MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Twelve

For all posts on the MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage and an explanation of the undertaking, click here.

MWW Pilgrimage: Day Twelve

MWW Pilgrimage: Day Twelve

Today we farewelled Cowwarr for good, as John Cooney drove us back to Munro for our second to last day of walking on this first leg of our pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. I left a donation for the continued upkeep of the Parish House in Cowwarr and any future pilgrims along this route are encouraged to do the same. The future of the house is not certain; and at present it is a perfect stopover place for travellers looking for a place of spiritual significance and natural beauty to stay a night or two.

John dropped us at the very spot that we were picked up, and we set out walking along Sinclairs Road, a good gravel road/track that runs right along the railway line from Munro to the next old siding town, Fernbank. The trail is only used by local farmers to access their properties, so we only met two vehicles on the whole way. Like our walk along Freemans Lane yesterday, it was silent and peaceful, with nice bush land around us and farmland to the sides.

Arriving in Fernbank we met a local woman, Jill, who pointed out to us that we could continue along the railway from Fernbank along Pearce Street which eventually connected with the Fernbank-Lindenow Road. I met another local, Paul, with whom we talked about walking as he was going on a three day walking trip with his son in the near future. then we had a look around town. The Catholic Church, one of the most prominent buildings in the hamulet, has been converted into a very nice home, and the Uniting Church (St Margaret’s) had only just recently been sold and was being converted into a holiday home. We sat and ate our picnic lunch on the steps of the Hall. The hall had a bit of a verandah on it, which you could camp under at a pinch, but there are no public toilets. Water is only available from the rainwater tank down by the CFA shed.

Leaving town by Pearce Street, we were again in quiet bushland until the track met up with the sealed bitumen road to Lindenow South. This was not at all a busy road, and had a good verge on it even when traffic came along, so was pleasant walking. There is no track on this section along the railway, and you have to follow it all the way into Lindenow South. The plains gave way to low hills along this stretch.

Entering Lindenow South you come first to the Football and Tennis grounds. There are ample spots here for a camper to find shelter without a tent and very good public toilets. It also has a little general store, which Sean tells me was well stocked with cold drinks but little else. The local cemetery is also on the road north of town, and so I popped in there for a look and a prayer for the holy souls.

But we were pushing on to Lindenow (pronounced -oh rather than -ow) proper which was still four kilometres away. There are a couple of ways of getting there after you cross the railway line. I took the direct root on the main road. After crossing several hills you come down into the broad valley of the Mitchell River that appears to be used for vegetable farming. Lindenow is built upon the souther bank of this valley, and affords some quite dramatic views. The road leads down into the valley, and then you have to climb back up again into the main street.

I was really exhausted by this point and was glad to have made it into the post office / general store by 4:40pm to get a stamp in my pilgrim passport. Sean was some way behind me, so I went around to our accomodation which is just across the main road in Ross Stweet. Altar Ego Church Stay is a new B&B run by David and Robyn, converted from the old Anglican Church (currently the Uniting Church and Anglicn Church share the brick church across the road). It has two rooms available, both set up for couples rather than groups of travellers, although there is an adjoining door if you wanted to hire the whole place. Sean and I had booked the “Queen Room” at the back for $140 a night with a $10 extra charge per person for breakfast provisions (cereal, bread, jam, vegemite, fresh fruit, milk, yoghurt). It is a one room layout, with bed, shower, toilet, table and sink area all in the one space. Very contemporary in design and aimed at comfort. We missed a microwave oven, which might be useful for some travellers (I like to heat up my cup of tea when it has gone cold), and we took turns going outside when the other was using the bathroom (really, I don’t think that even if Cathy and I were going to stay here together we would want to be on display when going to the toilet!). Still, much more comfortable than sharing a tent!

When Sean arrived, we cleaned up and showered and shaved before going over to the local Lindenow Pub for dinner. This is a really nice place, with very friendly staff. The proprietors are Shane and Sal (? – I think I got those names right). Those staying at the Altar Ego get 10% off food and drinks. The pub values its heritage and has a underlying Irish theme. There is Guinness on tap (we each had two pints), and the food is excellent and moderately priced. I had leek soup and beef and Guinness (natch) pie with mash for $30 all up. While we were waiting for our dinner, Sal showed us around the dinning rooms pointing out the pictures on the wall showing the heritage of Lindenow and of the pub, and some original artworks of the local scenery. I very strongly advise future pilgrims to put this establishment on their itinerary. Unfortunately the Pub isn’t set up for accomodation.

Today was another good day for praying along the way, quite and peaceful. I am feeling totally relaxed, although with the end of this leg of the pilgrimage in sight I am wondering how long this feeling of well being will last when I return to the real world where the daily pilgrimage is to work and back. Pope Francis’ Post Synodal Exhortation “Amoris Laetitia”, on the Joy of Marriage and Family Life, came out tonight. In it, he describes marriage and family life itself as a journey, a Camino, a pilgrimage. I am wondering if there is a way I can approach my daily life in the same way that I am approaching this pilgrimage. Yes, there are a thousand little things to plan along the way, but you keep your eyes on the eventual destination, and realise that wherever you are in terms of the present problems you are passing on to other things. At the same time there is the need to appreciate the present moment, to look at the scenery, to feel the ground beneath your feet. In terms of marriage and family relationships, that is the valuing of every moment. And again, on this pilgrimage, I have had to live at close (sometimes like tonight very close) quarters with my pilgrim partners Sean and Josh. You can’t walk together if you are at each other’s throats all the time. You have to constantly show your better virtues to one another rather than give vent to your weaker side (as Pope Francis says of marriage in his letter). So I think there is plenty of food for thought along these lines as I return to the so-called “real world” on Sunday.

