School Pilgrimage: Deep Connection and Spiritual Significance

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Hearing the stories of martyrs, heroes and villains of our past made us reflect on where our lives are going and what great things we can achieve. This profile is from the eighth edition of Experiri, Term 4 2014 and was contributed by Jane Bailey, Director of Spirituality at St Columba College Adelaide.Pilgrimage

What was the need or challenge being addressed?

St Columba College, located in the Northern Suburbs of Adelaide, is a faith community based on Anglican and Catholic traditions and has its own special character. The Iona Pilgrimage was established to enable some of our Senior School students to ‘walk’ in the footsteps of Columba, the Patron Saint of the college, and explore his life, values and mission. The pilgrimage through London and Canterbury allowed the students to visit sites of significance to the history and traditions of the Anglican and Catholic churches.

What was the response to the need?

The concept of ‘Pilgrimage’ to Iona meant that the journey became much more than just a sightseeing tour. It was also a journey of considerable spiritual significance that allowed the participants to explore their spirituality and personal response to God’s invitation to faith. The pilgrimage included excursions to Westminster Abbey, Canterbury Cathedral and Westminster Cathedral, where the pilgrims took part in a variety of liturgical celebrations.

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What was the impact?

The students gained an insight into the turbulent history and conflict that occurred in the Christian Church in England. This deeper understanding of the college’s two faith traditions enabled the students to make connections between their spirituality and their knowledge, allowing them to make informed decisions about their faith. The few days spent in Iona facilitated a more spiritual, reflective time, giving students the opportunity to encounter God in stillness and silence, in nature and in ritual and in relationship with each other.

What were the greatest challenges?

The extent of the journey meant that it was not possible to take large numbers of students to Iona, so one of the aims of the pilgrimage was for the students to establish links with the rest of the school community. Students visited classrooms to talk about their experiences and were involved in liturgical celebrations based on the life of St Columba. A Pilgrimage blog was created to facilitate communication with both the school and the wider community and the students took the responsibility for contributing to this. In this way, the pilgrimage was a journey for the whole school and many classes, especially in the Primary School were able to make their own response to the pilgrimage.

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Experiri was a quarterly newsletter presenting stories of innovation in school ministry from Australia and beyond. Each edition provided two or three profiles of  innovative strategies that had been developed in response to challenges or emerging issues for chaplains or others in Anglican Schools, including Heads and Religious Educators. 

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