|October 24, 2016 • VOL. 54, NO. 18 • Oakland, CA|
Retreats & Pilgrimages
Pilgrim priest joins San Damiano Retreat
The Franciscans at San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville welcomed Rev. Ken Laverone, OFM, as the new guardian and interim director.
Prior to joining San Damiano, Father Ken was pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church in Sacramento. He played a central role as co-postulator in the canonization of St. Junipero Serra, leading to Father Laverone's reading the saint's biography in Spanish at the canonization Mass with Pope Francis in 2015.
During his transition from Sacramento to Danville, he made a second pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, the legendary burial site of St. James. Since making this pilgrimage is on my bucket list, I was anxious to learn about these pilgrim experiences.
Father Laverone made his first pilgrimage of the Camino de Santiago in 2014. He followed a route originating in the French Pyrenees, walking 484 miles over a period of four weeks prior to reaching Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
Father Laverone is quick to point out that a pilgrimage is not a "tour." He explains, "The focus is on the journey and not the destination. A pilgrimage is an encounter with yourself, God and others. There should be some discomfort, enthusiasm, solitude, poverty, community, gratitude, sharing and looking out for one another. The camino provides all of these experiences, and you connect with God in a way as never before."
Once home, Father Laverone's parishioners and fellow friars noticed his peaceful demeanor. He felt joyful, enthusiastic and in love with life. He experienced a lasting sense of gratitude for all the gifts he received.
So, in June 2016, he decided to go back to Santiago de Compostela to minister to other pilgrims. This time, he started in Lisbon, Portugal. After making the pilgrimage, he said Mass and heard confessions at Santa Maria church in O Cebreiro, Spain, a church known for Eucharistic miracles, and at the cathedral in Santiago.
The journey continues. Father Laverone helps keep the pilgrim spirit alive by recounting his experiences. He has also enjoyed communicating and visiting with his fellow pilgrims from all over the world and looks forward to meeting guests and would-be pilgrims at San Damiano.
(Janet Gardner is project manager at San Damiano Retreat.)
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