A work of faith and a labour of love.
That is how Bishop Daniel Miehm described the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic District School Board’s annual “Walk with Christ: Justice for the Poor” Pilgrimage, a system event that has raised more than half a million dollars in the past 11 years for development projects in the Global South.
Celebrating mass for the 3,500 students and staff who gathered at Cathedral High School on Sunday, October 19th to begin their 8-kilometre walk up the Wentworth Street Rail Trail, Bishop Miehm connected the pilgrimage to the day’s gospel reading where Jesus tells the people: “Give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and give to God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22: 21).
“Our first and greatest responsibility belongs to God,” he told the gathering. “Of course we have other responsibilities like school and work; these are important and we need to fulfill them, but first and foremost, we have duties to God.”
There are three duties that we need to remember, suggested the bishop. The first is time.
“We need to give a few minutes of prayer each day to God,” said Bishop Miehm. “We owe that much.”
Second is worship – “that belongs to God alone.”
And third is love.
“There are so many ways to show our love for him … through prayer, devotion … but one of the most important ways is by loving others,” he said.
“That is why I think this ‘Walk with Christ’ is so important because we begin with worship then go out and share our support for others in the Global South and also show our love for God.”
“What a great sign of solidarity, support and love,” Bishop Miehm commended, adding that he would be joining the students on their ‘Walk with Christ.’
Also ‘walking the talk’ for the 11th consecutive year was Chairperson Patrick J. Daly who, in opening greetings, thanked the Pilgrimage organizers and many staff who had come out for the annual walk.
“You are indeed a tremendous example to our students and our community,” he said.
He also thanked the students for their ongoing commitment to the Pilgrimage and to the many charities it supports.
“I want to tell the students how very proud we are of them,” said Daly. “On Sunday, you could be doing a lot of other things, but you choose to be here to show your concern for the disadvantaged.”
“More than to show our concern, we’re here because of what you see behind me,” he gestured to a banner. “Jesus carrying the cross and reaching out to those in need.”
The activity was established in 2003 to raise students’ awareness about the injustice of world hunger and inadequate health care, shelter and education. Funds from the pilgrimage have helped to support ADESJO (Association for the Development of San José de Ocoa), a grassroots organization founded by Scarboro Foreign Mission priest, the late Father Lou Quinn for the construction of roads, hospitals, schools and homes in remote communities in the Ocoa region of the Dominican Republic; St. Gabriel’s Parish in Beau Séjour, Haiti for building projects and the purchase of medical supplies; Catholic Dioceses of Southwestern Uganda for educational programs and projects; the Holy Child Association; the Development and Peace Emergency Appeal Fund; and this year, the Diocese of Kurunegala, Sri Lanka for the construction of a Catholic elementary school.
The Pilgrimage is more than simply fundraising, said Dr. Paul Beaudette, Program Leader for Religion and Family Life; the walk provides an opportunity for students to learn about social justice issues in the Developing South, especially those around the imbalance of wealth.
“Education is transformational,” indicated Director of Education Elect David Hansen. “But the very best part about Catholic education is that it prepares you and gives you the tools to transform society.”
He quoted Pope Francis who said, “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets.”
“I hope you are listening carefully to him,” Hansen urged the students. “As we walk in support of the people of the developing world, know that you are not simply walking for them, but walking with them.”
“You are taking the Church out into the streets of Hamilton.”
“In our encounters today, let us transform society and respect all we meet,” he concluded. “Let all know by our words and our actions that we have made a difference for this community and the communities of the developing world.”