Two pilgrimages retracing Ignatius’ steps through Loyola, Aranzazu, Manresa and Montserrat took place between 3 and 7 June, and 1 to 5 July. A total of 24 people took part, all members of the governing councils of the three schools of St. Aloysius College in Malta.
“The objective,” Fr Jimmy Bartolo, president of the Jesuit Education Foundation, explains, “was to help the people who run the schools to deepen the spirituality we share, Jesuits and lay people together. The pilgrimages offered moments of prayer, celebration and sharing. Particular focus was made on the rules of discernment of the first week, given by Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises. “I believe that the value of this experience is linked to the fact that the participants had the opportunity to spend moments of silence and prayer. It was not simply religious tourism. It was much more. I hope we will continue to offer other initiatives that deepen our spirituality, especially in the school context. They will help us to become Jesuit and Ignatian schools and not simply good schools”.
From the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Seu to the famous Cova and to many other Ignatian sites, the programme was designed to guide and inspire each pilgrim on their journey with Ignatius.
“A truly enriching experience that I will treasure,” Pauline, Secretary of St. Aloysius College remarked. “Reflecting and praying on the life experiences of St Ignatius in Loyola, Manresa and Montserrat helped me to deepen my own life experiences and touch my heart.” For Charles Bonello, President of the SAC Board of Directors, the experience “helped me to understand the spirit of resilience, how to become a person for others and the true meaning of inner peace that can be found in nature, in reflection and when we free ourselves from negative thoughts. Arantzazu and its beautiful Basilica situated amidst glorious mountains, with its distinct bells and interesting history really created a spirit of peace and serenity”. For Angele Briffa, Coordinator for Diversity in Learning in the secondary school, “the sounds of the river flowing in Manresa and the warmth within the walls of Loyola’s house allowed me to reflect on the past, on the wounds I experienced, which were nothing more than the extraordinary gentle hand of God.
The coordinator for therapeutic services at the Primary School, Helena Sammut highlighted her awe at an experience beyond expectations: “not quite what I was expecting. The experience of Fr. Rupnik’s mosaic, that of the Christian pilgrimage through the Spiritual Exercises at the Manresa Sanctuary have definitely left an imprint on me, in particular the image of the very gentle and welcoming Christ with the doubting St Thomas’. “The experience in Loyola was also very profound. To be so close to all the important places where Ignatius lived, struggled, prayed, meditated and transformed makes me feel much closer to him now and more open to understand how this affects me and how I am called to respond,” Annalise Abela, assistant head at the Sixth Form, added.