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Finding the way

What do you pack for the journey of a lifetime? Sturdy shoes and an open mind, says Mary Lenihan ‘58

September 25, 2017

Feature Pilgrimage

By Anissa V. Rivera

What do you pack for the journey of a lifetime? Mary Lenihan ’58, who recently traversed the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain for the second time, brought comfortable clothes, sturdy shoes, a walking stick and an open mind.

Lenihan, 80, first walked the Camino in 2013 after watching the Martin Sheen movie “The Way.”  The Camino de Santiago, or the Way of St. James, is a centuries-old pilgrimage path through France and Spain. Running through cities, roads and mountains, it ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, where tradition holds the apostle St. James is buried.

 “After I saw the movie, I thought, ‘I can do that,’” Lenihan says. She and a friend completed an abbreviated 100-mile version of the 500-mile trek from Portugal to Spain, minus the more arduous backpacking.

Each day began by waking early, then walking 10 miles a day through thick fog, quiet forests and wooded paths. “What keeps you going are the people,” she says. “You’re walking along and you see so many people from all over the world. It does inspire you.”

Lenihan, a California native, graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s with a bachelor’s degree in history and education. She works as a realtor in Palos Verdes, Calif. Her second trip on the Camino was to celebrate her 80th birthday in March.

Lenihan says she remembers both journeys for the meals of Spanish grappa and tapas, coffee enjoyed with new friends, visits to churches and monasteries, and the joyful arrival at the cathedral in Santiago. But she also cherishes memories of walking through rainstorms, enduring rough patches on the road and uphill climbs.

The gift Lenihan brought back from both her journeys is intangible.

“You can do it if you put your mind to it,” she says. Success in walking the Camino and in life is simply “being able to feel good about yourself at the end of the day.”