Each year, the Walking Pilgrimage highlights themes of Ignatian spirituality. As a pilgrim, St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, experienced the beauty and mystery of God in all things, understood that God dwells in all creatures, and labours for us within all of Creation. As we walk, we will be nurtured by “the presence of God in all things.”
Rooted in ancient tradition
Walking on a Pilgrimage to a holy place has a long history in various religious traditions. From ancient times, the pilgrimage was often a rigorous physical journey that combined spiritual intent with a testing of heart and soul. We too embark on a journey of faith, hope and inner resolve for a common good.
A brief history – the footprints of divinity
The Walking Pilgrimage is also an opportunity to recall the faith of the Jesuit missionaries who gave of their lives to bring Christianity to the Huron Wendat Nation.
Almost 400 years ago the Jesuit missionaries, including Jean de Bréfeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, introduced Christianity to the Huron Wendat Nation. All eight members of the “Society of Jesus” were martyred for their faith between 1642 and 1649.
The Martyrs’ Shrine, dating from 1925, commemorates the faith of these eight Jesuits and of the early Huron-Wendat Christians. The Shrine sits atop a hill across the highway from Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, the internationally significant Ontario historic site and a reconstructed village of the first European community in Ontario. The original village, founded in 1639, served as the headquarters of the French Jesuit mission. The remains of Jean de Bréfeuf and Gabriel Lalemant are buried at Sainte-Marie.
The Martyrs’ Shrine has become a celebrated place of pilgrimage and prayer. Each year, thousands of pilgrims of many nationalities visit the Shrine. It has become a sacred place of healing, faith and hope for countless people.
The Guelph Walking Pilgrimage was started in 2003 by Robin and Jean Fishburn along with 3 friends. It was inspired by the Toronto Polish Walking Pilgrimage which had begun in 1983, the 2001 Kitchener-Waterloo Walking Pilgrimage in which Jean Fishburn took part and finally by the Brampton-Burlington pilgrimage in which they both took part in 2002. Since that first Guelph Walking Pilgrimage of 2003, in early August, a group of pilgrims journey from the Ignatius Jesuit Centre to the Jesuit Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland – a place that honours early Jesuit missionaries who introduced Christianity to the Huron Wendat Nation.