Two men on Spain pilgrimage aren’t traveling alone

Categories: Around the Diocese

They’ve been joined by prayer partners back home who are walking in solidarity with them

By Pat Norby
For The Visitor

Tim Drake has been on a significant spiritual journey since the day Jim Wildeson invited Drake to join him on a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

Wildeson, a member of St. Mary’s Cathedral in St. Cloud, had planned to go to Spain with other friends, but their plans changed. When Wildeson and his wife, Jennifer, talked on March 13 about who might be a good companion, Tim’s name came up.

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Tim Drake, left, and Jim Wildeson stand outside Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport before leaving for their Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.

Drake, a member of St. Stephen in St. Stephen who is in a men’s Tuesday morning prayer group with Wildeson had been interested in walking the Camino ever since he had interviewed Emilio Estavez and Martin Sheen, when they were in Minneapolis to promote the movie “The Way,” which focuses on the Camino. That story appeared in The National Catholic Register.

“When Jim asked me if I would be interested, I said, ‘I would love to, but No. 1, I don’t have the money, No. 2, I need to ask my wife and No. 3, I need to ask my boss, Father Greg Mastey,’ ” Drake said.

“In pretty short order, someone came forward to offer to pay my way — an anonymous donor,” he said. His wife, Mary, told him he had to go. Then Father Mastey gave him time off from his position as new evangelization coordinator with the Holdingford Catholic Community, which includes the parishes of St. Hedwig and St. Mary in Holdingford, Immaculate Conception in St. Anna, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Opole and St. Columbkille in St. Wendel.

On March 19, the feast of St. Joseph and the 19th anniversary of Drake’s conversion to Catholicism, he said, “Yes.” “What’s been neat since then is seeing everything come together for the trip,” Drake said.

Added significance

When the two decided to walk from Astorga, Spain to Santiago, which would begin July 13 and end July 25 on the feast of St. James, Drake saw significance in the numbers.

His birthday is Sept. 13. The 169-mile walk over 13 days will require the two men to walk 13 miles each day. Drake also noted that he feels close to Our Lady, who began appearing to the children in Fatima on July 13, 1917, and gave them the three secret messages, a vision of hell and revealed herself as Our Lady of the Rosary.

“I told Jim it may have no significance to you, but to me, it’s affirmation that Our Blessed Mother will be with us on this journey,” he said.

Wildeson said the easy answer for why he is going on this pilgrimage is: “It’s cheaper than a sports car.” But the reality is there are many reasons.

“I turned 55 this summer and became more introspective about things. I felt like it was time to reflect on my life and my relationship with God and the Camino seemed to be ideal for that,” he said. “What I find most captivating about the Camino is its multi-faceted nature. I expect many challenges, joys and trials in so many different areas: physical, social, cultural, emotional and mental, in addition to the historical, religious and spiritual dimensions.”

Despite the challenges, Wildeson said he has “an enormous sense of peace about this trip” and hopes to gain a “closer, more constant and conscious relationship with God, and stronger faith.”

The one book he would recommend reading is “Discovering the Camino de Santiago,” by Father Greg Markey. It’s only about 50 pages and has the best historical sketch of the Camino, he added.

Drake said the past year has been enormously difficult for him, with the illness of a daughter and the transition to a new job. It has been “a year of saying over and over, ‘Jesus, I trust in you,’ ” he said. “The pilgrimage is another opportunity for me to . . . hand it all over to him.”

Although Drake intends to pray for the intentions of family, friends, those who made the trip possible, he is open to whatever God wants to happen.

“I’m filled with both excitement and trepidation,” he said. And if the moment presents itself, he will pass along miraculous medals of Our Lady that he tucked into his backpack as a way of evangelizing others, just as Martin Sheen’s character in “The Way” was evangelized by a priest who gave him a rosary.

While Wildeson and Drake are trekking the Camino in Spain, friends from  their morning prayer groups — Ted Statz and Jim Pederson — will join them in prayer and pilgrimage walks back in the St. Cloud Diocese.

Journeying in spirit

Statz, a member of St. John Cantius in St. Cloud, said, “We can’t all be going to Spain but we’d all like to share in this.”

Pederson led an approximately 13-mile walk on July 13 and Statz will lead another on Sunday, July 20.

“We have two groups of men who meet weekly for prayer breakfast and we thought this would be a way we could share and put our heads together and our powers together for some good solidarity and prayer,” Statz said.

“I found two routes that were just over six miles, so if somebody can’t do all 13 miles physically, they could stop at the halfway point,” he said. “Then we found if we do the two routes together, they are almost 13 miles. It was kind of coincidental but it was also taking Tim’s lead and trying to match that. It was to tie into their walking roughly 13 miles every day.”

Statz said that the men plan to pray for families and purity while walking in solidarity with Wildeson and Drake. About a half a dozen men confirmed that they plan to join the walks. Those men in his prayer group, he added, have made a great difference in his life.

Jay Pederson, a member at Sts. Peter and Paul in Richmond, said he felt he needed to be at the heart of his friends’ pilgrimage. At first, he was going to do a solitary walk, but there was a broad interest among members of the prayer group to participate.

“The entire idea is to mirror the time that Jim and Tim are in Spain,” he said. So through July 25, the men are on their own pilgrimages in central Minnesota in their own neighborhoods, he said.

“There will be times during the group walk when we will praying together out loud,” he said. And he anticipates times of silence when individuals can focus in on pressing issues or problems. “For me, that is knowing who God intends me to be — a better father, a better husband, a better servant of God.”

Pederson said he shares a little of the trepidation that Jim and Tim have with the physical part of completing a 12-13- mile walk, but if they get sore feet, the men will “offer it up to Jim and Tim.” At least they will be going home to family, he added, not walking every day for 13 days in a foreign land.

“They really do need to trust in God hour by hour,” he said. “We get just a little taste of that.”


The Camino de Santiago

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is a pilgrimage that takes hikers to the shrine of the Apostle St. James in Santiago de Compostela Spain, where he preached Christianity. A variety of routes are available, but the most well-known route follows the footsteps of St. James from France to Compostela, which is about 500 miles.