Todays pilgrim traveller considering the direct road to Penola, along the modern highway, would find it a great challenge unless going all the way by car. However a more calm and relaxed route has been chosen for those who wish to make a more authentic pilgrimage by foot. For the first few days, the Camino follows the Great South West Walk (GSWW) followed by numerous farm tracks, goat trails, minor roads and even abandoned railway lines.
The Great South West Walk is a 250 kilometre walking track, established in 1981, and located predominately in the Barwon South West region of Victoria, Australia. Much of the course of the track passes through the Lower Glenelg National Park, the Cobboboonee National Park, the Discovery Bay Coastal Park, the Mount Richmond National Park and the Cape Nelson State Park
Traversing such a trail has been a centuries old tradition. For many people it is a spiritual journey focusing on a person whose life and work provided fulfillment and satisfaction and a model for followers. The beauty and wonder of the natural environment contributes to the experience as does the comradeship of fellow travelers.
It is most appropriate that this Camino from Portland, where she gained Catholic teaching experience, finishes at Penola where it all began. Pilgrims can walk the paths that she walked, visiting the stable park and schoolhouse where she taught. Mary met Father Woods in a church on the site of the present St Joseph’s church where they will have the opportunity to contemplate and pray. They can talk to people who have kept alive the history of Mary MacKillop and Father Julian Jenison Woods over many generations.
The life of Mary MacKillop is a perfect study of a woman who carried many crosses in her life and responded to the challenges with faith in God and courage. People find strength and encouragement in their own lives through her examples of faith, forgiveness and kindness.
She started the Sisters of St Joseph in the small country town of Penola with co-founder Father Julian Jenison Woods, priest and scientist, who contributed to her journey. Referring to Penola she wrote in 1891 ‘ Little did either of us then dream of what was to spring from so small a beginning’.
‘Oh, how I wish we would only remember that we are but travelers here.’ – Mary MacKillop17 November 1866