MWW2019 Leg 5: Day One (1 October 2019): Fitzroy to Caroline Springs

So we are underway again. The MacKillop-Woods Way exists more in the realm of ideas than the world of reality at the moment, although every step we take on this pilgrimage brings it more into focus. It started as an idea in the mind of Sean Deany, was focused by the dream of Luke Mills to establish the Aussie Camino from Portland to Penola, was broadened by my vision of walking from Melbourne to Sydney via Eden, and now Josh and Sean thought we should complete the walk by heading in the other direction from St Mary’s birthplace to Penola where she began the Order of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart.

Thus began the 5th Leg of the MacKillop-Woods Way.

I came into the office at the Archdiocese yesterday for two purposes: the first was to collect our pilgrim passports which Archbishop Peter had signed for us, the second was to catch up with my colleagues Brenda and Mark for tea and cake with Rachel in the Historical Commission. I also managed to catch up with Nigel Zimmermann, and as we were heading out of the office back down Albert Street, we ran into Rabbi Dovid Gutnick from the East Melbourne Shule with his family. They were just returning from prayers at the end of the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. So I took the opportunity to introduce him to Nigel, to wish them and their community “Shana Tova”, and he wished us all the best for our pilgrimage. A good interfaith start to the journey.

I then went down to Little Lonsdale Street to the small hotel in which Josh had booked us a room for the night. Josh had just flown in from Launceston and arrived a few minutes after me. We checked in, dropped of our gear and, after a bit of organising, headed around to Moor Street to Jim’s place where Sean lives.  Jim welcomed us with a glass of whisky to salute the start of our new journey. After an hour’s lively conversation Sean, Josh and I headed around the corner to The Standard Hotel in Fitzroy Street for dinner. The Standard is a favourite – great beers and really good food.

As Josh and I were heading back to the hotel, we passed the bar and restaurant that used to be the original synagogue in Melbourne on the corner of Little Lonsdale and Exhibition Street. Feeling like “something more” before retiring, we went inside and had ordered a G&T each, made with Four Pillars Bloody Shiraz Gin from Healesville (served with orange, not lemon). This was, at least in theory, to ensure a good night’s sleep.

I had a rather fitful night, spending the hours between 1am and 2am awake and tossing and turning most of the rest of the night. I must have finally fallen into a deep sleep just before the 6am alarm went off. We got ourselves organised as fast as we could, but were still just that little bit late for the 7am mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral – we entered during the first reading. It was the feast of St Therese of Lisieux – a fitting day to start for a couple of reasons. She had, for a time when our colony was regarded as the a “mission territory”, been Australia’s patroness, and also her relics had come to visit our parish of Our Lady’s at Ringwood soon after I had been received in to the Church in 2003. At the time, I had asked her to intercede for me with regards to my future. I cannot say that walking pilgrimages was ever a part of my plans all those years ago, but I trust that her intercession is with us on the way this year.

We had teed up beforehand with Fr Zaher to give us the pilgrim blessing after mass, but he kindly included our pilgrimage in the intercessions for the day and in his mass intentions. After the mass, he led us to the stairs on the side of the altar where knelt and received the blessing for our journey (Sean was included in the prayers, although he didn’t make it to the mass!).

We then shouldered our packs and went around to St Mary’s Square outside the Daniel Mannix building at the Australian Catholic University in Brunswick Street where we had planned to meet with Sean at 8:15. As it we were about 30mins early, we decided to go to the ACU cafe for coffee and breakfast. We visited St Mary’s Chapel on the way, where the cast iron cross of her original grave has been installed. Sean joined us soon after 8am and, after he had had his regulatory double shot latte, we went around to the statue of St Mary in the Square for the expedition portrait. We had just nabbed a passing student and press-ganged her into the role of photographer, when my colleague Sam Zifchak passed by and we passed the duty to him. Sam and I had been hoping to catch up before I left on the journey but couldn’t find a time that suited, so this was “well-met” indeed. We crossed to the other side of the road, and again begged a passerby to photograph us with the stone marking St Mary of the Cross’ birthplace. Next we headed up to the corner of Gertrude and Brunswick Street to the local post office to get a stamp in our pilgrim passports. The post office attendant was very ready to help. He immediately brought out the post office’s special picture stamp, which featured none other than St Mary herself and identifying Fitzroy as her birthplace.

