Pilgrims embrace rich heritage of faith

By Wendy Shaw

Scallop shells were handed out to Catholic Women’s League (CWL) pilgrims on the first stop of their north-eastern journey.

Aptly, it was at St Mary’s Catholic Church, in the picturesque seaside town of Bridport, overlooking the sparkling waters of Anderson Bay.

As CWL state president Wendy Harrap explained, the shells have long been a symbol of Christian pilgrimage and continue to feature on the famous Camino de Santiago (or Way of St James pilgrimage) in Spain.

The women also arrived with leaflets featuring a fascinating potted history of the three churches on their itinerary – St Mary’s, St Patrick’s at Scottsdale and historic Sacred Heart Church at Ringarooma – and a large, hand-painted banner in celebration of their journey.

Scottsdale Parish administrator Fr Edwin Thundathil Xavier and CWL’s chaplain, Fr Sunil De Silva, who is also the newly-appointed Mersey-Leven Parish priest, welcomed the pilgrims to Bridport’s A-frame church for quiet prayer and reflection.

The church marks its half-century next year and was built from a modified kit home donated by a parishioner, with much of the building work carried out by volunteers, on land donated by the Christian Brothers.

The next stop was St Patrick’s Church at Scottsdale, with local parishioners joining the pilgrims for the Mass of The Good Shepherd and lunch. More parishioners welcomed the pilgrims to the final stop at the 120-year old weatherboard Gothic church at Ringarooma for Rosary, Benediction and fellowship.

Fr Edwin said of the pilgrims: “I am very happy they have come to experience the North East.”

Fr Sunil added that the visit strengthened the faith of both the pilgrims and the host parish.

“Some of the communities in our parishes are small, so they would be encouraged by the presence of the people from other parishes,” he said.

“I appreciate their enthusiasm to go around and see the churches and appreciate the church communities in faraway places. This [also] gives them the opportunity to appreciate the facilities in their own parishes when they see the facilities available in other communities.”

This was the fourth pilgrimage. Two pilgrimages took place in 2021 – to the Fingal Valley and to Oatlands and Ross – and one in 2023, to Bothwell and Ouse.

State secretary Wendy Fittler, of George Town, explained that the pilgrimages were inspired by a suggestion from Archbishop Julian to make the CWL visible in their communities, promote the faith and embrace the rich Catholic heritage of Tasmania.

“The pilgrimages have all been enriching and spiritually fulfilling and I’m sure we have all experienced the loving hand of God in our excursions,” Mrs Fittler said.

“I would like to thank Fr Sunil and Fr Edwin for making our day special and spiritually rewarding and thank those who journeyed with us and those who shared their hospitality.”

Scottsdale parishioner Maria Branch said that despite some navigational glitches for pilgrims on the way to Ringarooma, the visit had been a success.

“They are lovely people and we appreciate them calling in and visiting our parish” Mrs Branch added.

Catholic Women’s League has branches in Launceston, George Town, Richmond, Oatlands and Hobart and a CWL Craft Shop in Mather’s Lane, Hobart. New members are welcome. For details, contact state secretary Wendy Fittler (wfittler@bigpond.com) or southern vice-president Pam Clark (pamela_clark3@bigpond.com).

Mrs Fittler said it was hoped another pilgrimage would take place later in the year. The scallop shells will be ready.

Tags: Archdiocese, News, Northern Deanery, Southern Deanery