Camino Society Ireland in the Pilgrims’ Office, Santiago de Compostela

Geraldine Bransfield represented the Society in the Pilgrims’ Office (Oficina de Acogida al Peregrino) over the course of the autumn.  This is her story.

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I have recently returned from volunteering in the Pilgrims Office in Santiago. To witness the happiness and emotion of the pilgrim when they are congratulated and receive their Compostela on completion of their Camino whether it is 118 kilometres from Sarria or 1515 kilometres from Le Puy en Vezeley is the most rewarding work. This is my third year in the new office. I have been volunteering since 2012 when I was an amiga in the old office in Rua Villar.

The volunteers now stay in the San Roque Area. On arriving, I was brought to my accommodation in the Convent of Santa Clara built in the year 1234. It still is a fully functioning convent with 29 nuns living there. The Order of the Poor Clares are enclosed and they spend their days in prayer. The convent has the most beautiful church in the Baroque style and holds Mass daily at 7.00pm. It is open to the public during Mass times. It was such an honour to stay here.

The volunteering schedule was 10am – 3pm or 3pm – 8pm with one free day per week. It was a very busy yet rewarding experience, and we endeavored to greet each pilgrim with a smile and congratulations as we handed them their Compostela.

I made sure to visit Sr. Katherine and everyone at Camino Companions. Some people get very emotional at this stage and may like to engage with the Sisters from the order of the Faithful Companions of Jesus who are in room 6 upstairs for a chat, cup of tea, and some thoughtful reflection on their pilgrimage/walk.

Towards the end of my two weeks in Santiago, all the volunteers from all associations were invited to the 7.30pm Pilgrim Mass. We were all seated at the altar and were presented with certificates of appreciation. The Mass was officiated by the Dean of Santiago Cathedral, Dom Segundo Perez, who wished me well as I departed.

I look forward to my return to the Pilgrims Office next year.