The Camino de Santiago, the Albergue de la Santa Cruz, and What it Means to be a Pilgrim

This story was written by Maggie Strickland ’24, who served as a communications intern in the Advancement Office through Marist’s Career Connections program.

Marist priest Father Daniel Fernández, S.M. visited Marist School in February to tell the story and share the mission of the Albergue de la Santa Cruz. The mission of the albergue, or “hostel” in English, is to welcome pilgrims embarking on the Camino de Santiago, a famous pilgrimage route leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain known for drawing those who are looking for meaning or motivation in their lives and offering tranquility, rest, or a meaningful connection with others traveling to the burial place of St. James the Apostle. This summer, several Marist alumni accepted Fr. Fernández’s invitation to Spain.
The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is a renowned pilgrimage of medieval origin that invites pilgrims to journey to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, believed to be the location of St. James’s final resting place. Marist priests run a hostel along one of the most popular routes to provide hospitality to pilgrims.
Mr. Mike Burns, Marist School English teacher, traveled the Camino in spring 2019 during a sabbatical term he received when Marist awarded him the Loridans Academic Fellowship. He stopped at the Albergue de la Santa Cruz and volunteered alongside Fr. Fernández. When he returned to Marist, Mr. Burns shared about his experience with our community. Henry Djuric ’23 and Christopher Kammerer ’23 were especially inspired by his story, but it was not until Fr. Fernández came to Marist in the months before their May graduation that the friends decided to make the journey themselves. Fr. Fernández answered all their questions, including where to stay and what routes to take. Djuric and Kammerer traveled to Spain this summer to live and experience the mission of the Marist priests at the albergue and to walk the famous Camino. Fr. Fernández and the other priests and volunteers were thrilled to see Marist students walking the Camino and staying in their hostel.
Djuric discovered that, “One of the highlights of staying at the albergue is the communal dinner shared every night by all the pilgrims.” This is where he was able to listen and learn from fellow pilgrims’ experiences and cultures. Djuric felt that no other hostel was able to foster such a distinct community full of complete strangers. Mass was held every day at the church next door, run by the Marist Fathers, as a way to build the community and God’s presence throughout the pilgrimage. Most feel that coffee can help, too. Each afternoon, Fr. Cormac McNamara, S.M. held a coffee and conversation time to open honest dialogue between the pilgrims and help strengthen friendships and community.
When asked what made Kammerer decide to go on the trip, he shared that he wanted to branch out beyond his comfort zone. He has always been shy, and he knew that if he took the trip, “each day would bring uncertainty, but also adventure”. He stated that, “everyone’s journey and purpose for the Camino is unique, which is what makes it so special.” He believes that it does not always have to be a religious motivation but can also be one of “personal growth and reflection during transitional parts of life.”
Djuric and Kammerer were able to meet new people along the way. Kammerer even helped translate a homily for a woman who did not speak Spanish. While walking the Camino, they stopped to see the historical buildings and the burial place of St. James. 

The Marist priests also invited volunteers to help run the albergue. Mrs. Angela Elledge ’88, Marist School director of admissions, and her daughter Dylan Rose Elledge ’19 answered that call this summer and were able to volunteer and further the mission put forth by the Marist community that runs the hostel. “Angela and Dylan managed to connect with the mission of the project in Sahagún very easily,” Fr. Fernández said. “When they were leaving, we all thought that it has been too short.”

Mr. Mike Coveny ’81, director of the Marist Way, helped organize Fr. Fernández’s trip to Marist earlier this year. He shared that “the Marist Spirit is an international Spirit, a transcendent Spirit, that connects all of us.” He believes this spirit allows Marist to fully engage in the way of Marist, or Mary. “Volunteering or walking the Camino can help people of all ages to behave and serve in a way like Mary—with humility, discipline, and a burning love for God and neighbor.” 
Mr. Burns believes that to engage in the Marist Way, one must act like a pilgrim, someone who lives simply and humbly and seeks out the goodness in the world and in others. Mr. Burns says, “Every Marist student should take the trip to Spain because it allows time away from your normal life. It gives you the chance to really think about what you've done with your life, both good and bad, and what life truly means.” He believes that it offers an experience to “deepen a connection with the world—yourself, your friends, and family—and with God.”
After a summer of witnessing Marist School alumni experience and further the Marist mission in Spain, Fr. Fernández shared, “What they really accomplished was to encourage us with their smiling faces and their joy. They got involved in the hospitality and in the lives of the pilgrims by helping them, listening to them, and sharing with them on a very profound level.”
According to Fr. Fernández, simply exposing ourselves to those who are traveling as pilgrims can inform our lives. “A pilgrim is somebody who feels the need to give up a comfortable life because there is a question or dissatisfaction within themselves. A pilgrim leaves the house, food, and security for a simpler life where silence, solitude, and sharing with other fellow pilgrims is the centre. So, the pilgrim is somebody who wants to change the noise and rush to find the essential things in life,” Fr. Fernández says. “However, a pilgrimage usually starts as a path to find answers and finishes in an encounter with oneself and God.”
The invitation to visit and volunteer at the Albergue de la Santa Cruz, regardless of whether the traveler is embarking on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage, remains open to all in our Marist community.
Learn more about the Albergue de la Santa Cruz.

Written by Maggie Strickland '24.

Marist School

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An Independent Catholic School of the Marist Fathers and Brothers