by Anna Mitchell
It’s been about two weeks since we’ve returned Stateside from the far reaches of northwestern Spain (by “far reaches” I’m referring to places with running water, air conditioning, and Wi-Fi) and I think it’s safe to say that the “Pilgrimage to Life and Leadership” was a success, though not in the way I expected it to be.
After doing my research about El Camino (the pilgrimage, not the car) I was expecting a flat, solitary stretch of trail that would allow me to meet God in a very meditative-spiritual way, and if I got lost from Point A to Point B, so much the better. In reality, the trail was well marked through all its ups and downs, and there was always a group of ten or more people within arms’ reach. Instead of walking alone, I ended up meeting and walking with friends on a road (more or less taken). And that made all the difference.
The pilgrimage had two parts: Life and Leadership. The leadership portion was in Salamanca, the city of a thousand hidden pictures, where we talked about the White Rose Project and the 1916 Easter Rising, groups who fought against complacency in extreme circumstances. The takeaway: A team can accomplish more together than one person could accomplish alone, and even if the team dies, the movement doesn’t have to.
From Salamanca we continued north, where we met the other half of our “team.” In total there were probably 50 young people and another 30 “more experienced” folks. The first night together we introduced ourselves via hashtag; there was #blessed (pronounced hashtag-blessed), #quiet, #joyful, #justdoit, #engaged, #protocol, #cute, and #optimistic. Each day of the Camino we had a Mass, walked 3-6 miles (it looks more impressive in kilometers), and had evening sessions on life, Middle Earth, and family.
Since getting back, lots of people have been posting things on facebook like “The pilgrimage has only begun” and “One short walk on the Camino, One long journey just beginning.” And it’s true- The Pilgrimage to Life and Leadership wasn’t so much about getting to life as it was about learning to go through life together. The people we prayed with, sang with, walked with, talked with, ate with, drank with, and hung out with were the reason our pilgrimage was successful. And I’m so thankful I was one of the “American guests” who got to be there.