Fr. Daniel Fernández Shares the Camino with Marist School

A spiderweb of 1,000-year-old routes stretch across Europe in an ancient pilgrimage network leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. The cathedral is traditionally held to be the burial place of St. James the Apostle and draws more than 200,000 pilgrims each year. The journey a pilgrim takes along their route of choice is known as the Camino de Santiago.
In 2018, Marist priest Father Daniel Fernández founded Albergue de la Santa Cruz to serve pilgrims at the halfway point of the Camino Frances in Sahagun, Spain. The Camino Frances route is the most famous and popular choice for travelers. The albergue, meaning hostel in Spanish, serves as a place of respite and shelter for those journeying along the Camino. In the manner of Marist hospitality, the albergue offers fellowship through afternoon coffee and conversation, spiritual support with an evening Mass and blessing in a variety of languages, and a shared dinner.

The Marist School community, including faculty, staff, students, and parents, was blessed to hear about this Marist ministry in Spain over the week of February 20. Fr. Fernández traveled to Atlanta to share the mission of the albergue in Sahagun, which holds shared values with Marist School. As set forth on the website, the albergue “allows us to welcome with simplicity and joy all those who go to the tomb of the Apostle. We try to have an open, warm, and generous welcome, so that everyone who enters our hostel feels as if Mary herself were welcoming them.” Fr. Fernández offered several speaking engagements at Marist discussing the Albergue de la Santa Cruz and illustrated how the priests and volunteers serving there put values into action.

Over many years, the Camino progressed from meaning simply a “way” to reach the Cathedral of Santiago to a transformative experience for the soul from beginning to end. Pilgrims who embark on the Camino average around 25 km of walking each day, most often in silence and surrounded by nature. The resulting journey, regardless of intention, feels meditative, transformative, and healing. The Marist albergue provides a safe space for travelers to rest their heads and share the impact of their adventure with fellow pilgrims.

Marist social studies teacher Mr. Mike Burns traveled along the Camino in 2019 during a sabbatical term he received when Marist awarded him the Loridans Academic Fellowship. He carefully planned his arrival and stay at the Marist albergue, saying, “Being a 20-year veteran teacher at Marist School and a Marist parent, I was looking for that at-home feeling and connection with the Marists and the other pilgrims. The Marist albergue in Sahagun delivered.”

In a letter written to the Marist Way program director Mr. Michael Coveny ’81 upon his return home to Atlanta, Burns reflected, “It was absolutely one of the best experiences on my Camino, but in a way that is just so Marist. Nothing was ostentatious or dramatic; instead, it was simple, kind, and humble.” In a Marist way of its own, the albergue shepherds pilgrims along their important journeys so they may gain from the Camino everything the experience can offer.

Two Marist seniors, Henry Djuric ’23 and Chris Kammerer ’23, are currently planning their traverse along the Camino this summer, which they intend to embark on together. “Chris and I are very excited to be doing the Camino. We are both Catholic and Boy Scouts who enjoy hiking and backpacking. We heard Mr. Burns's talk about his experience walking the Camino when we were in 9th grade, and we always thought about doing it,” Djuric said. “We were pleasantly surprised to hear about Fr. Fernández and the Marist albergue. We plan on staying there and perhaps helping at the hostel for a few days.”

Mr. Burns hopes more Marist community members will follow suit, saying, “I hope that others here at Marist School will be able to get to Spain to help at the albergue and to experience their own version of the powerful, transformative spirit of the Camino.”

Mr. Coveny added, “We are so grateful Fr. Fernández provided a picture of a sacred Marist place for us to visit someday and, even more importantly, a new place for us to serve as a volunteer during our school year or over the summer.”

Learn more about the Marists’ mission at the Albergue de la Santa Cruz.
View photos from Fr. Fernández’s visit to Marist School.

Marist School

3790 Ashford Dunwoody Road, NE
Atlanta, GA 30319-1899
(770) 457-7201
An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers