Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne

Submitted by Sr Lynne, fcJ, from the FCJ St Hugh’s community in Liverpool

Once again, a group of FCJ sisters and Companions in Mission in the FCJ Young Adult Network, organised the Lindisfarne Pilgrimage for young adults. This year we were a group of fifteen pilgrims. Each year we use a similar format, but the group changes the experience!

Wednesday – Arrivals and Introduction to Pilgrimage. This year no-one knew every pilgrim, so the first day was one of encounter and preparation. Taking an attitude of loving welcome to each other.

Thursday – This is a full day of walking, covering about 15 miles as a group and getting to know each other along the way. We follow St Cuthbert’s Way through open countryside, getting our first view of Holy Island (Lindisfarne) at the end of the walk. The day ends with tired limbs, good food and prayer around the log fire.

Friday – The walking continues with an early start and another 15 miles to cover. This year we were blessed by a local man who opened his home to a group of fifteen tired and muddy pilgrims who needed toilets and a cup of tea! We surprised him with a thank-you gift made up from tiny ‘extras’ that we found in our backpacks! At the end of the walk we walked the Pilgrim Path together across the Lindisfarne Causeway, following in the footsteps of pilgrims who have walked the sands for more than 1000 years.

Saturday – This is a day on the island. We began with a walk to the very remotest part of the Island, to a beautiful beach where we did a litter pick, filling sacks with rubbish and plastic waste brought ashore from the sea. Later we crossed to St Cuthbert’s Island where St Cuthbert had lived for more than a year as a hermit.

Sunday – Travelling south to Durham we concluded our pilgrimage at the tomb of St Cuthbert which lies in Durham Cathedral. After only a few days we had become friends and companions.

Below are some of the comments from participants:

Lindisfarne Pilgrimage 2024Nicholas (Missionary of Africa)

« I really enjoyed the experience of pilgrimage. The most interesting part for me was the community life and companionship! It was also the opportunity to know each other and share the different experiences! I would like to mention that for me it was not really very hard to walk through the mud or walk for a long distance! I was used to but what was interesting for me was to see how others whom I think were born in this comfortable environment were enjoying. And it made me think about the first missionaries who left their comfortable lives and brought the good news to the world!”

Bethanie (PhD student) 

“Prayer turns travel into a pilgrimage”. I’ve always been an avid hiker and lover of the outdoors, but this was my first time as a pilgrim. Unlike my other trips, the purpose of the pilgrimage was not to hike as far or as fast as possible, but to slow down, to enter a rhythm of prayer and walking, and to contemplate what God might be saying. To begin a day filled with uncertainties, but rather than trying to plan for every eventuality, to just let God be God.

Lindisfarne Pilgrimage 2024At the encouragement of the Sisters, and inspired by Ignatian spirituality, I reflected on seeing God in all things. In the tiny green buds on the trees, yet to burst into life, waiting patiently and hopefully for spring to come. In the dark skies filled with tiny but somehow enormous stars that for me usually lie hidden behind murky London clouds and city lights. In the flickering light and glowing coals of the log fire as we prayed the examen together at the end of the day.

I found God in the people I walked alongside with too. The pilgrim who hiked for miles with soaking wet feet and never complained. The stranger who gave us hot tea and biscuits on our journey. The friend who took my hand and led me in song when the walk started to feel very cold and long. The Sisters who listened and shared with great compassion. The priest who watched in patient mock horror as his flock crammed more and more luggage into his tiny car. The look of wonder and surprise on a pilgrim’s face as he experienced the tide going out for the first time.

After a day of walking, wading through mud and climbing a hill that seemed to go on forever we got our first glimpse of our final destination, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. The following day, we crossed the causeway onto the islands, walking the over the sands that had been walked by pilgrims for over a thousand years.

The final part of the pilgrimage was to cross onto an even smaller island, where St Cuthbert lived as a hermit. We stood by the old wooden cross and said a final Our Father, our prayers joining with those of past pilgrims. And as I looked out at the sun setting behind the distant mainland, contemplating the long journey home, I realised how far, as a group, we all had come. »

Joshua (Teacher)

I found the pilgrimage increasingly spiritually nourishing. Following in the footsteps of St. Cuthbert led me to reflect on what do I actually need to carry with me on the pilgrimage of life. For St. Cuthbert, only God was necessary and so in going forward from this pilgrimage I will be looking to live a simpler way of life, evaluate my needs from my wants; to be live in a more authentic communion with God and His Church.

