By Elaine West
When Patrick Nugent arrived back on Beaver Island on July 3, a host of friends gathered at the ferry dock to welcome him home. He’d been on a very special trip – a true pilgrimage – in Spain. Patrick had carried with him the hopes and prayers of fellow parishioners of Holy Cross Parish in the tangible form of small pebbles that he left behind at the highestelevation in his journey to travel El Camino de Santiago, or ‘The Way of Saint James.’
He headed to Spain to travel the Camino with other pilgrims, an experience that deeply impressed him. Although some (usually because of age or handicaps) travel the ancient routes by bus or tackle the 33 day walk in segments, Patrick walked it all, traveling four to six hours per day.
Fellow pilgrims were from all over the world, with many Europeans and a good number from Ireland. People of every religion walked the Camino – Catholics, Protestants, Hindu, Muslims, Jews and more. They ranged in age from a teenager to one couple who had given the Camino to each other as gift for their 50th wedding anniversary. Most spoke at least some English so communications were easy.
“Race, religion, nationality, gender – it all disappeared,” said Patrick. “Sexual preference or social standing, it didn’t matter. All of that just vanished.”
The hardest part of ending his pilgrimage was to say good-bye to all the friends he had met along the way. Their friendship is continuing through a stream of daily email from across the world.
And how did the experience change him? “I came away a softer person, more tolerant,” he said. He also notes that he and his fellow pilgrims are continuing their spiritual journey each and every day back in their home towns, learning to incorporate the lessons of the Camino into their lives and the lives of those they touch. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever
done,” said Patrick.
To read more about Patrick’s pilgrimage, the unforgettable travelers he met, and plans for him to share the stories of the Camino, please see the August issue of NorthernIslander – on news stands now.