Ancient pilgrimage route ‘a Catholic gift to the world’

Roxanne King
Pilgrims walk the Camino in Spain in this still from "Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago," which drew large crowds in Denver and Boulder at March 28 premiers, including 233 people at a sold-out show the evening of March 28 at the Chez Artiste.

For 90 minutes last weekend, moviegoers in Denver and Boulder experienced the spiritual growth, physical pain and joy of pilgrims who made a 500-mile journey along a historical Catholic trail in Spain.

The premier of the award-winning documentary “Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago” attracted large crowds in both cities, including 233 people at a sold-out show the evening of March 28 in Denver.

“This film and Camino is for people who want more from life than making more money or buying a bigger TV or a new car,” said director Lydia B. Smith, who attended the Denver premier.  “People who are seeking why they are on the planet, what is their relationship with God and the meaning of being more connected with other people.”

Smith first walked the trail in 2008 after a broken wedding engagement and wants to share the magic of the pilgrimage she calls “a Catholic gift to the world.”

Since the Middle Ages, the 1,200-year-old Catholic pilgrimage has attracted several hundreds of thousands of walkers yearly and ends in the city of Santiago de Compostela where the bones of Apostle St. James are said to be buried.

“Many people come as tourists,” said a Spanish priest in the film. “They end as pilgrims.”

Co-producer Annie O’Neil and Smith, who did question and answer sessions at the local premiers, raised the money to produce and distribute the film. Their film crew followed pilgrims on the six-week journey from late April to early June 2009.

Moviegoers at the Friday evening show laughed and cried as they watched the pilgrims encounter humorous and heartbreaking challenges: snoring strangers packed in a hostel; a brother who doesn’t believe in God; blisters the size of quarters; hiking boots covered with mud; smelly clothes; and strangers who offer immediate friendship.

“I didn’t expect to be so emotional watching the film,” said moviegoer Louise Lopez, who heard about the film from a Facebook post. “A women sitting next to me, who I don’t know, shared some Kleenex when we both started crying.”

O’Neil was one of six pilgrims, ages 3-73 from Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France and the United States, featured in the documentary. They had a variety of reasons for doing the walk, from a traditional Catholic pilgrimage to a widower honoring his wife and a women suffering from depression.

O’Neil started the journey feeling inadequate because she physically couldn’t keep up with older pilgrims. Yet, she soon realized that feeling of competitiveness was taking away from her spiritual journey.

“A bad day for the ego is a good day for the soul,” she said in the film.

Sam, a woman in her 30s, began the walk in a deep depression and ended it determined to focus on the positive things in her life.

“I haven’t washed my hair in the month but I feel great,” she said.

Misa, a student from Denmark, wanted to travel alone but she discovered the journey became more meaningful by walking with fellow traveler, William from Canada.

“Happiness is meant to be shared,” said William, who also considered himself a loner before the pilgrimage.

About 20 people at the film Friday evening have walked the Camino, including Gene and Rosann  McCullough of Denver. The couple completed the pilgrimage in three different segments beginning in 2002. As members of American Pilgrims on the Camino, the couple now returns to Spain as hosts to help other pilgrims at the hostels.

“We’ve made connections that will last a lifetime,” said Gene. “We see new people every day and they all have a different story.”

About 50 people raised their hands when Smith asked how many wanted to walk the trail after watching the film.

The filmmakers plan to have a DVD of the film available to the public by this fall. They also are raising $85,000 to get the film aired on PBS in the next few years and are seeking an international distributor.

More information about the Camino can be found at www.caminodocumentary.org and www.americanpilgrims.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMING UP: Sensitive locations, not ‘sanctuary’

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DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 11: Msgr. Bernie Schmitz preaches the homily during the announcement of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish as a diocesan shrine on December 11, 2016, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Denver Catholic)

With the election of President Donald Trump, many immigrants are uncertain of their future in America. The situation has ignited a national conversation about immigrants and their legal status.

The term “sanctuary” has been making waves in the headlines recently after Denver immigrant Jeanette Vizguerra sought assistance at a local Unitarian church for fear of being deported. The term itself has largely been adopted by the media to describe cities where immigrants cannot be questioned about their immigration status and locations where immigrants can seek refuge and be safe from arrest.

While the so-called “Muslim ban” has been garnering a lot of media attention, there’s another piece of the conversation that’s equally as pertinent; that of the immigrants who are already living in the U.S.; those who have fled their home country in search of something better, established their lives here — and many of which are of Latino descent.

The fear among many Latinos is still prevalent, as many wonder what will become of their residence here in the U.S. under a Trump presidency.

“For those here today illegally who are seeking legal status, they will have one route and only one route: to return home and apply for re-entry,” President Trump said in an Aug. 31 speech in Phoenix, Ariz.

The law doesn’t give definition to “sanctuary” but instead describes places where immigrants are safe from any sort of enforcement action by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as “sensitive locations.” A 2011 memorandum distributed by ICE outlines that sensitive locations include, but are not limited to: schools, hospitals, churches, synagogues, mosques or other institutions of worship, the site of a funeral, wedding or other public religious ceremony and public demonstrations, such as a rally or march.

The memo states that enforcement actions are prohibited from taking place in any of these locations without prior approval by an ICE supervisor. In this event, supervisors are to “take extra care when assessing whether a planned enforcement action could reasonably be viewed as causing significant disruption to the normal operations of the sensitive location.”

The policy does, however, call for exigent circumstances in which enforcement actions can be carried out without prior approval. These include: matters of national security or terrorism, an imminent risk of death, violence or physical harm to any person or property, the immediate arrest of individual(s) that present an imminent danger to public safety, or an imminent risk of destruction of evidence material to an ongoing criminal case.

Should any of these situations arise, the memo instructs ICE agents to “conduct themselves as discretely as possible, consistency with office and public safety, and make every effort to lift the time at or focused on the sensitive location.”