Benul (Student)

« I found the pilgrimage an enlightening experience and a great opportunity to connect with people of faith. The physical aspect was really fun and quite rewarding knowing how much walking we accomplished in the beautiful landscape. Our group was very welcoming, and I felt so at home! There was plenty of laughs and I loved the fact that we all got together downstairs and helped with food, cleaning and keeping the fire going.

There was plenty of opportunity for spiritual growth and I loved how we integrated prayer into our walks and had plenty of time for reflection especially in the examens – which I now try to include in my personal life! The environment of the pilgrimage also allowed us to have more organic talks about faith with each other and I really got to learn about how other people love God, how I could take that into my life and share my own experience too! 10/10 experience overall 🙂 »

Tra-My (Youth worker)

“I was able to encounter God in unexpected ways, most surprisingly through the muddy and challenging terrains we faced! I loved the intimacy of the pilgrimage, there was a perfect number of FCJ leaders and young people. My faith was renewed and strengthened by each individual on the pilgrimage, including the kindness of strangers that we met on our way. It was an incredible experience with the integral amounts of prayer, meditation, fellowship and moments of silence intertwined together. I am extremely grateful for the guidance of each FCJ Sister, I felt loved and valued by each of them.”

A Student

“The pilgrimage (Holy Island, April 2024) was absolutely lovely. Lindisfarne has been on my pilgrimage list for a long time now as part project, part pilgrimage, and it being so far up North made it quite an expensive journey. I was fortunate to know of this pilgrimage from the FCJ sisters during a week of guided prayer and the minute I heard of it I felt called to go. Somehow it all worked out in the end. The pilgrimage itself was a personal prayer, peace and joy.

Lindisfarne Pilgrimage 2024
FCJ Sisters Lynne, Rowena, Anouska and Ramona

There were times for quiet, times for laughter, times for enduring, persevering and companionship. I felt divine providence with us throughout- especially through the lending of a hand, the out-of-breath pauses, the words of encouragement, I could go on and on and on.

We shared facilities, and house chores like chopping up veggies or washing up the dishes which helped us grow closer to each other, understanding where one needed more strength thus collaborating effectively as a team and community.  5 days pilgrimaging was perfect in getting to know each other and having a good time together, not too long and not too short, just perfect.

The sisters are such a fun and spiritually filled bunch to be around, full of joy and beauty. Getting to know them and their unique journeys through life and faith is something that I will always cherish, keeping them always in my prayers.

When we are on pilgrimage, we journey not as individuals but together as one big family rooted in Christ and that for me is truly beautiful.”

Sr Rowena fcJ

“I really appreciate the amazing opportunity to be part of the Lindisfarne Pilgrimage. It was a meaningful, unforgettable, grateful and joyful encounter with Jesus through our companionship on the journey as a pilgrim. What was struck me most was walking the pilgrims path across the Lindisfarne Causeway, where we are able to cross to the island walking barefoot. I definitely felt I was really connected to our Mother Earth. It was a great challenge because of the wind, coldness of the water and muddy parts with no certainty as to whether it is deep or shallow. But in spite of the challenges we encountered we walked courageously and confidently as people of faith, hope and trust embracing the reality of supporting our fellow pilgrims in our own unique way of spreading God’s love. While walking on the holy ground we walked humbly with God, praying all our intentions, remembering, and praying for all our brothers and sisters around the world particularly those who walk barefooted that we are united with them in mind, heart, body, and spirit.

Along this journey each one is a gift, blessed, and a blessing for others. In just a couple of days we built a small community although we didn’t know each other, nevertheless, we opened our hearts by sharing our sacred stories.

I am very grateful for this pilgrimage, it has been filled with the blessing journey of companionship, support, love, trust, joy and happiness that united us.

This experience deepened and strengthened my faith and relationship to God and the awareness of being connected and rooted to our common home. Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life. St. Cuthbert, pray for us.”