JSerra Catholic High School’s annual Senior Camino is a Lion tradition with the purpose of helping graduating seniors reflect, with their classmates, on the gifts that God has given them and what He has in store for them as they enter the next phase of their lives. Although JSerra’s Camino is just 14 miles long compared to the famous Camino de Santiago’s 500 miles, both are ways to enter into a holy pilgrimage. Through the arduous journey of walking a long distance, the fatigue benefits the walkers by cleansing their minds so that they can open their hearts to God.
For JSerra’s seniors, the Camino was even more meaningful because it was the first to have a theme: “Live for Others.” The seniors walked in honor of the late alumnus Tim Vorenkamp (’15), who passed away in 2016 from a rare cancer. Before his death, Vorenkamp founded the Live for Others Foundation, which raises awareness and funds the research to cure Synovial Cell Sarcoma. The students wore Live for Others t-shirts and carried matching water bottles.
“Live for Others was the perfect theme because although a pilgrimage seems like an individualistic event, in reality, any activity we’re involved in can be offered up for the sake of those we love,” said Patrick Reidy, JSerra’s vice president of Mission and Faith. “Our pilgrims this year were encouraged to think about someone they want to offer this pilgrimage for, and then offer the aches, pains, and fatigues throughout the trip for the sake of others and their needs.”
The nearly 200 participants — the highest turnout ever — started at JSerra after a Mass and blessing by Fr. Damien Giap and exhortation by Reidy, then walked the length of Marguerite Parkway to El Toro Road, and all the way up El Toro to St. Michael’s Abbey where the Camino culminated. There were signs with quotes along Marguerite to remind the students of their high school journey and reflect upon what God is calling them for in the future.
The three checkpoints along the way were named after saints who were outdoorsmen who were also well known for their love of hiking: St. Junipero Serra, St. John Paul the Great, and Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati. The checkpoints were designed to perpetuate the idea of the holy pilgrimage as well as increase the Catholic identity of the Camino.
Calculus teacher James Shafiyoon was one of the chaperones. “It was fun watching the seniors reminisce about their time together,” said Shafiyoon. “I saw a lot of established friendships deepen and new friendships formed along the way.”
Chaperone Fr. Damien commented, “This class of seniors are a united group who demonstrate a spirit of Lion Pride by their enthusiasm throughout the pilgrimage, resiliency in not giving up, and a genuine concern for the well-being of one another.”
When asked what the most memorable part of the Camino was, future graduate Jordyn Squires replied, “Getting through the pain together.”