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Country pilgrim bringing a smaller version of the Camino to Ipswich

Ipswich pilgrims

Country Camino: Ipswich Catholic Community parish priest Fr Stephen Bliss blesses pilgrims Chrissie Turner, Kerry Cassin and St Brigid’s Primary School, Rosewood principal Duane Wann, who are preparing to walk the Ipswich version of the Camino. Photo: Emilie Ng

PILGRIMAGE enthusiast Chrissie Turner is so hooked on the Camino, she’s bringing a version of the 1000-year-old popular walk to her home parish in Ipswich.

Mrs Turner, who has been a member of the St Brigid’s Parish, Rosewood, since 1995, has completed dozens of pilgrimages and walks around the world, including the Australian Camino, which follows the footsteps of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea, the Annapurna Circuit in the mountain range of central Nepal, and a 165km rail trail in Victoria.

Eighteen months ago the 67-year-old walked a remarkable 1150km from the south of Portugal to complete her favourite pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago or the Way of St James.

“I find it very peaceful when I do Camino,” Mrs Turner said.

Now the 68-year-old is planning her own version of the Camino to unite the four parishes within the Ipswich Catholic Community.

The 21km pilgrimage is a project of the parish’s animation group, which was established to encourage a greater communion between the four Ipswich-based communities.

“This is not a speed thing, this is about people being together,” Mrs Turner, a member of the parish animation team, said.

It will also offer a chance for the entire community to pray together in some of their own churches.

“It’s a pilgrimage walk of the Ipswich Catholic community in recognition of the saints after whom the churches are named,” Mrs Turner said.

The pilgrimage will focus on the saintly namesakes of St Brigid’s Church, Rosewood, St Joseph’s Church, North Ipswich, St Michael’s Church, Pine Wood Mountain, St Boniface’s Church, Marburg, St Mary’s Church, Ipswich, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, Leichardt, and St Andrew’s Church, Walloon, which has been closed for several years.

It will begin at the iconic wooden St Brigid’s Church in Rosewood at 9am on August 26 and end at St Mary’s Church, Ipswich with a sausage sizzle before the 6pm Mass.

Young Catholics from the parish’s youth group, The Hive, will lead the pilgrims in prayer at each of the eight stops along the 21km walk.

Mrs Turner said members of the public who weren’t part of the Catholic community had expressed an interest in walking the Ipswich version of the Camino.

And just like on the Camino, pilgrims will receive an official passport to record their milestones on the pilgrimage, as well as a smaller version of the pilgrim shell that will be blessed by parish priest, Franciscan Friar Fr Stephen Bliss.

Camino shell

Pilgrim’s shell: Chrissie Turner has recreated the iconic Camino shells to give out to pilgrims walking the Ipswich pilgrimage this month. Photo: Emilie Ng.

The pilgrimage will also be used as a fundraiser for the local St Vincent de Paul Society conference, which Mrs Turner said would go back into serving the poor and vulnerable in Ipswich.

Fr Bliss, who has walked four pilgrimages overseas, said his community would walk in the footsteps of his order’s founder, St Francis, who walked the Camino hundreds of years ago.

“We walk in the footsteps of St Francis in a real simple and humble way and hopefully parishioners pick up that simplicity and humility and the care and respect we show one another is what we want to build in the community,” Fr Bliss said.

Fr Bliss said the Ipswich pilgrimage would be a visible witness of the community’s “journey of faith”.

“The walk is a symbol of our lives, that’s what we’re presenting to people – sometimes that walk or that journey of life is rough, sometimes it’s easy, and that’s symbolised in the walk and hopefully it’s enjoyable,” Fr Bliss said.

“Sometimes life gets a bit sweaty and sometimes we need to just stop and have a drink and that’s partly why we have the different church stations along the 21km route.”

Fr Bliss, who was installed as parish priest of Ipswich on May 27, said he was proud of the growth occurring in the Ipswich Catholic community.

“We started last year with listening sessions in the parish, and they’ve grown into an animation group and that animation group is in formation to be a parish council,” Fr Bliss said.

“As the four parishes do more and more together, it’s a journey into one parish, not only one parish but it’s the one God that calls us to discipleship.”

Fr Bliss hopes to take Ipswich youth on a “centring retreat” under the stars at Uluru.

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