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Thousands of faithful participate in 'Walking Pilgrimage' in India's Archdiocese of Goa 

Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrão led the Eucharistic celebrations at the old Sancoale Church on February 18, 2024. (Photo: Joseph Fernandes)

The Indian Archdiocese of Goa and Daman organized the Bhavarthachi Yatra (Pilgrimage of Faith) for a special pilgrimage to the historic Sancoale Church on February 18. 

For the sixth consecutive year, thousands of Catholics participated in this pilgrimage, which has since become an annual Lenten event with the theme "Let us journey together on the path of penance and be proclaimers of hope."

Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrão, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, led the Eucharistic celebrations at the old Sancoale Church. Fr. Ligorinho D’Costa, Convenor of the Committee formed for Walking Pilgrimage, Fr. Kennet Teles, Parish Priest of Our Lady of Health Church, Sancoale, and Rector of the St. Joseph Vaz Sanctuary, Sancoale.  Fr. Lucio Dias, Episcopal Vicar for South Zone; Fr. Barry Cardozo, Director for Social Communications Media; and Fr. Savio Fernandes, Executive Secretary of the Council for Social Justice and Peace; Fr. Peter Gama, parish priest at St. Anne's Church, Parra,   Fr. Peter D'Melo, Rector, All India Mission Seminary, Pilar, Fr. Mariano Silveira, Parish Priest, St. Christopher's Church, Tivim, Fr. George Dias, Chaplain, Our Lady of Rosary Chapel, Carvota-Lotoulim,  Fr. Ian Figueredo SDB, Rector, Don Bosco, Lotoulim, Deacon Clive Dias,  Deacon Anthony Melvin Gomes, and 77 priests concelebrated.

"Our responsibility entails embracing a life in communion with Jesus, thereby illuminating the paths of truth, justice, peace, and righteousness," said Cardinal Ferrão.

The Prelate urged that "if we find ourselves ensnared by corruption, falsehoods, or contributing to societal discord instead of embodying peace and truth, let us deeply contemplate our choices during this Lenten season and seek renewal in our lives."

The Cardinal thanked the 18000 Faithfuls from across Goa who came on foot to the Old Sancoale Church in the hours of the day and participated in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the eucharistic celebration.

Organizers selected five starting points for the Walking Pilgrimage in Goa: Bambolim, Neura, Verna, Cansaulim, and Vasco. Participants began their journey at 2:00 a.m. and reached their destination, the Sancoale Old Church, before 4:30 a.m., covering a distance of 10 km.

Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament was conducted by the seminarians of  All India Mission Seminary, Pilar, while liturgical singing was led by the Parish Choir of Our Lady of Mercy Church, Merces. 

Fr. George Ratos, Parish Priest of Immaculate Conception Church, Paroda, and Fr. Afonso Mendonca, Director of the Diocesan Centre for Liturgy, animated the liturgy. Fr. Ligorinho D’Costa, convenor of the Walking Pilgrimage Committee, expressed gratitude in a vote of thanks.

Approximately 800 volunteers from the Diocesan Youth Center and parishes such as Loutolim, Mapusa, Paroda, and Sancoale Parish offered their services. St. Luke Medical Guild and the Catholic Nurses Guild provided valuable assistance throughout the pilgrimage. 

The faithful also had an opportunity to put their petitions on paper. In a special prayer, the Cardinal raised those petitions to God.

The Walking Pilgrimage aims to delve into the redemptive essence of hardship, propagate the jubilation of embracing Christianity, seek divine grace amidst life's trials, and foster individual spiritual transformation. It honors the native saint, St. Joseph Vaz, who, during his spiritual expedition in Sri Lanka, journeyed on foot, sharing the teachings of Christ with the underprivileged.

Those who could not participate in the Walking Pilgrimage to Sancoale were asked to recite the rosary, have a personal prayer, and reflect on their lives on the way to their parish church as part of their pilgrimage.

All the archdiocese's parishes and chapels held a special way of the cross in preparation for the walking pilgrimage. Participants fasted and prayed for the success of the event from Ash Wednesday to Saturday. Faithful also participated in the Sacrament of Reconciliation as a preparation for the pilgrimage. Abishai Mascarenhas from Ambora created a unique logo with a cross on it to identify the image of the Cross of St. Joseph Vaz; the feet stand in for the pilgrimage.

One of the pilgrimage participants, Natty Araujo of the parish of St. Matthias, Sao Mathias, Divar, said that the event helped enrich her spiritual journey. 

"It's a great help for me to enrich my spiritual journey by focusing on penance and sacrifice. It provides a significant opportunity for me to deepen my spiritual journey, focusing on concepts of penance and sacrifice. Reflecting on God's love and our response to it has been profoundly enriching. Walking alongside my fellow parishioners, engaging in the recitation of the rosary, hymn singing, and collective prayers for others have all contributed to a sense of joy and spiritual healing."

She further expressed that the event's significance heightens for her due to its location, where St. Joseph Vaz, son of the soil and the patroness of their archdiocese, wrote a letter of bondage to Mother Mary. "Participating in the walking pilgrimage has allowed me and my family to experience the abundant blessings of God and draw closer to Him." 

Fr. Walter De Sa, the parish priest of Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church in Panaji, believed that organizing the Walking Pilgrimage on the first Sunday of Lent provided a fitting entry into the Lenten Season.

"Our parishioners were well-prepared in advance regarding the beneficial effects and the biblical significance of pilgrimage," said Father De Sa. "The substantial turnout from various parts of Goa highlighted the communal aspect of communion and collaboration."

Sr. Monita Dias, a Cluny Sister based at the Cluny Convent in Vasco, reflected on her participation in the Walking Pilgrimage, expressing how the Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament and the Mass facilitated a profound closeness to Jesus for her.

She described the act of placing intentions beneath the foot of the cross and offering them up to God as a beautiful and meaningful experience. Sr. Dias, who serves as both a teacher and a counselor, emphasized Cardinal Ferrão's significance in these spiritual practices in her life.

Alfredo Fernandes, a parishioner of St. Sebastian's Church, Calvim, recounted his journey from Holy Cross Church, Bambolim, expressing initial uncertainty about being able to walk the 10 kilometers. However, the mantra "Let me walk for Jesus" instilled in him the courage to persevere.  He marveled at the diverse participants, spanning generations and abilities, all united in the pilgrimage.

According to Fernandes, Archbishop Filipe Neri Cardinal Ferrão participated humbly while engrossed in prayer and not seeking attention. Alfredo found renewed strength amidst fatigue, reflecting on Jesus' journey carrying the cross and rising after falling three times for salvation.

He appreciated the supportive volunteers and concluded that, despite the challenges, the experience was enriching, marking another significant step in his spiritual journey.

Nelia Pereira, a catechist at Mother of God Church, Majorda, described her pilgrimage to Sancoale Church as a deeply meaningful and spiritually enriching journey. She likened it to a form of meditation, bringing inner peace and a deeper self-understanding.

Traveling on foot to a sacred destination, she found a profound experience intertwined with prayer, introspection, and a connection with nature. The absence of distractions along the way allowed her to immerse herself in silence, providing space to listen to her inner voice and reflect on unanswered questions.

Pereira pondered how she could deepen her faith during the Lenten Season, renew her passion for her beliefs, and demonstrate love for Jesus and others through acts of penance. Reflecting on the experience, she concluded that it was truly worthwhile. - Br. Malvino Alfonso, OCD


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