Australian Students on Pilgrimage

Dispatch from Callan Lyall on the Pilgrimage

In 1990, in Victoria, Australia, around a dozen people set out on a pilgrimage to honour Christ the King , several days before His feast day. Twenty-five years later, to the day, nearly 700 people walked with the same purpose this November. The 100 kilometres pilgrimage goes from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat, to Bendigo.

Early Friday morning, Mass began the day, after which all pilgrims prostrated themselves, and received a blessing from the local bishop. Then we set out to walk the 37 kilometres of the first day.

MODG students included me and my brother Pearce; this is our third year, while it’s the second year for our cousins, James and Daniel O’Hea. Meanwhile my younger brother and MODG student, Sean, was making his debut, along with Mary and Lucy Von Marburg, also MODG students. That made a total of seven students from our school – nearly every single MODG student in Australia, and at least one from every family!

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat, Victoria
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ballarat, Victoria

The Pilgrimage:

Athough barely above 0 centrigrade in the early hours of the morning, our 2015 pilgrimage soon warms up as the sun dissipates all the clouds, and leaves us no shade. James, Daniel, Sean and I all volunteered as marshals to help guide and assist the pilgrims during the pilgrimage.

This year introduces a new route down the Avenue of Honour, constructed as a memorial for all who fell in defence of Australia. The trees planted many years  ago provide a shady relief for an hour in the late afternoon.Towards 7pm, the surviving pilgrims arrive in Smeaton, our overnight residence, and after 10pm compline, lights go out.

MODG students and marshals James and Callan

On the second day, the distance is slightly less, but the terrain becomes much rockier, and the hills steep. At the midday halt, before lunch, everyone meets in a clearing for an outdoor Mass on the edge of breathtaking scenery.

Towards evening, the pilgrimage goes past a very ancient cemetery in Castlemaine. Here the prayers for the dead are said, and the hymn, Dies Irae, Dies Illa is sung. Once finished, we proceed on towards our location for the night, and compline is held before lights out.

Outdoor Noon Mass. second day two

On the third day, Sunday, everyone sleeps in half an hour before taking the bus over the thin stretch of road, which is too dangerous to walk. Once out of the bus, we walk for an hour and a half before reaching a certain hill before Bendigo. This hill is aptly labelled Heartbreak Hill, as all on the pilgrimage who dare, are to run up this hill, and whoever touches the processional cross first, wins. I came in second and my cousin James came in sixth.

MODG students Callan and James

After the race, everyone else walks to the top, and the pilgrimage continues to morning tea. Once that is over the hard trek up the hills to Bendigo begins. Both James and I find this part extremely hard, but managed to complete it without flagging down a bus. Shortly after arriving in Bendigo, we reach Kangaroo Flats, a cool, shaded park where we all have lunch, and a long needed rest. Here many more join us for the last stretch towards the Cathedral.

Kangaroo Flats, Australia
Kangaroo Flats Park, Australia

Soon afterwards, the Cathedral is in sight, and everyone is putting in their last spurts to reach the Church some small time before 3pm. Once the church is reached, the pilgrimage goes round it once before climbing the steps and chanting the entrance prayers. Then everyone enters the church and Mass begins. Bishop Meeking from New Zealand celebrates the Mass, and delivers an excellent sermon to all there for the Mass and from the pilgrimage. Hail Redeemer is sung as the clergy processes out to end the pilgrimage.

Christus Rex 2015
Christus Rex 2015

Christus vincit! Christus regnat!

Christus imperat