Ignatian pilgrimage for lay collaborators

April 26, 2022 in Featured News, News

A pilgrimage for lay colleagues of the Irish Jesuit Province took place in Spain from 9 to 14 April 2022. It included visits to key Ignatian sites and insights into the person of Saint Ignatius Loyola. Joe Greenan and Brendan McManus SJ led the pilgrimage as part of the Peter Kenney Project’s lay collaborators’ formation programme. Leon O’Giollain SJ was present in his role as formation director and Jonathan Tiernan as the education delegate.

The trip worked as a retreat-style pilgrimage around the key Ignatian sites as it had built in quiet time and personal reflection. It was designed to help participants make sense of terminology such as discernment, the Spiritual Exercises, the Examen and reflection. This year the group of 17 Jesuit employees, teachers and associates on the “Footsteps of Ignatius Pilgrimage” marked the 500th anniversary of St Ignatius’ conversion. The project has been running since 2008, with Loyola and Manresa as the two principal locations.

There was a strong group dimension to the trip as there was a great mix of staff from different Jesuit schools, young adults from the Peter Faber Community and staff from the Irish Province. It was a fantastic opportunity to get to know others and share experiences. Brendan McManus SJ gave input each morning on the Ignatian autobiography and the link to the Spiritual Exercises, which provided the framework for seeing the Ignatian sites later in the day. Each evening there was a guided reflection on the day, based around the Examen, to encourage personal reflection and then faith sharing in the group.

The group spent the first day in Ignatius Loyola’s birthplace, the castle of Loyola. The huge baroque basilica dominates the landscape there and next door is the original castle of Ignatius’s birth and recuperation. They had a tour of the castle that culminates with the ‘chapel of the conversion’ where Ignatius uncovered God’s working in his interior (discernment of spirits), and is now a chapel where they celebrated mass later.

The second day the group was literally walking in Ignatius’ footsteps as they followed his route from Onate to the Franciscan Shrine at Arantzazu in the Basque Country. This was a strenuous hike through beautiful Basque limestone hills that included a visit to the extensive Arotz-Arrikutz caves. The shrine at the end has the Virgin of Arantzazu statue in prime position, a place where Ignatius spent the night in vigil and made a vow of chastity.

On the third day the group went back to Pamplona where Ignatius was famously injured by a cannonball, an event which triggered his conversion. Afterwards they went on to visit the home of Francis Xavier, the great missionary and had mass there. Finally, they went back to the local church, Church of San Sebastián, where St Ignatius was baptised in 1491. The original baptismal font is still there though it has a later wooden facade. The local priest Fr Pedro gave the group a tour of the church and explained the significant Loyola family connection.

The pilgrimage was about seeing the key Ignatian sites first-hand, getting the insights into the person of Ignatius and Ignatian spirituality, with a process for personal assimilation. Evaluations were very positive with participants appreciating the chance to have a retreat experience in the land of Ignatius. Many thanks to Ruth Douglas, education secretary, who prepared and planned the project.