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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4 Responses to MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Twelve

  1. Brian Coyne says:

    I do enjoy reading these pilgrimage notes you post, David, and the photographs. Congratulations on this little endeavour. I’m not sure what it might lead to given the state of the Church “down under” at the present time — some of those abandoned towns and churches you’ve described might be some sort of descriptor for where the institution is heading. I spent a long time last night watching the media conference to release “Amoris Laetitia” — and also reporting on how he was being reported around the world on catholica – http://www.catholica.com.au/forum/index.php?id=184290 — I wrote the following summary of my own impressions:

    I’ve been saying for a few days that this Exhortation might be something of a “Litmus Test” for the pontificate of Pope Francis, and the future for Catholicism. Obviously I’ve not yet had time to read the full document, but from the VR summary — and a glance at some sections of the full document — I feel heartened by what I’ve been reading.

    I’ve been coming to the conclusion for some time that fundamentally the entire Jesus’ message is NOT about rules — learning them and showing how well you can recite them all. It is about our competence in being able to navigate through all the rules that exist in life to make intelligent — or Jesus-like or God-like choices and decisions. The fundamentalists and trads DO NOT SEEM TO UNDERSTAND THIS. They need dogma, rules and simple certitudes in their lives more than they need food, water and air for their survival. This document, from what I have been discerning, offers a very similar reading to the conclusion I’ve been coming to. Just as it isn’t going to be comfortable reading for the conservatives, neither is it likely to be highly pleasing to the libertarians and those who believe there should be no rules whatsoever. The reality is that our lives, and ALL of Life, is packed with friggin’ rules (and Laws and Dogmas and all sorts of social conventions and mores) that we need to know — and need to navigate through — in order to live intelligent (emotionally, mentally and spiritually ‘intelligent’) lives. This appears to me to be a very Ignatian-inspired way of looking at what Catholicism means.

    Is it a document capable of reversing the decline in Catholicism? I’m still not sure. It seems to me to be a step in the right direction but it is also likely to be a document that generates a lot of “noise” from the element within the Church that has largely been responsible from leading everybody away from the “Way” of Jesus (and controlling the institutional agenda for most of our lifetimes). It’s going to be interesting to watch what effect this document — and the changed Synodal process that led to it — has on the future of the Church. Francis, to me, remains a bit of an enigma. It’s hard to work out if he genuinely is some kind of genius for the course he’s chosen; or if he genuinely is a pretty humble guy who literally has left himself open to “being guided by the Spirit” and he himself scarcely knows from one day to the next what he’s going to say, or do, next. Perhaps Jesus was very much like that?

    • Schütz says:

      Not really ready to comment on the Exhortation yet, Brian – other than it being (as predicted) very long and also (as with previous documents from Pope Francis) a bit of a Rohrschack’s inkblot when it comes to interpreting the finer details. I will get around to reading it in depth sooner or later.

      As for the communities we visited, it is true that many are aging and dwindling in size. Not just Catholics, but Uniting and Anglican churches everywhere are either abandoned or being turned into homes and B&B’s. Mind you, there was a bit of a boom out here once which was quite out of proportion. Cowwarr alone was a parish of six churches, and there simply isn’t that population out there any more. On the other hand, there are signs of real life and serious Christian spirituality and service that we met along the way. The churches are not rolling over and playing dead! And the population of the Sale Diocese is growing too, not only with the expanding urbanisation from Melbourne, which now reaches at least as far as Warragul, but also with many folk doing a tree-change. A lot of people we met along the way were newly moved into the area and there are signs of the smaller villages and hamlets being revitalised by new occupants and businesses. So I remain hopeful, and prayerful.

  2. matthias says:

    the Jesus Message Brian is Christ died for the ungodly. trust in Him. No brainsurgery just Faith. Decline in Catholicism perhaps here abd europe and the Americas ( with pentecostals apparently getting Catholics joining them in South America) . Whilst in Africa and Asia the Church is growing. I would like to know why Latin Mass attendances seem to attract young people, not boomers like me and you brian. Why the Christus REX pilgrimmage gets good numbers. ( i was wrong i came into the Church via TLM even though the chaplain seems to have given up on me – however the Dominicans have not!). Then there is the 250000 people who did a pilgrimmage between Hungary and Szeckler land in Romania. but in all brian it comes down to a relatonship withThe LIVING GOD through the Holy Spirit speaking within and without the Sacraments and the LITURGY,and the Sacred Tradition.

    • Brian Coyne says:

      Mathias, I won’t get into a heavy discussion on David’s blog. I do share many of my own perspectives about these things on www(dot)catholica(dot)com(dot)au. Yes, I do agree with you that a sector of the young are attracted to older styles. My sense is that it is largely a psychological thing (as opposed, for example, to political preference) but it is confined to a minority and quite particular psychological sub-set of the population. I honestly can’t see them eventually re-evangelizing the larger population that has departed and ceased listening. I think Benedict-Ratzinger was correct in his prediction that the future would be a “smaller, purer Church”. I don’t know if he held a hope that that “smaller, purer Church” would eventually re-evangelize the rest of society but I cannot see it happening.

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