A Way of the Cross, strictly on foot, covering a distance of about 400 km that separates Mount Mary’s Bandra from Mount Mary in Haregaon. A pilgrimage promoted during this time of Lent, which gathered about 40 young Indian Catholics to renew – as the motto of the initiative – the call to a “spiritual conversion” and to “share the Good News of Christ.”
The pilgrimage, now in its sixth edition, comprises 14 stages, like the Stations of the Cross; set to the backdrop of rural and remote areas of the diocese of Nashik. The event involvedthe majority of the youth of Ahmednagar district, from farming families, with the aim to strengthen the bond of unity and enhance the “devotion” to Mary and “peace”.
The journey began this morning at 5 am with a Mass at the Mount Mary Basilica in Bandra, capital of Mumbai Suburban District (Maharashtra); it will end on April 4, with a Mass at the Marian shrine of Haregaon Nashik (Ahmednagar district).
At the head of the pilgrimage, called “Dhoje Yatra Via Crucis” [Dhoje in Marathi language means “flag”] Fr. Satish Kadam, director of the Committee for Youth Ministry of the Diocese of Nashik. The name comes from the fact that, all the way, a young man will lead carrying a flag while the others follow, singing devotional songs, praying the rosary and other prayers. A van follows the pilgrims, carrying costumes and clothes needed to recreate the passion of Christ, adapted in the local Marathi language. At all times, one of the youth will be running on foot, it is a relay pilgrimage, where all the 40 youths, will take turns in running with the flag.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr. Kadam said that “the majority of young people are second-generation Catholics, aged between 16 and 25”. In the diocese, he adds, there are “many pastoral challenges” to be faced and the pilgrimage is one of the initiatives to strengthen the participation in the life of the Church and unity among the young people. This way, the priest continues, “reinforces formation for the path of faith” and is also a way to promote “street evangelism”, taking the Via Crucis “to remote rural areas.”
“Most of these people – continues Fr. Kadam – are poor and struggle every day to make a living. We have to be creative in our work of ministry. To participate in this pilgrimage the young people have made great sacrifices in time and money. ” We must stand by the people, he adds, although traveling in remote areas is difficult and expensive. “Our work is oriented to the social – he said – and even if resources are limited, these young people want to devote part of their time to community service.”