Photo Credit: Lisa Polk

By Alison Bradish

Instead of trip, they chose a pilgrimage.

Miri Schiller has six children, four of whom are girls. She has started a tradition of taking a one on one trip with each of them when they turn nine.

This year it was her daughter Éowyn’s turn and the mother daughter duo set out on the St. Philomena Walking Pilgrimage August 11th to 14th.

Schiller came across information about the pilgrimage via the Archdiocesan website and the idea of participating with her daughter took root.

“I explained it was walking and making special stops along the way at various churches. It’s a journey where you pray as you go. Something we talked about beforehand, but also along the way, was that maybe this was something we could offer up, the sacrifice of walking, for the intentions of people,” explains Schiller.

Éowyn had her intentions ready. The first day she walked 24 km and she got through most of the second day before her knee started hurting. She took the opportunity to offer it up for her Uncle’s surgery.

“It’s sacrificing and learning to get closer to God. You are out with nature. It was really good experience,” says Éowyn.

“It (the intentions) gave her that extra push to keep going,” says Schiller. They made it through the first two days of the pilgrimage before deciding it was best to stop there. They are hoping next year they can join in for the final two days.

Schiller says the experience made her think of the importance of slowing down.

“I felt like I had this goal in mind and I wanted to keep pushing and keep a pace going. Éowyn of course wanted to stop and pick every flower and look at every insect and do all those kind of things kids do. It really helped to remind me to slow down and take that time, especially since days when we are with the kids it is easy to say, no, just a minute, I’m busy. I had no excuse to say no to her and not slow down and take that time to enjoy everything with her,” adds Schiller about the experience.

Schiller says she was touched by the kindness of the others on the pilgrimage and the volunteers along the trail giving their time to support the pilgrims on their journey.

Deacon Dave Hudy is one of the main organizers of the St. Philomena Pilgrimage, now in its second year.

“I just think it’s a chance to connect with God and to try and put our priorities in place. There is something more than this life. Pilgrimages are a reminder of that,” says Hudy.

The pilgrimage starts with Mass at St. Gerard’s Parish in Yorkton and ends the fourth day when the pilgrims arrive at the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in Rama. Rest stops are organized. Most of the meals were provided by St. Henry’s Parish in Melville and St. Gerard’s in Yorkton.

Hudy says on pilgrimage one learns to let go of their plans for the journey, and to accept the graces and gifts God has for them.

For Lisa Polk, director of pastoral services for the Archdiocese of Regina, this was her first experience of a pilgrimage. She participated in the first day of the event.

“There’s certainly times in our life where sitting quietly in front of the Blessed Sacrament is very meaningful…but the solitude and connection you can feel when you are with all of the things God has created outside, in a very natural setting, that’s also a really big connection for people,” says Polk.

A naturally competitive person, Polk says she would sometimes start thinking about catching up with the people ahead of her and was challenged to balance the spiritual and the physical.

“I was really able to reflect on why am I doing this? Why am I on this walk? To be able to pull back and go at a pace I felt God was calling me to and sometimes that was a rhythm of a prayer or a song in my head and sometimes it was because someone else was joining me and I was just really trying to stay open to whatever I felt called to do in the moment,” recalls Polk.

Her most memorable moment was the last stretch of her walk when she was surrounded by fields and vast prairie sky.

“I was connecting a little more with God through that beauty and just being so appreciative for all the things I have been given,” says Polk.




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