage seem ridiculous compared with the short time I spent walking with many still being processed, but here are a few:

  • Walking, like life, is done better when you’re carrying less around. Living simply, with less baggage makes the journey easier. So, take the time to evaluate your “pack” (possessions) and the other things that you might be carrying around (spiritual and emotional baggage). It might be time to lighten your load.

  • Beauty and joy can be found all around you if you have the eyes to see it.

  • Life is better done with other people. Everything that I experienced on the Camino was made better by the fact that I had a group of people to share it with. Yes, you can walk alone, but relationships make life so much richer.

  • Life can be lived with far fewer worries that we think possible. One of the common sayings of the pilgrimage is, “the Camino provides.” This is because many pilgrims have the experience that just when they are thirsty, a fountain appears. Just when they are hungry, a local offers some fresh produce from their garden. Just when you think you can’t walk another step, the path becomes shaded and goes downhill. But “the Camino provides” has so many broader implications. How much more freely and peacefully could we experience life if we could trust that ‘the universe,’ or God, was looking out for us?

There is so much more that could be said about this experience and so much about it that is difficult to articulate but let me finish by saying that if you are looking for more than a holiday, a rich experience full of meaning and purpose, then look no further than the Camino. I have no doubt that it will change your life, as it changed mine.

Next year, ACU will again take a group to walk the Camino. If you’re interested in the pilgrimage, please email me at

A reflection from Brenda Chamroeun

Going on this Camino adventure was by far one of the most overwhelmingly enriching and powerful experiences I’ve ever had - and one that I am currently still processing.

My heart, my soul and my spirit all feel so liberated and renewed with an abundance of joy, purpose, and faith. Faith for humanity; the dignity of the human spirit and faith in all that can’t be seen with the human eye.

Walking along the Camino felt like a global gathering of souls; although we were all strangers, it felt like we were already friends. Whatever our reasons were for doing it - wherever we came from, our age, the language we spoke or the colour of our skin - it didn’t matter. We were simply just some (crazy) everyday people who had decided to spend a few days/weeks (even months) walking along a sacred path; in the same direction, towards the same goal. It was the one thing that united and glued us together.

Away from the external pressures and expectations of society, the demands from our many roles in life - our jobs, our titles, our egos and responsibilities - we were able to just be ourselves; ordinary humans with a thirst for adventure, who were not afraid of a challenge - putting one foot in front of the other, constantly being reminded that for every uphill will come a downhill - and that neither will last for too long.

Through rain, fog or shine we had made a commitment to ourselves (and our team/communities) to accomplish the goal no matter what it took, and we would do this at our own pace no matter how long it would take. This for me was the power, magic, and beauty of the Camino.

I am sincerely thankful to my Camino family for adding so much depth, breadth, and soul to my journey. You all inspire me so much. I am so grateful to have met you and that we got to share this once in a lifetime experience together. I cannot wait to see you all again.

A reflection from Felicity Rose:

Walking the Camino with colleagues and friends was a truly enriching and joyful experience for me. I will always remember and treasure this experience.

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