Fr. Keith Wallace, pastor of St. Bernadette’s parish in Ajax, Ont., finished off his Holy Door pilgrimage around the Archdiocese of Toronto by passing through the Holy Door at St. Theresa’s Church. Photo by Evan Boudreau

Holy Door pilgrimage builds community

By 
  • September 28, 2016

TORONTO – Seeking to build for a stronger sense of community, Fr. Keith Wallace took his parishioners on a Holy Door pilgrimage around the Archdiocese of Toronto.

On Sept. 24, the St. Bernadette’s parish pastor, along with 50 of his Ajax, Ont., flock ranging from toddlers to seniors, journeyed from east to west and back again by bus visiting each of the Archdiocese of Toronto’s seven Holy Doors which were designated specifically for this the Year of Mercy. The doors are located in several parishes around the archdiocese.

Although a portion of the pilgrimage did focus on prayer, indulgences and confessions, there was more to the day than spirituality.

“A big part of it was building that sense of community,” said Wallace. “We are a commuter parish, as many parishes are in Ajax, and we crave community. There’s a thirst for community.”

Wallace said his parishioners wanted to go beyond familiar faces of the Sunday Mass.

Wallace knows the first step to building a community is to literally bring people physically together. But for some people making time for that on a regular basis can be challenging.

“I’ve really tried to respect that some people can go to many meetings, they can go to events upon event, where as some people, because their lives are so busy with family and other things that we need to give them singular events,” like the Holy Door pilgrimage, he said. “It is not like you had to be committed to spending seven days to go to these seven doors.”

Long-time parishioner Betty Bujold said that the longer she’s been a member of the parish the fewer parishioners she knows despite being heavily involved with the Rites of Christian Initiation of Adults program.

“In 1964, no matter where I went I knew almost everybody and if we were in church we certainly knew everybody,” she said.

Today, that’s not the case. Although Bujold, 75, admits she still doesn’t know all 50 people she pilgrimaged with, she did come away with at least 10 new friends.

“To me that was the success of the trip,” she said. “It was an incredible journey for me. It was like we were a family.”

Wallace has already planned a second pilgrimage on Oct. 29.

“We had so many people on the waiting list that we are doing this again,” he said. “People really crave community.”

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