Blessed Sacrament pilgrims savour Santiago trip

By Father Sergio Haro

‘When we left Blessed Sacrament I knew people’s faces, whereas returning home I now know them as people.’ This was a reflection from Danny Morris, youth minister at Blessed Sacrament parish church, on the impact of the Aintree parish’s memorable visit to Santiago de Compostela in July for a pilgrimage and retreat.

In total, there were 21 parishioners in the party led by Father Sergio Haro, Blessed Sacrament’s parish priest, to the northern Spanish city. They were there from 8–12 July with the aim of becoming better disciples of Jesus, following in the footsteps of Saint James. With the motto ‘Come & See, Go & Tell’, they meditated on the life of St James and went home enriched by some memorable encounters.

The highlight for many was meeting Father Carlos Gómez-Vírseda, who had been ordained priest just three weeks earlier. Also a doctor of medicine, Fr Carlos explained that he was leaving Spain to serve as both priest and doctor in a very poor Jesuit mission in Chad. This meeting made a great impression on pilgrims, as did a Taizé-style night prayer in the Jesuit church of San Agustín. Peter Ludly, pilgrim and Synod member, added: ‘We gathered round the altar as Fr Sergio celebrated Mass for us alone. We were the only party in the church.’

Additionally, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Compostela, Jesús Fernández González, celebrated Mass for the group who also had the opportunity to pray at the tomb of the Apostle James, carrying the intentions of fellow parishioners. There were prayers shared too with the Jesuits, Franciscans and Salesians who welcome pilgrims from around the world and make them feel at home with resourceful, inspiring and prayerful gatherings. As Ruth Weaver, another of the travelling party, noted: ‘Santiago de Compostela is such a serenely peaceful place, a place of friendship and sharing.’

The final word went to two other parish pilgrims, Christina Plunkett and Linda Tunstall, who gave the following account: ‘To see people of all ages, particularly young pilgrims, sharing their experience of the Camino, whether dancing in the squares or kneeling in prayer, was very moving. We’ve been given a whole new perspective on St James and his role in the early Church. His influence is obvious and can be felt all round Santiago. Praying – meaningful prayer – came easier than ever before.’