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Camino walk unites 700 men in brotherhood and faith

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Nearly 750 faithful men set out on a 22km trek through the night in an expression of Catholic masculinity and solidarity on 26 April. 

From just 45 men in 2021, the annual Camino Walk for St Joseph has grown into the biggest Catholic men’s event in Australia. 

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Men from all over Sydney mobilised at St Anthony’s of Padua in Austral for the overnight pilgrimage, before trekking from Austral to Moorebank.  

Organised by the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, the men visited seven churches scattered throughout southwest Sydney. 

Fittingly, for the event in honour of the patron saint of fathers, many dads made the journey along with their son.  

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

Bruce Missen from Revesby shared the experience with his son, Chase. 

“I want to be an example for my son and hopefully this will be a tradition that will carry on into the future,” he said.  

Others took the opportunity to share the journey with their best friends.  

Lifelong mates Nector Kougellis, Marcus Callegaro and Vinnie Vella embarked on the walk for the first time. 

“We liked the idea of recognising St Joseph, and his message resonates with us because we want to be better friends, dads, husbands and men,” said Nector. 

Organised by the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation, the men began their journey at St Anthony’s for Eucharistic adoration, confession and Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard Umbers. 

“You are going out, proclaiming the Gospel. You are giving witness. You are evangelising by your very presence,” Bishop Umbers told the men before they set off.  

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

“We need to see pilgrimages and adoration and processions across Sydney because it does so much good. I need you as the bishop to give of yourselves,” he said. 

For 22km, despite their bodies telling them to rest, to eat and to sleep, the men did just that.  

Marching as one, they walked through parklands, streets, industrial areas and along T-ways and highways. 

Their incredible journey began after Mass at 9.30pm on Friday evening and finished at St Joseph’s in Moorebank at 6.30am the next morning.   

With the assistance of the NSW Police, St John’s Ambulance and about 50 volunteers, the throng of men, which also included Sydney clergy and seminarians, moved through the suburbs, seamlessly quenching their spiritual hunger with fraternity, song and praying of the rosary. 

Spiritual nourishment was offered at the churches they visited which included Holy Spirit at Carnes Hill, Good Shepherd at Hoxton Park, St Therese at Sadleir, St Francis Xavier at Lurnea, All Saints at Liverpool and finished at St Joseph’s at Moorebank.  

Each church welcomed the men with prayer, blessings and a short talk about St Joseph from the respective parish priests.  

Halfway through the walk, 71-year-old Neil O’Kelly was feeling the ‘pinch’, but his spirit was soaring. 

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

“The backs a bit sore but the legs are going well,” he said. 

“I prepared for this by walking every morning for about 5km otherwise I wouldn’t make it. I put in the hard yards and I can’t wait to do it again next year.” 

His son, Daniel looked on in admiration. “Iron sharpens iron,” he said. 

Deacon John Ting from the Broadway parish of St Benedict is a veteran of two St Joseph camino walks.  

“There’s something about all the men getting together and knowing we all have our own struggles and difficulties, but to know we’re going through it together gives us extra strength,” he said.  

Benjamin Hunt is one of the young volunteers moved by the sight of the procession. 

“It’s been great. It’s quite inspiring to see so many men of all ages and men who are passionate about the faith doing something that’s not easy.  

“It shows there’s a lot of hope for the church in Sydney,” he said.   

Images by Giovanni Portelli Photography © 2024

Organiser, Life Marriage Family officer Ivica Kovac was in awe of the men’s resolve and said plans are already underway for next year’s camino. 

“There’s only one word to describe it, joy! I can only describe it as a spiritual high,” he said. 

“Even though it is hard, the physical hardness goes away because of the joy. Everyone knows they are part of something special, something good for them. And they will take this back to their families and parishes.  

“It just grows every year and now it has this momentum.” 

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