Finally, all rites and ceremonies having been attended to, we set off. We crossed the Carlton Gardens past the Exhibition Building (which is currently being renovated), then onto Queensberry Street. We continued along Queensberry all the way to West Melbourne where the new train station is being constructed. Then we followed Arden Street under the freeway, over the Moonee Ponds Creek, over the railway, and into Kensington. We crossed the bridge over the Maribyrnong River and followed the path around the Heavenly Queen Temple. (I thought it was a Buddhist Temple at first, but we looked this up and found that it was a Chinese temple devoted to the sea-goddess Mazu. The big statue of Mazu is looking out at the ports. It is, I guess, roughly the equivalent of Our Lady Star of the Sea…

We then made our way onto Hopkins Street which becomes Barkly Street and we followed this all the way into Footscray. We stopped for a coffee break in the Theatre Cafe. We were rather intrigued there by the feature teaspoons. I had one of San Francisco, Sean had one of the Eiffel Tower and Josh had the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

From there it was a long march all the way down Barkly Street until we arrived at the Central West Shopping Centre where we had lunch. Sean and Josh chose to eat a separate cafe to me, as I chose the bakery. Largely this was because I could get a table near a power point to plug my iPad and iPhone into. While eating, I marked an essay for my Uni class (we are in the middle of marking season, and although I had managed to get one whole class marked, I still have most of the second class to mark before Thursday week). When we got going again, we were on South Road and Monash Street all the way into Sunshine. Before we got to the station, we came to Our Lady’s Catholic Church. There we met up with Fr Peter-Damien McKinley who showed us around the school grounds where there were a number of St Mary MacKillop related installations. He also gave us access to the Church, which, among other points of interest, had a relic of St Mary’s second coffin.  We called in across the road at the parish office, where the secretary kindly stamped our passports for us.

Then it was on over the Sunshine Station, and finally onto the Kororoit Creek trail. The trails was green and shady, and there was a cool breeze blowing which refreshed us in the warm sunshine. We were able to follow this trail along the creek for most of the rest of the day, although in places we had to go onto the main roads to save distance. This mean that we had to walk a bit of the way on the Ballarat Road, just where it passes the Turkish Mosque and goes under the Ring Road freeway. This brought us out into Deer Park, and, as we were crossing the road, I pointed out the Deer Park Hotel across the road. “Time for afternoon tea?” I asked. Yes, agreed the others, and Josh reminded us that he was paying for beers on this trip again (it is the birthday gift that keeps on giving – even when it isn’t our birthdays!).

We spent a pleasant half hour in the pub over a couple of schooners, listening to Beatles music. When we set off again, a short cut across the park brought us back onto the Kororoit Creek trail. We walked on the north side of the creek all the way around onto Opie Road, when we realised we had missed the creek crossing to the other side. I had expected a bridge, but it was just a rocky ford (which might be submerged in wetter times). In any case, we had no trouble crossing, and after walking through a bit of a field, we found ourselves at last in Caroline Springs. We had stopped a little earlier for a rest (Sean was feeling a bit sore) and I took the opportunity to call my daughter who had spent last night having tests in a clinic. We fell into a bit of an argument about how much further it was to go. I insisted no more than 3 or 4km, but Josh thought it was closer to seven.

When it came to it, the mistake was mine. Maria Carnovale, one of our hosts from the Caroline Springs Parish, rang me to ask whether we were far off, and I said no, I could see the Church ahead of us. Her husband Tony and another host, Victor Borg, were waiting with the parish secretary at the church for us, but they could not see us coming up the street. When we approached the sign that I could see, I was a little confused, because it turned out to be a sign for the Christ the Priest Primary School. I called Maria again to ask how we got around the the Church, and it was then that I found out that for the last five years the parish had been worshipping in their new church about 2km north from there at the Secondary College. Vic and Tony kindly came and collected us from the Primary School…

…And took us around to the Borg’s home where Mary Borg was cooking up a great dinner for us: pasta and chicken soup, Roast beef, devilled chicken, roast potatoes and pumpkin and capsicum, and fried green beans. As well as Tony and Maria Carnovale, we were joined by Bev and Pat Gurry for dinner. These three couples, together with a few others, are known in the local parish as the “Gumnuts”, and when they heard from Fr Richard Rosse, the parish priest, that three pilgrims needed hospitality, they swung into action and made plans for us. The evening meal was rich with food, wine and loud cheery conversation. It was in the tradition of the best hospitality along the MacKillop-Woods Way, like we had received from the people at Eden and Narooma. It was after 9pm when the party broke up and Maria and Tony took Sean and I back to their place for the night. Josh is staying at the Borg’s, where we will return for breakfast.

Which brings this account of today to an end. It will be a long day tomorrow, for which we have already adjusted our plans, but more of that tomorrow. 

For all photos for today, see here on google photos.For all photos for today, see here on google photos.

Total distance today was 28.59km. We left 8:45am and arrived at 5:47pm – just on nine hours.


About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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