By Jessica Langrell (Pilgrim Leader)
Rising in the early midst of the day to make our group call at the Sydney International Terminal at 6:00am sharp was a little harder than expected. Whether it be because of the fact that just 40minutes sleep is not ample opportunity to be able rise with a smile or possibly it was the thought of leaving other family members behind that added extra weight to getting oneself out of bed. Travelling, the moving from one place to another, or more appropriately to us, pilgrimaging can be a deeply moving and life changing experience and in some ways burdensome. Either way, if looked upon through eyes of faith – it is a stark reminder of our Christian vocation and what St Mary MacKillop reminds us of; “we are but travellers here.”
Our group consists of many frequent and not so frequent travellers, some quite regularly hop on a plane for leisure, some almost monthly for work, and others have rarely stepped outside the familiarity of Australian shores – yet all of us united with the passion and drive to spend 13 days in pursuit of how we can more devoutly live out the charism for life in our own lives. We are teachers, we are manufacturers, directors, students and we are especially blessed with Shepherd of the Church, each of us with a unique and special avenue to promote and enhance the dignity of life.
With a couple of hours to spare, luggage all checked in and casual introductions accomplished, we all headed for our last “Aussie bite” before boarding the 23hr flight journey. In true Aussie style, the more fancy pilgrims headed for a last ‘maccas run,’ which of course is vital when you are well aware you may not experience the same great beef paddies in the US, the home of McDonalds, an opportunity some could not pass!
We took with our 10 hour flight to Korea, most of us whom had much sleep to catch-up on were out of it within minutes of boarding, some not even recalling the takeoff they were in such deep sleep! A smooth ride, couple of movies, several meals and snacks, a rosary or two and we had landed.
With only about 1-2hrs stop over in Korea, most appreciated the ability to walk around with more than an aisle to move the legs, free wireless (good one Korea!) and no queues for the bathroom. Boarding again in no time for our second trip, this time a couple hours more with just under 12 hours flight time, admittedly was incredibly more uncomfortable, there’s only so much serious sleeping one can do whilst sitting upright. Alas, we made it, although over an hour delayed and almost 2hours to get through the rigid immigration and security we left the airport by about 4:30pm.
With unexpected and extended delays in the airport – our scheduled 3:30pm Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels was getting more and more unlikely. Additional to our airport delay, a little miscommunication between the bus companies andour first destination set us back another 30minutes. The main concern was that some pilgrims had friends planned to meet us at the Cathedral & American songwriter, speaker and artist Jackie Francois had so generously also agreed to lead us with the hymns and music for the Mass at the Cathedral!
Hitting the freeway, the traffic was apparently typical LA fashion with bumper to bumper cars, we got the call at 5:25pm that the Cathedral was strictly closing at 5:30pm and we were at least another 20minutes till destination. A few group Hail Mary’s to the Lady of the Angels, and did she show us her intercession! We finally arrived at the Cathedral at 5:45pm to find Jackie Francois and two Americans literally stopping the doors from closing with their feet and ever so nicely trying with all their efforts to persuade the Sisters and staff to keep the doors open for the Aussies coming. Praise God for the Americans! Due to their efforts, hanging round at the Cathedral for us for over 2 & a half hours and their door stopping feet – we had access to the magnificent Cathedral of the Angels – and ALL to ourselves! Not another visitor in sight
Then our next mission was to plead for access to the side chapel to say Mass, although alike all Cathedrals and Churches permission from the Monsignor was necessary. So the security guard got on his radio and then we realized our best asset yet….the Bishop! Within minutes of the Bishop introducing himself to the staff and religious…we not only scored enough time for a Mass but also a little extra time for the Bishop to share with us a little about the renowned & stunning tapestries that depict over 135 of the Churches Saints in adoration before the Altar where Masses are said.
Each Saint depicted form real life models to convey a stark sense of realness to the faces and so that admirers can look at them and be familiar with the faces and drawn to thoughts that alike them, they too are called to Sanctity, and yes it is possible.
We hurriedly went down to the side chapel, set up for Mass & Jackie Francois led us in prayer as we prepared for Mass whilst singing “Be Thou Our Vision.” Celebrating a beautiful Mass as always, with our pilgrim leader Bishop Comensoli, we officially began our pilgrimage with the Sacrifice on Calvary, and in turn receiving the ever so needed Eucharistic strength and guidance to set us off.
Finishing the Mass with a beautiful ‘Ave Maria’ hymn, again so devoutly led by Jackie Francois, we gave thanks to Our Lady of the Angels, in whom we had much to be grateful for today.
Leaving the local Americans with a few Aussie treats (Tim Tams!), we headed off for our hotel near the airport. With just hours to our early call again at 6:00am to depart for the airport we spent the night in the hotel diner with great (and I mean great in size!) food, long showers, and what most looked forward to – sleeping laying down!
What fun would travelling be without the odd hiccup? What benefit would a pilgrimage be without the need for Our Lady’s intercession and reminder that we are completely in the Hands of the Lord? Another lesson in trust and petition to the Lord in all our needs, joys and desires. God indeed has been so good to us, and its only Day 1!
United in prayer & mission for life,
On behalf of the Guadalupe Expedition Group.