Amanda Powell of Fenwick carried a banner, “Share your Bread with the Hungry”, to support a Notre Dame tradition of caring.
She along, with her walking companions Meagan Benner, Hannah Woychenko, and Carly Gerada, were among hundreds of students, staff and alumni making the 39th annual Notre Dame Pilgrimage.
They said they wanted to support education and community projects in developing countries with pledges from friends and family sponsoring their walk.
The overcast autumn day was not too cool for a walk along the Welland Recreational Canal from the high school to Dain City. After a pizza break, they strolled back to complete the 20 kilometres.
Since the pilgrimages began in 1975, Notre Dame has raised more than $3 million for work in India and Latin America.
It has gone to the Catholic Development and Peace program, Yancana Huasy a school for developmentally challenged students in Lima, Peru, and the Dominican Canadian Community Development Group.
School principal Ralph DeFazio, while making the walk himself, said he was excited by the turnout even after 39 years.
“We are particularly proud of helping to carry out the work of the Holy Cross Fathers at Yancana Huasy in Peru.”
The congregation of teaching priests founded Notre Dame 1940s. Rev. Jim Mulligan, then a teacher at Notre Dame, suggested and organized the first the pilgrimage in 1975. He was inspired by a religious one he made in France.
Now the assistant pastor of St. Kevin’s Church in Welland, Mulligan has walked in each pilgrimage.
Today the fundraiser for projects in developing countries has expanded to all eight Niagara Catholic secondary schools.
It is based on Jesus’ words in the Gospel of Matthew, “Whatever you do for the least of these brothers, do it for me.”
About 4,000 walked on Sunday in Welland (Notre Dame), Port Colborne (Lakeshore Catholic), Niagara Falls (St. Michael, St. Paul), St. Catharines (Denis Morris, Holy Cross, St. Francis) and Grimsby (Blessed Trinity).
Over the years they have raise about $6.2 million for projects each school chooses in developing nations.
The schools also donate clothing, equipment and supplies. Students and staff have travelled to work with youth and religious communities where the projects are located.