Walking pilgrim priest
Para akong binuhusan ng biyaya ng langit.” It was like heaven rained blessings on me.
That was how I felt on that day after I had walked for five hours and 30 minutes, covering 19 kilometers from our community house in Loyola Heights, Quezon City, to the Antipolo Cathedral.
Two days after, still with an anxious mind and a bothered heart, I walked 26 kilometers for eight hours and 15 minutes. Destination: Nuestra Señora de la Annunciata Parish in Sitio Old Boso-Boso, Brgy. San Jose, Antipolo City.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it had been a while since I last visited the parish administered by us Camillian Fathers.
The church was bustling with pilgrims, visitors, and parishioners for, like the Antipolo Cathedral, it was designated as one of the seven Jubilee churches of the Diocese of Antipolo on the 500th year of Christianity in the Philippines.
Through the walk, I was able to reconnect with my confrere and former formator, Fr. Evan Paul A. Villanueva, MI, the parish priest.
At different times, we both had walked the Camino de Santiago, known in English as the Way of St. James, a network of pilgrimages leading to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Tradition holds that the remains of the apostle are buried there.
“Why not try walking to the Jubilee churches of Antipolo, just like Camino de Santiago?” Father Evan asked. And a light bulb went off in my head. #ChallengeAccepted!
Whenever my schedule allowed, along with my rosary and my pilgrim passport, I walked to the different Jubilee churches of Antipolo that were opened Easter Sunday on April 4, 2021.
The “Porta Sancta” or “Holy Door” of the Jubilee churches remained open throughout the Jubilee year until April 22, 2022.
It was already the end of January 2022 when I decided to visit the Jubilee churches by foot before they close in April.
Like the other pilgrims (though most of them rode their vehicles, ehem!), I will receive a certificate once I had visited all the Jubilee churches. Seven stamps on the pilgrim passport from the seven churches will serve as proof of pilgrimage completion.
To officially start my “walking pilgrimage,” I again hit the National (now International) Shrine of Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage (Antipolo Cathedral) on Feb. 9, 2022. I clocked four hours and 10 minutes this time.
My succeeding walks, which all started from Quezon City, covered the following: Feb. 12, 2022, Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned, Marikina City, five kilometers (one hour and 10 minutes); Feb. 25, 2022, Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, San Mateo, 12 kilometers (two hours and 30 minutes); March 1, 2022, Diocesan Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of Light, Cainta, 11 kilometers (two hours, five minutes); and March 12, 2022, Nuestra Señora de la Annunciata Parish (I was faster this time, seven hours and 30 minutes). However, Pope Francis extended the opportunities for pilgrims to visit any of the more than 500 Jubilee churches all over the Philippines until Dec. 31, 2022. So, I had a furlough.
When the diocese announced that the “Holy Door” of all its Jubilee churches will be formally closed on Dec. 11, 2022, I once again gathered all my energy, further toughened my conviction, and resumed my “walking pilgrimage” to the two farthest and remaining churches. With a different starting point this time (I was transferred to a new assignment), on Nov. 14, 2022, I walked to San Ildefonso de Toledo Parish, Tanay, 28 kilometers (nine hours and 20 minutes). Thanks to its parish priest, Msgr. Rigoberto S. de Guzman, I was allowed to spend the night in their convent before doing my last stretch of pilgrimage the next day.
“Congratulations po, Fr. John Jay, the only walking pilgrim priest. Mabuhay ka, Padre!” said the message from Mrs. Yolanda “Nanay Yolly” J. Rodriguez, president of our Annunciata Parish Pastoral Council, after I informed them that “the eagle has landed!” “Para akong binuhusan ng mga biyaya ng langit!” That was how I felt on Nov. 15, 2022, when, from Tanay, my aching but happy feet finally reached Sta. Ursula Parish, Binangonan, 18 kilometers (in six hours and 35 minutes)!
Fr. John Jay C. Magpusao, MI, is from the Order of the Ministers of the Infirm (Camillians), a group of priests and brothers who dedicate their lives to the service of the sick. On July 1, 2022, the Bishop of Antipolo, Most Rev. Francisco M. de Leon, DD, appointed him the sixth parish priest of Nuestra Señora de la Annunciata Parish.
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