Last weekend CAFOD Brentwood’s Chris Driscoll caught up with Ann Milner on her way around the London LOOP as she walked through the Brentwood Diocese in support of the Share the Journey campaign.
A CAFOD parish volunteer from Hertfordshire has been recounting her experience of travelling through the Brentwood Diocese after a 35 mile walk from Enfield Lock to Purfleet in support of the Share the Journey campaign.
Ann, Alison and Ian set forth from Enfield Lock to Chingford
Ann Milner, from the parish of Our Lady & St Andrew in Hitchin, walked with parishioners and CAFOD supporters from inside and outside the diocese to complete the Brentwood leg of the London LOOP route in the sweltering heat on Sunday afternoon.
Travelling through Chingford, Chigwell, Havering-atte-Bower, Harold Hill, Upminster, Rainham and finally Purfleet, Ann met several interesting and welcoming people, all sharing the desire to express solidarity with those who have been displaced across the world.
Ann sets off from Most Holy Redeemer in Harold Hill
I met Ann outside the Most Holy Redeemer Church in Harold Hill following her 11 mile walk from Chigwell. Having walked the LOOP twice before she knew what she was getting herself into. She had carefully planned the places on the route which could be ideal for ‘prayer stops’ or moments for the walkers to pray and reflect on the often perilous journeys that refugees are forced to undertake.
“the idea of ‘pilgrimage’ has greater significance in that it provides meaning, purpose and opportunities for personal transformation”.
I was interested to find out why she would consider undertaking such a huge challengeas this, especially given that she had told me that she wasn’t even that keen on walking! Ilearned that the idea of ‘pilgrimage’ has greater significance for her, that it provides meaning, purpose and opportunities for personal transformation. Reflecting on a walking holiday she took with her son, she feels that sharing the journey with others can be a great way to understand each other more deeply.
Ann, Alison and Ian are welcomed by Fr Francis Coveney at Our Lady of Grace in Chingford
Among the many highlights was a stop at Our Lady of Grace & St Teresa of Avila Church in Chingford where the walkers learned were given a tour of the church and heard how the church building in fact owes its existence to the generosity of a refugee.
Ann picks up the story: ‘Fr Francis (Coveney) was very keen to point out the link between this CAFOD campaign and the origins of his church. When the German army marched into Belgium in 1914 it caused a significant number of refugees to flee to Britain. One such refugee was Claire Coemans who arrived with her father, a professor of Ghent University, and subsequently, she having done well in England, donated the money that enabled land to be bought and eventually the church at Chingford to be built. “.
Woodhenge in Hainault Forest Country Park
Serenity in Hainult Country Park
“One such refugee was Claire Coemans who donated money that enabled land to be bought and eventually the church at Chingford to be built”.
Recollecting on her journey from Chigwell, Ann alluded to the serenity of God’s creation, “There was a very pleasant interlude though Hainault Forest Country Park consisting of open meadow, lovely sheltered wooded walks and a lake with a family of geese. There were also interesting wood sculptures to be seen, arranged in a circle as though for some ancient pagan ritual.
Ann also recalls a ‘guardian angel’ who put her on the right track again after she lost her way just outside Upminster: “Just as I was deciding which way to go (there were no waymarkers and the instructions were a little ambiguous) God sent along a guardian angel to help me in the form of Jim who was walking his two dogs. We exchanged a couple of pleasantries and I mentioned I was walking the LOOP. “Oh” he said, “You want to come this way”. Jim was also kind enough to recommend a local hostelry which provided some much needed refreshment after walking for miles in the hot sun. The kindness of strangers.
Walkers set off from St Joseph’s church in Upminster
The following day Ann set off on a 10 mile journey to Rainham and then onto to Purfleet with some new walking companions: members from Pax Christi and parish volunteers from St Joseph’s and Our Lady of La Salette. On another extremely hot and sunny day, the walkers ended enjoyed a picnic near Rainham marshes and then found some much needed relief from the sun with a prayer stop at Our Lady of Salette Church before finishing the Brentwood tour with a stop at the Anglican church of St Stephen’s in Purfleet.
Pax Christi walkers with the Lampedusa Cross in Purfleet
Picnic in Rainham
Prayer stop at La Salette in Rainham
As for Ann, she was back on her way again the following day when she crossed over the Thames and into the Southwark Diocese.
Ann chooses to walk the road less travelled in solidarity with refugees who do not have the choice