Pilgrims from across the Diocese of Leeds and beyond are planning a new walking ‘camino’ this coming Lent, as their ‘first steps’ in the Year of Prayer and Preparation before the 2025 Jubilee, which the Holy Father has announced to have the theme ‘Pilgrims of Hope’.
The new, short pilgrimage is for the intention of ‘Vocations to the Priesthood’. It will take place almost exactly 120 years after Fr John O’Connor (1870-1952), a Diocese of Leeds priest, became the inspiration for GK Chesterton’s famous ‘Father Brown’ stories which, even on today’s BBC TV adaptations, still illustrate the priest’s humane wisdom, understanding and compassion as well as his spiritual and sacramental role.
The two men first met in March 1904 in Keighley, where Fr O’Connor was a curate at St Anne’s Catholic Church. GK had just delivered a lecture in the town and was on his way to visit a German Jewish friend in Ilkley, whom O’Connor also knew. It was in a walk together along the Roman road which crosses Ilkley Moor that Fr John O’Connor first set Gilbert Chesterton on the ‘Path to Rome’ – and would eventually receive one of the world’s most renowned literary figures into the Catholic Church in the summer of 1922.
The new Pilgrimage Walk for Vocations will take place on Saturday 16 March 2024. In keeping with our journey towards sustainability, public transport is recommended as there is a railway station and other good public transport links in both Keighley and Ilkley. After 9am Mass at St Anne’s Church, walkers will set off following in ‘Father Brown’s Footsteps’, up Keighley Gate, over Ilkley Moor, and upon reaching the Ilkley Parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, will walk up to the Myddelton Grange Calvary for Stations of the Cross. The total distance will be around seven miles, which includes two steep uphills – so walking all the way will not be suitable for those with serious health or fitness issues, although the Keighley/Ilkley Road is metalled for a short distance at each end. This Lenten pilgrimage walk for Vocations is not yet an official diocesan event, so please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Our Current ‘Camino’: St Wilfrid’s Way
Since 2016, the Diocese of Leeds’ main walking pilgrimage or ‘Camino’ has been St Wilfrid’s Way, which is walked on the Friday and Saturday closest to St Wilfrid’s Feast Day (12 October).
Last year, an unprecedented number of pilgrims walked the 2023 St Wilfrid’s Way. Over the two days, a total of 40 men and women, aged between around 20 and 80, walked all or part of the route devised by Holy Redeemer (Huddersfield) parishioner, Stephen Habron. As ever, the Camino began with a Pilgrims’ Mass at Leeds Cathedral with visits along the way to Catholic heritage sites and shrines: the Carmelite Sisters at Wood Hall; Knaresborough’s Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag; St Joseph’s Church in Bishop Thornton and Markenfield Hall – and ending with Mass at St Wilfrid’s Church in Ripon and the ‘traditional’ fish, chips and ‘fizz’ supper in St Wilfrid’s Parish Hall.
As ever, many thanks go to those who walked any or all of the route, supporting and encouraging others; to the First Aider; to those who provided hospitality at Wood Hall Carmel, St Mary’s, Knaresborough and St Joseph’s, Bishop Thornton; to the Trustees of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Crag; to US visitor Revd Lin Hutton who led a short prayer and reflection at Markenfield; and of course to the priests who celebrated the Masses!
The 9th Annual St Wilfrid’s Way Diocesan Pilgrimage will take place on Friday 11 and Saturday 12 October 2024 (the actual Feast Day!) – for more information and to register an interest, please contact email@example.com.
Along last year’s route, drone filming of the pilgrimage was captured by videographer Sammie Shears for a video which will be edited in time to mark the 10th St Wilfrid’s Way Pilgrimage, which falls in the Jubilee Year.
St Wilfrid’s Way was the inspiration and model for a new series of Cathedral-to-Local-Shrine walking pilgrimages in every Catholic diocese throughout England and Wales: a project known as ‘Hearts in Search of God’ and led by former Catholic Social Action Network (CSAN) CEO, Dr Phil McCarthy. For those who are able, the Holy Father and Catholic Bishops of England and Wales recommend walking pilgrimages such as these as Jubilee Year Devotions.
Find out more via the Hearts in Search of God website: www.pilgrimways.org.uk