Rooted in Tradition
As a pilgrim, St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, experienced the beauty and mystery of God in all things.
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.
The Walking Pilgrimage is also an opportunity to recall the faith of the Jesuit missionaries who gave their lives to bring Christianity to the Huron Wendat Nation.
Almost 400 years ago, Jean de Bréfeuf, Isaac Jogues, and their companions, 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.
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. Since the first Guelph Walking Pilgrimage, 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.
Each year the number of pilgrims who join the Guelph Walking Pilgrimage rises. There have likely been over 700 individual pilgrims that have walked from Guelph to Midland. Many pilgrims return year after year.
As we walk, we remember Sean Farrelly and his trademark Irish charm. He was our fearless truck-driver, discount-negotiator, problem-solver, and fixer of all things mechanical from 2006 to 2019. Sean died unexpectedly on October 27, 2019. We ask that he continue to watch over the Guelph Pilgrimage.
In 2020 and 2021, we were not able to walk the pilgrimage as it had been done for the 18 years prior due to COVID-19 restrictions. We offered a virtual pilgrimage for those years.