Denizens of Vancouver, Canada are known for their love of the nature and their taste for outdoor adventure. For three young people from this gem of a city it seemed natural to mix that with their pilgrimage to Madrid for WYD. On May 17 the brother-and-sister pair Aiden and Crystal Wickey, along with their friend Mark Ho embarked on the Camino do Santiago.Their trek began in the French Pyrenees at St. Jean Pied de Port on May 17 and will take approximately 34 days at an average distance of 26 km per day. These hopefully not-too-exhausted pilgrims will then take in World Youth Day here in Madrid, August 16-21.
Wickey and Ho are keeping a blog of their adventures along the way to give friends and family a chance to participate in the pilgrimage virtually. The “Food Fotos” track their encounters with Spanish cuisine and give those reading their blog a chance to experience the food without having to walk a month. Mark writes near the beginning of his Camino chronicles that “most of our food adventures have been very simple… bread, sardines, chorizo, tomatoes and fruit. Some albergues (hostels) we’ve stayed at provide meals for free to pilgrims.” Ho’s description of the pilgrim menus are almost enough to entice readers to take on the pilgrimage walk. The only deterrent are the photos of road-weary shoes lining the wall of the pilgrims’ hostel in Frómista.
Of course there’s more to the Camino than worn out footware and Gallician food; faith. For the Wickey siblings and Ho, this last and most important trait of the Camino is in abundant supply. For Aiden Wickey, who attended World Youth Day 2002 in Toronto, later spent two years as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Vancouver and has also worked at Catholic Charities Men’s Hostel, a shelter for destitute men in Vancouver, the Camino has been an enjoyable albeit gruelling experience as well as an important opportunity for spiritual growth and discernment. “The Camino has been an excellent retreat of sorts and in some ways I feel I am getting a small teaser of what is to come at World Youth Day,” said Wickey.
The Madrid experience will be all the more rich thanks to that journey. Ho said the Camino walk has served as a reminder of how the Lord works in His own ways and can use the most unexpected experience to touch one’s heart. He sites the night he and his travel companions spent in a hostel in Tosantos. He said the three slept on the floor of an attic, on nothing more than a thin mat. A group of university students arrived at the hostel shortly after Ho and his friends. “I initially thought it was going to be a mediocre night for us. But I was wrong.” he said. The entire group helped the host prepare the evening meal and set the table, and then sat down at the table together to eat. Ho recalled, “I had the chance to get to know the university students on a more personal level.” The evening ended with a prayer before bed. Although the prayer was optional all the guests participated, even the university students. “The following day, I found out how the night prayer really impacted some of the students who were not necessarily practicing their faith. One of them shared with me how he had been struggling through life recently that he almost didn’t get to come to the Camino trip. He said he knew God wanted him to be on the Camino for a reason. This is what the Camino does. It gives people something to look forward to. It brings hope to people´s lives,” Ho said.