Walking the Way to St James

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Walking the Way to St James

In light of Pope Francis’ recent call for parishes to support those fleeing their countries from horrific circumstances, the Huon Valley Parish has reserved ten places for refugees on its two-day The Way to St James Cygnet Pilgrimage Walk, planned for January 8 and 9 next year.

Event organiser and Huon Valley Parish Priest Fr Michael Tate said the walk would provide a positive and peaceful experience for those who wished to take part.

“I can’t imagine a greater contrast between fleeing over perilous terrain from barbaric persecution on the one hand and on the other hand walking through the Huon Valley with a few hundred people,” he said.

Fr Tate came up with the idea of the walk, based on the most famous pilgrimage route in Europe, the El Camino Santiago in Spain, when he moved to the Huon Valley Parish earlier this year.

“When I arrived in Cygnet I discovered that the Church is called St James and that it is very unusual because it is built in a Spanish restoration fashion,” he said.

“The combination of St James and Spain reminded me of the El Camino de Santiago, the way of St James, so I immediately thought why not create St James in Cygnet as a pilgrimage destination.

“Almost immediately I got the feedback that people love walking in Tasmania, many had heard of the El Camino, and the idea of walking in pilgrimage to a destination where there would be some sort of festive ritual was very appealing to a lot of people.”

The 32 km pilgrimage will start at the Mountain River Community Hall, taking in Ranelagh and Cygnet, ending at Cygnet’s St James Church.

While accommodation for the two-day walk will be a challenge, a camping site will be available at Ranelagh.
Billets are also being sought to help accommodate walkers overnight.

While there are only 250 places available on the walk, initial expressions of interest quickly reached the 150 mark, even before registrations were opened.
Fr Tate said the walk had been made possible through the work of an excellent committee and wonderful parish support.

The weekend was chosen for the pilgrimage to coincide with the Cygnet Folk Festival and the excitement and atmosphere it brings to the town.

The pilgrimage’s final procession through Cygnet will include Spanish religious band music, a flamenco singer and a 3.6 metre statue of St James, constructed by UTAS School of Art students, which will be brought into the town on the shoulders of pilgrims at the end of the walk.
Fr Tate said The Way to St James was open to all, regardless of ideological, religious or non-religious backgrounds.

“All great religious traditions have found a connection between the rhythm of walking and the unburdening of the soul and opening up to a different dimension, so that’s really what this is about,” he said.

“It’s a shared experience and I think every pilgrim will bring their own personality and be affected in their own way.”

For more information and registration