A new collection of Catholic walking pilgrimages has been launched online, encouraging people of all faiths and none to explore some of the holiest sites in England and Wales.
‘Hearts in Search of God’ is a three-year project mapping out 22 pilgrimages, with each route starting at one of the 22 Catholic Cathedrals in England and Wales, before going on to at least one of the local Shrines, with the shortest route being 10 miles.
A website listing the new routes has been launched and can be found at pilgrimways.org.uk, providing walking guides, GPX files, prayers and other resources, including a downloadable ‘Pilgrim Passport’, and a certificate at the end of your walk.
The project has been organised by retired GP Dr Phil McCarthy, former CEO of Caritas Social Action Network (CSAN), who has so far walked seven of the Ways and intends to finish the rest in the next two years.
He said: “I hope the Ways might be useful to Catholic charities for fundraising walks, but you don’t have to be formally religious or be walking as a part of a big group to follow these Ways. Walking allows us all to pay attention, to notice small things and to enjoy ordinary places.
“I hope the new Pilgrim Ways will be an opportunity for Christians to deepen their faith, but also for people of all faiths and none to experience a pilgrimage in a Catholic context and with the minimum of financial and environmental cost.”
The idea was inspired by Pope Francis’ words about pilgrims, when he said: “Whoever they may be…in every person there is a heart in search of God”.
Dr McCarthy added: “To go on pilgrimage is to participate in a practice which is ancient and universal. Walking pilgrimages are slow, humble journeys in constant contact with the Earth. They encourage awe at the magnificence of creation.”
The pilgrimages which provided the models and inspiration for this project are:
St Wilfrid’s Way
Diocese of Leeds: Leeds Cathedral to Ripon, via Our Lady of the Crag, Knaresborough.
St Mary’s Way
Diocese of Lancaster: Lancaster Cathedral to St Mary’s Church & Grotto, Cleator.
Diocese of Southwark.
In Arundel & Brighton Diocese there is a longer, two-week annual ecumenical walking pilgrimage Pilgrims Live!
Nationally, there is Pilgrim Cross, formerly Student Cross, a series of routes that lead to Walsingham during Holy Week.