A few months ago, the Knights of the Precious Blood gathered a few men in our catholic church along with our parish Priest, an idea was born to unite our community in a different way, to bring men and their families closer to Christ, closer to our church. And it did not take long for the idea to manifest into what was soon to become a huge success, an annual event that will continue to grow.
The first annual Croatian Catholic Pilgrimage Cruise was held on Saturday 11th February 2023. In total over 120 cars and motorbikes were registered, with over 270 pilgrims in attendance. All funds raised on the day are going to a Catholic charity in Croatia ‘Kap Dobrote’ (Drop of Goodness) to assist in helping the most needy people in one of our homelands, Croatia. Whilst majority of the cars were exotic in nature, ‘muscle cars’ and Harley Davidsons, there were also people with the everyday family cars too. All age groups, some travelling on their own and others with their whole family, the youngest being 5 months old in a baby seat inside his parent’s muscle car.
The cruise commenced at the Croatian Catholic Centre at Blacktown where the pilgrims were given a wonderful Blessing by two of our priests, Fra Davor and Fra Ivica. There was merchandise available to purchase and a coffee cart to satisfy the morning urge. A quick briefing followed and then we were off. A parade of cars and bikes rolled down the highway towards the first stop, the town of Wilton. We were welcomed by the locals and we had the opportunity to meet them, get a taste of their coffee and sandwiches and catch up with others in good conversation. It was also the meeting point for the pilgrims coming from Canberra who joined us from this point on wards.
After a good hour and half coffee rest break, we commenced the final leg to the Croatian Catholic Church at Figtree. The locals at this parish welcomed us with open arms. Mass was held in full attendance, filling the church to the brim. But what followed Mass was something extremely beautiful, never seen before, in my time anyway. In the hot sun, about 32 degrees at that point, a large procession began from within the church to the carpark outside where all the cars and bikes were parked. Every pilgrim stood next to their car/bike as the priest walked around blessing every single vehicle and person whilst the pilgrims prayed. It was an unbelievable experience, a true sight to behold. Some of these men have not been to Mass for a very long time and now felt a sense of belonging. As quoted by one of the men “I have met up with people I haven’t seen for over 30 years. I grew up with them and I really don’t know how it came, but I left the church. I have missed out on so much”. Others were quoted to have said ‘’The is the first time we have had our car blessed’’.
In usual Croatian style, a feast was put on in the community hall which gave everyone an opportunity to refuel their bodies – the cars already used quite a bit of fuel along the way, and a good time to catch up with more people, meet some new folks and share our faith with each other. The Holy Spirit was truly there, and it could be seen on the faces of every pilgrim that attended. The feedback was phenomenal and the questions were soon flying in – when is the next one going to be held? God willing, this will now be held annually on the 2nd Saturday of February and we will envisage spreading the word around to other parishes. It will take us where the Holy Spirit desires to take us and to where God wills us.