Mr. Gushue Walks Camino Way in Memory of Daughter Emily
By Rick Gushue
SJCS Hispanic Family Coordinator
When I walked the French Route of the Camino de Santiago back in May, I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people from all over the world, people who were walking the Camino for various reasons.
I met folks who were walking it for exercise, because they no longer had cancer; for someone who was sick back at home; because they wanted more to life than the daily grind; and others who were in search of God.
I walked this Camino in memory of my daughter Emily, who had mentioned that she was interested in one day walking the last 100 kilometers or so with me into Santiago. She was with me in spirit from the beginning, at St. Jean Pied de Port, crossing over the Pyrenees, walking the endless landscape of the Meseta and back into the mountains before reaching Santiago de Compostela.
The Camino along the French Route goes up and over mountains, hills, flat stretches of endless vineyards and wheatfields, quaint little medieval towns and hamlets, busy industrial city outskirts and lush forests. Besides standing in the square, in front of the Cathedral de Santiago, one of my favorite spots along the Camino was at the Cruz de Ferro. It is an iron cross sitting on a wooden pole on the highest point of the Camino Frances. There, many pilgrims leave stones carrying their worries and concerns. Others place stones and photographs of sick relatives and friends back home. I placed six stones, from family and Godmother, for Emily at the base of the cross in memory of her life.
The arrival into the square in front of the cathedral was special. I had made it -- 31 days and a little over 500 miles. I saw people arriving from the four corners of the square, from the different caminos leading into Santiago -- The Camino Portuguese, The Camino del Norte, The Camino Primitivo, The Camino de la Plata -- and others. Once in the square, people shouted with joy and cried because they had finally made it. They hugged each other. Others kissed the ground. I was overjoyed and thankful that Emily and I had made it to Santiago.
Along the Camino, I had the opportunity to meet people from all over the world: France, Netherlands, Portugal, Brazil, Australia, Great Britain, Scotland, New Zealand, South Africa, Taiwan, Italy, China and other countries, as well as from the United States. One thing I saw along the Camino was that some people from other countries could only say two words, "Buen Camino," meaning Good Way or Good Journey.
During the last week, I was able to meet and walk with some priests from various countries who gave nightly masses and blessings to all of the pilgrims. One I spoke with was an underground priest from China who is now a pastor in Europe. He told me it would be dangerous for him to return to China for fear of imprisonment, or worse.
Finally, I would recommend the Camino to anyone that is able. It was hard but very rewarding. I met people on the Camino who had started at the front doors of their homes in the Netherlands. Others had already been walking for two to three months and had started in Munich or Paris. Others had already done the Camino more than 15 times.
There are many caminos that lead into Santiago, some easier than others. I can see why other pilgrims I met told me that it's addicting and that you'll want to do it again. They were right. Buen Camino!