A Pilgrimage “More than I Could Have Dreamed” – Spain, Ignatius and the Sunflower


Guest Author

Editor’s Note: Darlene Carlson sent us this account of her experience on the SDI Journey to Spain (May 11-20, 2022). She wrote with the prayer that such pilgrimages “continue for more pilgrims.” You may learn more about SDI’s next pilgrimage to Spain, July 24-August 3, 2022, here. It follows the path and will have the same leader. Photo above is a sunrise at Montserrat, on the pilgrimage, (c) Darlene Carlson. Used with permission.

By Darlene Carlson

This pilgrimage, Camino Ignaciano, was more than I could have dreamed. Going into it, I didn’t know what to expect other than some of the details of where we would be traveling and some other logistics. It is hard to put into words exactly what happened. The story of this little boy from the Basque country, Inigo, came alive for us through the sharing of our guide, Fr Josep Iriberri. The information was rich and easy to follow, immersing us into the world of this boy who became St. Ignatius. The pacing allowed for much ground to be covered and yet there was contemplative space to rest and process, room for our hearts to crack open. I felt it was the perfect balance of being uncomfortable, stretched, and held at the same time. 

Prayer was woven throughout, and the Masses were particularly special and intimate. Josep was amazing as he went from planning, leading, at our side, following, and always patiently listening, to bringing us all together in communion. I was particularly struck when we were all invited to the table. For me, it felt how Jesus shepherded. Sister Honora Nicholson, with her loving and joyful presence, was a trusted spiritual companion as well. They were the perfect team to guide us through this transformational journey.

The accommodations were lovely and meals thoughtfully chosen. Walks were long though we always had the option to rest or take the bus. Once, as the dark clouds loomed in the distance, the bus seemed to almost miraculously appear to pick us up! I realize this pilgrimage was possible due to a lot of hard work and dedication to spreading God’s love in the world. Being a pilgrim on the Camino Ignaciano has reminded me that I am a pilgrim everywhere. It isn’t just what dreams are made of; it can be a reality, a new way of being in the every day.

Though there is still much for me to process, I can already say this has changed me in ways I did not know possible. This surprise is a precious gift, and I am just so very grateful. For the opportunity to be able to experience this, for all the people who made it possible at SDI and the Jesuit’s Pilgrim Office, for my fellow pilgrims reflecting Christ’s light…thank you!

Even through the unfortunate fall of our fellow friend and pilgrim, Gail, everyone was there in solidarity, taking care of one another and literally lifting her up. We all continue to support her and pray for her recovery. I am reminded of the metaphor shared in one of Josep’s homilies and represented on the floor of St. Ignatius’s cave, the sunflower, always turning toward the sun. Humbly, I turn as I journey on. 🌻

Thank you again to all those who helped make this happen. I pray it continues for more pilgrims.


Darlene Carlson

Darlene CarlsonIn her own words: “I am a spiritual seeker and have always had a yearning to enrich my faith through the wisdom of a variety of spiritual teachers. Catholic by tradition, I treasure my faith and the meaning of the word: universal. God is alive in all things.” Darlene also works as a spiritual director and retreat facilitator at Retreat, Reflect, Renew , Bread of Life and Mercy Center in California. Her website: https://www.listen4love.com/

Guest Author

Guest Author



1 thought on “A Pilgrimage “More than I Could Have Dreamed” – Spain, Ignatius and the Sunflower”

  1. Denyse Hadley

    Darlene, you perfectly described my experience going on the pilgrimage right before yours. Thank you for putting words and gratitude for what it meant to me.

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