On October 4th, Bishop Doug Sparks, Missioner Michelle Walker, Joe Walker (St. Andrew’s by the Lake Michigan City), Debbie Mendenhall (St. Stephen’s Hobart), and Suzanne LaCount (St. Andrew’s Valparaiso) will begin their UTO Pilgrims on the Camino pilgrimage. Along with 25 people from around the country, they will travel to Madrid where they will meet fellow pilgrims and be welcomed by Bishop Carlos López Lozano, Bishop of the Spanish Reformed Episcopal Church (IERE). From an earlier article you may remember that the IERE has a fond memory and connection to the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana (EDNIN) via our own Bishop Reginald Mallett, who traveled to Spain at his own risk to assist in the ordination of several priests. (For that article, including writings from Bishop Mallett himself, please refer here.) What a joy for EDNIN to be represented in this celebratory trip commemorating Bishop Mallet’s adventure in 1955!
In Madrid the pilgrims will learn about the IERE and how it is financially self-supported, not assisted by either the Anglican Church nor The Episcopal Church. They will meet, eat, worship, and visit holy places together, including church sites that are either funded locally or by granting entities like The United Thank Offering (UTO). They will meet clergy whose annual income is around $12,000 USD. They will experience the faith and resilience of a church equally as poor as our poorest diocese in the United States. It will be an eye-opening experience.
After a couple of days in Madrid and nearby Avila, the group will split into Walking Pilgrims and Grant Site Pilgrims. The Walking Pilgrims will begin their 100km walk along the Camino, the ancient pilgrim route to Santiago where the remains of St. James are housed in the Cathedral. The Grant Site Pilgrims will visit several different UTO funded grant sites, witnessing the good work done via the contributions to those little Blue Boxes. Both groups will come together to walk the last mile into Santiago, each pilgrims of their own kind. They will enter the beautiful Cathedral and celebrate their pilgrimage.
Because they are traveling with Bishop Carlos, they will be allowed the wonderful opportunity to celebrate Eucharist with him in a side chapel of the Cathedral. Individual Protestant pilgrims are not offered this opportunity. They witness, but do not participate in the Eucharist. That is another reason for this pilgrimage. UTO established a UTO Camino Challenge grant, promising to match the first $60,000 of contributions made specifically for this cause – building an Anglican Centre in Santiago where all Christians are welcomed to receive Eucharist. This project has been a long time in the making, and requires the support of many for its success.
During these 11 days of pilgrimage, we ask that you pray for the pilgrims. We encourage you to follow them on our Facebook page. We request you to consider whether you feel called to financially support this UTO Camino Challenge grant; every contribution matters. And we ask you to reflect upon these Five Excellent Practices of Pilgrimages, from Phil Cousineau’s The Art of Pilgrimage, which can be practiced anywhere and at any time:
1. Practice the arts of attention and listening.
2. Practice renewing yourself every day.
3. Practice meandering toward the center of every place.
4. Practice the ritual of reading sacred texts.
5. Practice gratitude and praise-singing.
The Rev. Canon Michelle I Walker
Missioner for Administration and Communication, EDNIN
Associate Staff Officer for UTO