In the 150th anniversary year of the founding of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart David Schütz and Seán Deany, together with their friend Josh, began a pilgrimage from Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop’s birthplace in Fitzroy to her shrine and tomb in North Sydney.
In 2010, Seán Deany approached the Mary MacKillop Penola Centre with an idea for an Australian pilgrimage road “The MacKillop-Woods Way”. The Centre endorsed this idea, from which has since developed the “Aussie Camino” pilgrimage, inaugurated by Seán and Luke Mills in April 2014 and repeated many times since under Luke Mills’ leadership by groups walking from Portland to Penola over seven days. However, Seán’s original vision was much broader: inspired by the Camino de Santiago, which he has walked several times, Seán has mapped out a practical trail leading all the way from Port Augusta to Melbourne (via Penola) to Sydney. In 2012 and 2014 he completed walking and cycling the Port Augusta to Melbourne route.
David Schütz, who works for Ecumenical and Interfaith Commission of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, participated in the inaugural “Aussie Camino” led by Luke Mills in April 2014 and repeated the experience in December 2014 and April 2015. During this time he began to think of the possibility of a walking pilgrimage from St Mary’s birthplace in Fitzroy to her tomb and shrine in North Sydney.
On Easter Monday, March 28, 2016, David, Seán and Josh embarked upon a new leg of “The MacKillop-Woods Way”. For the sake of practicality, they planned the pilgrimage from Melbourne to Sydney over four sections, intending to walk two weeks every year in the Easter Holidays over the four years from 2016 to 2019. From March 28 to April 9, 2016, they walked from Melbourne to Bairnsdale in East Gippsland. In October 2016 they continued on from Bairnsdale, walking to Orbost. In the first two weeks of Easter 2017 David and Seán – with assistance from driver and cyclist Paul Coghlan – continued their walk from Orbost to Eden via Bendoc, Bombala and the Towamba Valley. In 2018, starting on 16 April, David, Seán and Josh will work their way up the east coast of New South Wales from Eden to Ulladulla. They aim to finally arrive at Saint Mary’s shrine in the weeks after Easter in 2019.
In 2016, local parishes, including Emerald, Drouin-Warragul, Moe, Traralgon, Cowwarr, Bairnsdale and Orbost, showed their enthusiasm for the idea of “The MacKillop-Woods Way”, by offering accommodation on the way. Many other locals, businesses, hotels, cafes and restaurants showed interest and support for the walkers.
As with the “Aussie Camino”, Seán prepared a pilgrim “passport” in which the pilgrims collect stamps from the parishes and towns they visit. They hope that by pioneering a viable route and walking it themselves, others may follow in their footsteps, and “The MacKillop-Woods Way” from the birthplace of St Mary to her tomb may become a recognised Australian pilgrimage trail.
The pilgrimage has received the blessing of the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, and the endorsement of the Bishop of Sale, Patrick O’Regan. Claire Larkin, the Chairperson of the Mary MacKillop Penola Centre, also wrote to wish God’s blessings, good health and much success for the plans.
Sean prepared a “passport” along the lines of the Camino de Santiago credentials for the pilgrims to collect stamps in along the way.
Below is a list of links in chronological order of the diary kept by David Schütz along the pilgrimage so far. David would very much welcome contact from anyone who would like to learn more about the route they took, the accommodation and other logistics, should you wish to follow in their footsteps.
For those interested in statistics, the original Google Earth measurement for the entire first leg of the MacKillop-Woods Way pilgrimage from Fitzroy to Bairnsdale was 320km. David’s realtime GPS measurement came in at 366kms. So let’s call it a round 340kms!
UPDATE 6 October 2016
Seán, Josh and I completed the next section of the MacKillop-Woods Way from Bairnsdale to Orbost on 2-5 October 2016, staying at Bairnsdale, Bruthen, Nowa Nowa, Tostaree and Orbost. I had a better app to measure my distances on this section, and so can confidently state that the distance from Bairnsdale to Orbost is just over 100km, my app measuring 103.5km. At the end of this section we had covered 443.5km.
UPDATE 2 May 2017
On Easter Monday, 17 April 2017, Seán and I, in the company of our friend Paul Coghlan, set off for another leg of our pilgrimage . Unfortunately, Josh was not be able to join us for this leg. Paul was our driver and backup as we were heading into remote territory. We walked for nine days and approximately 250kms as we travelled from Orbost in Victoria, to Goongerah, Bendoc, into New South Wales to Craigie, Bombala, Towamba and finally arrived at Eden on the NSW coast on 26 April. The entire leg was just on 250km, making the distance covered so far 693km, well over half way to Sydney (which is estimated at another 525km). We will return to Eden on Easter Tuesday 2018 to continue our pilgrimage as far as Ulladulla. We would welcome contact from anyone interested in walking any part or all of the 2018 leg of the Pilgrimage with us.
First Section: Fitzroy to Bairnsdale (28 March to 9 April, 2016)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day One
(Easter Monday, March 28: Fitzroy to Wantirna South)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Two
(Easter Tuesday, March 29: Wantirna South to Emerald)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Three
(Wednesday, March 30: Emerald to Tynong North)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Four
(Thursday, March 31: Tynong North to Drouin)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Five
(Friday, April 1: Drouin to Yarragon)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Six
(Saturday, April 2: Yarragon to Moe)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Seven
(Divine Mercy Sunday, April 3: Moe to Traralgon)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Eight
(Monday, April 4: Traralgon to Cowwarr)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Nine
(Tuesday, April 5: Rest Day in Cowwar)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Ten
(Wednesday, April 6: Cowwarr to Maffra)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Eleven
(Thursday, April 7: Maffra to Munro)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Twelve
(Friday, April 8: Munro to Lindenow)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016: Day Thirteen
(Saturday, April 9: Lindenow to Bairnsdale)
Second Section, Part A: Bairnsdale to Orbost (30 September to 5 October, 2016)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016 II: On the Way again!
(Friday, September 30: Catching up and looking forward)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016 II: Day One
(Sunday, October 2: Bairnsdale to Bruthen)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016 II: Day Two
(Monday, October 3: Bruthen to Nowa Nowa)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016 II: Day Three (Tuesday, October 4, Feast of St Francis, Nowa Nowa to Tostaree)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2016 II: Day Four (Wednesday, October 5, Tostaree to Orbost)
Second Section, Part B: Orbost to Eden (17 to 27 April, 2017)
MacKillop-Woods Way Pilgrimage 2017: Arrival in Orbost