Martyrs’ Shrine near Midland, ON.
We all know people who have hiked the Camino Frances, an 800 km pilgrimage from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port (in France) to Santiago de Compostela in Western Spain. Some of us may even plan to hike this Camino as one of the things on our bucket list. And if you have not seen it yet, you’ll enjoy seeing the movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen. Quite the cultural and spiritual experience he had, as he walked the 800 kms to Santiago.
So if people from all over the world come to Spain to hike the Camino Frances, why not create a Canadian Camino? We have the National Shrine of the Canadian Martyrs located in Midland, right on the Ganaraska hiking trail. We also have a network of existing railtrails leading to this same shrine in Midland. And annually, huge pilgrimages already take place from Burlington, Guelph, Toronto, etc. to Midland.
Hundred of pilgrims take part in organized pilgrimage walks on specific days throughout the summer. The groups tend to use roads, some quite busy, to make the annual trek. Would it not be much nicer to undertake a pilgrimage on more scenic trails? Trails would certainly be much more suitable for quiet reflection, meditation, prayer and enjoyment of our beautiful countryside
With a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, Simcoe County Trails (www.simcoetrails.ca) presented the idea to create pilgrimage routes that one could follow any day of the year, alone or with friends or family, or as a parish, or as a tourist to explore this part of Canada, to the Martyrs’ Shrine who enthusiastically embraced the concept.
Some pilgrims may want to follow the Pilgrim Route for religious reasons, others may just want to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life, or set themselves a personal challenge, meet other people, or visit another region or country.
Also, from a tourism perspective, the Pilgrim Route is expected to bring tourists to the area and contribute to the local economy as pilgrims and tourists need accommodations, food and other supplies along the way.
The Pilgrim Route to Midland uses existing trails, on which pilgrimage wayfinding signs will be installed in the future. Permissions have been requested and have been received from various landowners, usually municipalities, who own most of the major trails in Simcoe County. As an option, pilgrims and tourists can also follow the blazes of the Ganaraska Hiking Trail from Barrie to Midland.
In 2014, the Pilgrim Route is being opened on June 21, 2014 and will include a 10 km hike or a 30 km bike ride along the Georgian Bay Snow Riders Trail and the Tay Shore Trail to the Martyrs’ Shrine.
Participants will enjoy re-enactments, a fundraising BBQ, storytelling, traditional 17th century food, and free access to the Martyrs’ Shrine, the grounds and the museum. We hope you will join us for this event. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
While the Pilgrim Route started in Simcoe County, it is hoped that neighbouring regions will also pick up on the idea and extend the Pilgrim Routes through their areas.
In Spain, “buen camino” is commonly used to greet pilgrims and wish them well. We’ll have to come up with our own Canadian version… any suggestions?