Fully alive

The most recent Ignatian Leadership Pilgrimage enabled 15 participants
from JACSA schools to pass on a renewed sense of purpose and meaning.


By Adam Calderone
Deputy Principal – Ignatian Mission and Identity, Loyola College, Watsonia

Embarking on a pilgrimage to the spiritual sites associated with Saint Ignatius of Loyola was a transformative journey, enabling us to retrace the footsteps of the remarkable man who founded the Society of Jesus.

Eighteen pilgrims from the various Jesuit and Companion schools from around Australia began the pilgrimage in Paris, where Ignatius studied and met the first companions. The city’s historical landmarks, such as the Basilica of Saint-Denis and the Sorbonne University, provided a rich backdrop to connect with the early stages of Ignatius’ spiritual awakening. We were fortunate to be able to celebrate the Eucharist in the Church of Saint-Denis at Montmartre, an experience that enabled us to connect spiritually to the place where the First Companions took their first vows and committed themselves to a life of service to Christ. This experience allowed us to feel closest to God.

The pilgrimage then took us to Loyola, the birthplace of Saint Ignatius, where his family home has been preserved as the Sanctuary of Loyola. We explored the quaint town and visited the Basilica of Saint Ignatius, a majestic structure dedicated to him.

Our journey continued to Montserrat, a mountain abbey near Barcelona, where Ignatius spent time in prayer and contemplation, while also laying down his sword at the foot of the Black Madonna statue. The breathtaking scenery and the Montserrat Abbey offered us a serene environment for reflection, thanksgiving as well as seeking the graces and contemplation. We felt fully alive and most completely the people that God created us to be.

At Manresa we visited the Cave of Saint Ignatius, where he spent nearly a year in prayer and penance. This site is a poignant reminder of Ignatius’ deep spiritual experiences and the formulation of his Spiritual Exercises. To also celebrate Mass in the cave and to let our minds be attuned to the sights and sounds around the Cardoner River allowed for a deep spiritual connection to God and each other.

Moving on to Barcelona, with its historic churches and institutions, showcased the influence of Saint Ignatius in the region. We visited the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar, a place where Ignatius begged for his daily sustenance, as well as seeing for ourselves a Jesuit education being so wonderfully lived and exhibited at the school of Jesuïtes Sarrià Sant Ignasi.

Fr Nico Lariosa SJ (kneeling) with fellow pilgrims at the Cave of Saint Ignatius.

The final destination was Rome, where Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus and established its headquarters. We visited the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Jesuits, and the rooms where Ignatius lived during his time in Rome. One of the most beautiful sights was the pilgrim slippers that he wore on his own pilgrimage – a reminder to us all of his tenacity, courage and dedication to Christ.

The pilgrimage truly served as a profound spiritual journey, allowing participants to be spiritually enriched, connected with the life and teachings of Saint Ignatius, and to find God in all things in the places where his own transformative experiences unfolded.

Looking back on it now, it has allowed us to return to our schools with a renewed sense of purpose and meaning. We were all truly moved by the graces received in prayer, companionship and contemplation – surely one of the greatest gifts given to us as we continue to make our own experience on pilgrimage a truly communal experience at our respective schools.

The spiritual and personal conversion that embraced us truly allowed for the restructuring of our lives, recognising our spiritual desires and reordering our priorities. We responded to God’s call and rearranged our values, both personally and professionally. Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

Banner image by Michelangeloop, Canva.