After walking the best part of 16km on a pilgrimage from Otahuhu to St Patrick’s Cathedral in central Auckland on October 29, all Elifasa Ipiniu could say was “awesome”. 

The 51-year-old from St John the Evangelist parish in Otara was one of about 500 people to walk from Sts Joseph and Joachim Church in Otahuhu in a Year of Mercy pilgrimage.

The pilgrims, ranging in age from 8 to 80 and including several priests, came from five south Auckland parishes — Otara, Otahuhu, Manurewa, Clover Park and Papakura.

When he started walking in Otahuhu, Mr Ipiniu was hoping for a “spiritual boost” from the pilgrimage.

Resting at St Patrick’s Square in the city several hours later, he confirmed that this was what he had received.

“It was a good experience for body, heart and soul. It was great to see so many people praying their prayers along the way.

“It is a long way from south Auckland to here, but the spirit of mercy was there today. I want to do this again and again.”

During the walk, the pilgrims stopped and prayed and sang at 10 “stations of mercy”, for which prayers were composed by Otara parish pastoral assistant Manuel Beazley.

The themes for the “stations of mercy” were based on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

The route for the pilgrimage went down the Great South Road from Otahuhu to Newmarket, then up through Khyber Pass Road, across Grafton Bridge, down Karangahape Road and on to Queen Street and then to the cathedral.

Several cars accompanied the walkers in case some of them became too fatigued to walk any further.

Upon reaching the cathedral group by group — they had set off at intervals — the
pilgrims had food and drink at St Patrick’s Square and the sacrament of Reconciliation was available.

The pilgrims then walked through the specially designated Year of Mercy holy door at St Patrick’s. A plenary indulgence is available for those who walk through holy doors throughout the world during the Year of Mercy, as long as the people fulfill the usual obligations to receive one.

At the cathedral, Otara parish priest Fr Brian Prendeville, SM, reminded the pilgrims that the first holy door for the jubilee was designated by Pope Francis in the Central African Republic last year, “amid strife, war and trouble”.

“It was in the middle of a country that most of the world wanted to forget. “We today, have done something like Pope Francis did. We have walked from south Auckland, right through Newmarket, we walked all the way up Queen Street in this Year of Mercy.”

The pilgrims travelled back to south Auckland by bus.

Mr Beazley told NZ Catholic that some 200 pilgrims  from Otara and Clover Park parishes had walked from Otara to the cathedral on a mercy pilgrimage on the vigil
of Pentecost earlier this year.

The south Auckland deanery thought this was something that could well be extended to other parishes, hence the October walk.

And about 17 pilgrims from Otara and Manurewa travelled to Rome in January, where they passed through the holy door at St Peter’s Basilica, Mr Beazley said.

Other Auckland parish groups have also recently made mercy pilgrimages to the cathedral — Grey Lynn, Owairaka and the Korean Catholic community.