On October 14th, the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board held its ninth annual Pilgrimage walk, an event that invites all Catholic schools in Hamilton to come together as one community. Also known as “Walk with Christ: Justice for the Poor”, the Pilgrimage is a successful charity event that raises awareness and funds to counter acts of injustice occurring in the developing countries of Haiti, Uganda, and the Dominican Republic. It invites students to make a difference and to help others who are struggling with hunger, poor health care, inadequate shelter, as well as a lack of education.
As always, thousands of determined students and staff supervisors participated in the walk, staying committed to their faith as they braved the intense weather. After celebrating Mass together, participants walked an eight-kilometer route, beginning at Cathedral High School and ending at St. Daniel Catholic Elementary School. Wrapped in sweaters, coats, and layers of other clothing necessary to keep warm, over 200 STM students proudly traveled along the escarpment rail trail, setting a strong example for the elementary feeder schools that followed, namely St. Vincent de Paul and St. Michael. The vibrant energy expressed by STM students influenced and excited the crowd.
“People were pumped, their excitement made it more memorable,” said Rachel Kolenko, St. Thomas More’s Spiritual Director. While this is Rachel’s first year as Spiritual Director, it definitely wasn’t her first year participating in the walk. “It wasn’t my first time and, although the turnout wasn’t as big as previous years, it made the group a lot more intimate and special,” said Rachel.
While many students attended the walk for their second or third time, it was a new experience for some people in the crowd. Taylor Stesl, a grade eleven student at STM participated in the Pilgrimage for the first time this year. “It was a very spiritual experience,” he shared, “you kind of get this connection with faith and Christ.” When asked if he’ll return next year, he enthusiastically responded, “Definitely. I’ll definitely go next year.”
As expected, faith was the theme of the day and, as Mr. Barone said on CMOR the following Monday, participating in the walk was a “visible sign of faith and commitment.” Not only do students receive community service hours for volunteering, they are also given the opportunity to experience a greater depth of faith and to recognize Catholics as a passionate group. All in all, “Walk with Christ: Justice for the Poor” is an event where people realize how lucky they are to be living in a country like Canada where basic needs are met and opportunities to better oneself are numerous.
The Pilgrimage allows us, as a Catholic school community, to “act justly, love tenderly, and walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8), something that the Lord expects and, no doubt, appreciates.