For us pilgrims, the Camino community at home is often a necessity to keep the spirit alive throughout the year. Our chapter’s 2nd annual St. James Day Celebration in Piedmont, California, was a great example of how pilgrims come together to cultivate community. As a chapter coordinator, I find this annual event is my favorite to organize, not just because it takes place in my neighborhood parish. Rather, it has become a meaningful way to honor the reason for the pilgrimage, celebrate with friends, provide a blessing to departing pilgrims, and to introduce St. James to those who are curious.
It was a joy to bring both of my communities—parish and pilgrims—together for this special evening. The first part of the event was tailored for our pilgrim community with a potluck dinner and chapter announcements. I swear, our potlucks keep getting better each time!
There were Camino-inspired dishes, wine, tapas, paellas, caldo de Galicia, and of course, the superstar of the occasion, Tarta de Santiago. There were a few, actually!
Then, we had a blessing for departing pilgrims by Rev. Beth Foote who led the group in a rousing “hands-on” interactive blessing. If you would like to do this call-and-response pilgrim blessing for your group, download the Blessed-are-you-pilgrim (pdf), courtesy of Rev. Beth Foote.
This blessing took place outside in the courtyard while a crew of volunteers magically transformed the community room to accommodate 25 more people who signed up just for the presentation.
This year, I invited guest speaker Alexander Shaia, author of Returning From Camino, who happened to be visiting family in the Bay Area. He gave a thought-provoking presentation, St. James: The Despairing Evangelist Who Becomes an Inspiring Pilgrim – a Story for Today. We learned more about the apostle James and gained a deeper understanding of the significance of the Camino pilgrimage.
His talk was also very appreciated by the parish community, some of whom were familiar with Alexander’s theology and insightful work on the cycle of the four Gospels.
I was overflowing with gratitude for how people stepped up to help in a myriad of ways. Kudos to our NorCal chapter steering committee, volunteers, and parish friends who made this event happen. Overall, it was a joyous occasion to celebrate, contemplate, and cultivate the Camino community. We hope that the evening, in some way, inspired people on their own journeys.
See more event photos captured by Guy Joaquin, Emilio Escudero, and me in the slideshow below.
This event was made possible by dozens of pilgrim friends and volunteers: Guy Joaquin, David Dement, Alexander Shaia, Rev. Beth Foote, Emilio Escudero, Martin Pena, Ann Naffziger, Rob Nickerson, Laurie Cheatham, and Mary-Rita Williamson.
Special thanks to everyone who brought a dish for the potluck, and everyone who pitched in to help clean up and set up.
If you would like to be a guest speaker at the next St. James Day event in Piedmont, CA, contact me, Laurie Ferris.
Returning From the Camino Resources
Watch Emilio Escudero’s presentation, Returning Home: The Journey Continues
Read the interview with Karin Kiser, author and peregrina who has been spotted picking up trash on the Camino!
Returning From Camino
Alexander John Shaia
Whether you are a pilgrim on the Camino, or elsewhere in the world, this is the first guidebook that physically, mentally and emotionally prepares you to return home.