Notre Dame celebrates 40th pilgrimage


Notre Dame staff and students are excited to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the school’s pilgrimage on Sunday 25 of October.

Most places might celebrate milestones of 25 years or 50 years, but for the Catholic school 40 years has even more significance.

“The 40th anniversary is really big because it is tying in the 40 days (Jesus spent) in the desert … tying in themes from the Bible,” said Grade 11 student Ehrin Turkovich.

The pilgrimage was inspired by Notre Dame teacher Jim Mulligan in 1975. While he was studying in Paris he participated in a pilgrimage to Chartres. He brought this idea back to Notre Dame and wanted to use this as a way to be in solidarity with those suffering around the world.

The symbol used for the pilgrimage is a broken world. It represents the greed, hunger, injustice and other suffering people endure around the world.

“In today’s world we are such a global society we’re pulling resources from all over the place, but stuff we have has to go back to those places as well,” said Grade 12 student Alex DiPaola.

Turkovich agreed, saying Wellanders aren’t very different to people around the world.

“We are all just people in the world, and we should all be treated the same.”

This year’s pilgrimage theme is Walk On, to signify the desire to continue the tradition of the pilgrimage. In an effort to keep tradition strong, the school has made an extra effort to contact alumni.

Pilgrimage organizer Carol Berkhout is anticipating about 1,000 participants including students and staff. Graduating classes of ’78, ’81’, ’89 and ’91 have confirmed their participation.

For Berkhout the pilgrimage has “the element of hope in a really cynical and negative world — the hope of a group of people coming together to make a positive change.”

People wanting to participate in the walk receive pledge forms and must raise money. Many of the students will ask family and friends to donate, but they are free to go door-to-door if they want. Walkers are encouraged to raise at least $50, but they won’t be turned away if they don’t raise the money.

“We want students to participate, but we also want them to take the commitment seriously,” said Berkhout.

Money raised will go towards three organizations: the Yancana Huasy centre for children with special needs in Peru; the Dominican Canadian Community Development Group (DCCD), which is a not-for-profit organization founded by Notre Dame alumni and which works towards community development in the Dominican Republic; and Development and Peace, which is an international development organization run by the Catholic Church in Canada and the Canadian member of Caritas Internationalis.

Development and Peace tries to change unfair social, political and economic structures. It has supported 15,200 local initiatives in 70 countries.

Sunday’s pilgrimage will be about 15 kilometres and is a rain or shine event. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. and the walk usually ends about noon. There will be a religious service at the school after the walk is completed.

“At the end of our mass we have a candlelight service that starts with one candle and every individual has their own candle. The light spreads throughout the gym and it’s just such beautiful symbolism. That one candle can make a difference, but it can become so much more as that light spreads,” said Berkhout.

School’s across Niagara will be hosting their own pilgrimages, with hundreds of students walking. Blessed Trinity, Denis Morris, Holy Cross, Lakeshore Catholic, Saint Paul and St. Francis. Each school supports a variety of projects overseas, from the Dominican Republic to Haiti. Lakeshore Catholic will have a barbecue and bands play once the pilgrimage is complete.