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NWI Camino creates a physical and spiritual journey for young adults

080522NWI Camino 2022 Walking

Ana Acosta, of St. John Bosco in Hammond, and Carrie Nowacki, of St. Michael the Archangel in Schererville, walk along the sidewalk while Marcellino Ahearn, of St. Joseph in Hammond, and Wyatt Trevino, of St. Michael, follow behind during the NWI Camino. Participants spent two days, July 23-24, traveling from Crown Point to Hammond as part of a spiritual pilgrimage. (Cecilia Cicone photo)

 

BY ERIN CISZCZON AND CECILIA CICONE, Northwest Indiana Catholic

 

      Inspired by Northern Spain’s centuries old pilgrimage trail, the Camino de Santiago, young adults in Northwest Indiana were invited on a spiritual walking pilgrimage within their own local community. The annual NWI Camino took place July 23-24, bringing together a small group that participated in a 17-mile walk from St. Mary in Crown Point to Our Lady of Grace in Highland.

      Victoria Hathaway, ministry consultant for the diocesan Office of Youth and Young Adults, sees the activity as more of a retreat where the participants can set aside their normal daily schedules.

      “The NWI Camino is a unique prayer experience,” said Hathaway. “It is a time when young adults can step away from their screens and the busyness of everyday life and focus on their relationship with God. They can reflect upon their own spiritual pilgrimage of life as they embark on a physical pilgrimage as well.”

      To begin the-two-day journey, Father Chris Stanish, vicar general and director of vocations for the Diocese of Gary, celebrated a Pilgrim Mass at St. Mary in Crown Point. He preached on the life of St. James the Great and how the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to him at a time when he was discouraged in spreading the Gospel. Why are saints saints? “Because they didn’t give up,” said Father Stanish.

      “Trials create endurance, and endurance creates hope and hope does not disappoint,” he continued. “This is what makes us into the men and women God is calling us to be.”

      Before the Mass ended, Father Stanish also offered a special blessing. He prayed, “Let this be a time of prayer and of love, that your hearts may be transformed.”

      The pilgrims then headed north where they would proceed on the Erie-Lackawanna Trail, a bike and jogging path that follows in a near parallel to Burr and Colfax streets. They stopped briefly in Griffith for lunch before continuing to Our Lady of Grace where they rested for the night. On the second day of the pilgrimage, the participants headed from the grounds of the Highland parish to their final destination at All Saints in Hammond.

      Along the way, the walkers received a stamp on their “passport.” Volunteers were stationed at various locations throughout the route to administer that mark of accomplishment as well as offer encouragement and provide refreshments. Showing support for the pilgrims by volunteering during the weekend included members of the St. Paul’s Right to Life Ministry, Diocese of Gary Pastoral Center and Holy Family Young Adult Ministry.

      Wyatt Trevino, a member of St. Michael the Archangel in Schererville was drawn to participate in the Camino because Hathaway had reached out and asked him to accompany the others. During the walk, he shared that he was happy to have made some new friends.

      “It’s nice to spend time with other young Catholics,” he said.

      Anna Acosta, of St. John Bosco in Hammond, had participated in the pilgrimage before and was back this year to rejoin the group.

      “I did it last year and enjoyed being together as a community and having the opportunity to connect with younger Catholics,” she said.

      Acosta now looks forward to the activity every year which gives her “a little bit of peace and grounding.”

      “It’s great to see youth interact with their religion and be in touch with their religion, like praying the Rosary as they walk and talking about their faith without judgment,” she said.

      Hathaway said although there was a smaller group participating this year, the NWI Camino was still a “wonderful experience for all.”

      “Everyone who participated said that they were able to take time to pray and reflect as they walked along their journey,” she said. “Even though it was raining for a portion, our pilgrims put their trust in God and went forward. A few even said that after they prayed the Rosary, the skies cleared up and the sun came out.”

      The Office for Youth and Young Adults is planning to schedule young adult adoration nights in September and December. More information will be coming soon and will be found at garyoyya.org/yam.

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