Gonzaga University is one of the 27 Jesuit Universities in the United States, which means the education provided is grounded in the beliefs of the Jesuit order. GU has opportunities year round for students to participate in retreats, religious clubs and weekly masses.
On Sept. 14, students and faculty will travel by foot for 11.5 miles through Northern Idaho for the 50th annual Pilgrimage. There are two held every year, one in the fall, one in the spring.
This tradition of GU holding the annual Pilgrimage began in the spring of 1970, with students and Jesuits coming together on an overnight camping trip, spending the night next to the Coeur d'Alene River. The camping stopped after some years, but the soul of the Pilgrimage remains to this day.
Ally Clapp is the Coordinator for the Office of Mission and Ministry at GU. She attended the Pilgrimage when she was a student at GU, and now she coordinates the Pilgrimage with a team that works in the office with her.
“Students who went on that very first walk cite lots of the same reasons that students walk today — to get out into nature and away from stress, to take steps to grow their faith, to be in a loving community,” Clapp said in an email.
The morning of the Pilgrimage, the 150-200 people who attend start the day with a breakfast at the Snake-Pit Restaurant in Kingston, ID. The group then goes on the 11-mile journey overlooking viewpoints and walks along a river. The walk ends at the Mission of the Sacred Heart in Cataldo, ID with a lunch and a mass celebrated by everyone in attendance.
“This is a sacred site which was built by together by members of the Coeur d'Alene Tribe and the first Jesuits when they arrived in the West,” Clapp said.
While on the walk, the Pilgrims are invited to stop and reflect on themselves, along with information about GU journey to becoming the campus it is today. For the 50th Pilgrimage, the people who participated in the first walk will be joining to reflect with everyone.
The Pilgrimage has always been open to all members of the community, not just GU undergrads, but for the 2019 fall Pilgrimage, the Office of Mission and Ministry wanted to make a special effort to reach out to the GU School of Law community.
Sarah Guzman, Director of Alumni Engagement and Strategic Initiatives, met with Dean Rooksby, the dean of the GU School of Law, during the 2018-2019 school year to discuss if graduate students should be able to not only join the Pilgrimage, but find a way how law students will be able to integrate themselves into campus programs offered throughout the year.
“He agreed that this would be a fantastic program to participate in and would be another way to expose our law students to the PNW and our Jesuit history,” Guzman said in an email.
Guzman is looking forward to the experiences students will have when grad students join the undergrads for the 50th annual Pilgrimage.
“They will bring different perspectives into conversations. Hopefully this shared experience will connect them more to campus and with each other,” said Guzman.
Father Bryan Pham, S.J. joined the GU Law School as their Chaplain this school year, after serving as Chaplain for Loyola Marymount University Law School.
“This pilgrimage will be a great extension of his ministry to our students,” Guzman said.
The Pilgrimage is an important part of GU’s recent history, bringing the community together in a time of reflection in a beautiful scenery.
“We have something special,” Clapp said. “This place has a story, with beautiful and ugly parts, that reveals a deep truth about what it means to be human, what it means to be on a journey, what it means to be walking with God.”
As of Monday, 50 people have signed up for the Pilgrimage, along with a handful of graduate students. The deadline to sign up for the Pilgrimage is September 13.