Freshman from three private Catholic schools in Wilmington spent their Tuesday together to build relationships and carry out a playful pilgrimage to honor a piece of religious heritage.
The event is based on the El Camino Pilgrimage, also known as the Way of St. James, which is a pilgrimage in Spain in which people walk hundreds of miles from all across Europe to Santiago, the traditional place where the apostle James is buried.
“The idea is that the destination is great, but it’s really all about the walk,” said Fr. Brian Zumbrum, director of activities at Salesianum. “Pilgrims walk anywhere from 10 to 15 miles a day, and they deliberately have conversations with other pilgrims. As they’re walking they stop and eat, they stop and have interactive space and time.”
Some churches and bars and places are just open to pilgrims, he said, so they kind of drift in and out of such stops.
“We modeled this on that, so the students will be walking, having these conversations, engaging in activities and just kind of having some good, intentional time to be together,” he said. “Some of the conversations are deliberately more thoughtful about their faith or about what they’re excited about or not, and then others are just more fun and light just to build connections and build relationships.”
Tuesday’s El Camino Walk wasn’t technically a walk, however.
“We tried to think about El Camino as a journey, one during which you learn about yourself, those around you, develop some new skills and face unexpected challenges along the way, all the while building community with those people by your side,” said Maureen Ripsom McAleenan, dean of academic studies at Ursuline’s upper school.
She helped organize the event, which had the freshman from each school split into 27 mixed groups, each with a couple senior leaders, for a journey around the Salesianum building.
Each group stopped at 10 stations, where they would participate in spiritual, academic, athletic and artistic activities lasting about 15 minutes.
One station, for example, was called “Rebuild my Church,” and students used large Jenga pieces to build a structure.
At this station, some discussions involved sharing what community service projects students have been involved in, how they can build the Kingdom of God on earth, where they would like to take a service trip to, what age group they prefer to work with and more.
Another station was focused on geography, and one activity involved showing outlines of countries withUrsuline academies, with students trying to guess the country based on a blank outline. This station was called “The Global Church.”
“For many of the freshmen in their groups, the people around them are strangers, much like one experiences on El Camino,” Ripsom McAleenan said. “They will share, listen, learn and build community, even bringing a passport book along their journey to mark each stop just like what happens on the real El Camino.”
Mary McClory, principal of Padua, said it was a great way for students from all three schools to start to establish friendships, within their own school, and within the three school communities.
Padua and Urusline’s upper schools are both all-girls, while Salesianum is an all-boys school.
“I think the best benefit of it is for the younger kids who go into an all-boys school or an all-girls school and don’t have as many opportunities to meet boys or girls,” said Christian Beretta, principal of Salesianum. “So this has a kind of retreat feel to it, it has a spiritual component to it, but it’s also a very social opportunity.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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