Brother Jorge and the Statio Peregrinorum, arrival place of Francis' route
The "Statio Peregrinorum" is located a few meters from the Sacred Convent's entrance in Assisi. It's a small but very important office for pilgrims since it represents the place issuing the "Testimonium" at the end of one's own pilgrimage route.
The coordinator of the Statio Peregrinorum activity is Brother Jorge Fernandez, a polite and calm friar coming from the North of Argentina, came to Assisi just less than two years ago, after having spent 6 years in Rome and travelled in 16 Southern American countries.
Brother Jorge speaks Italian, English, Spanish and Portuguese and within the Sacred Convent, beyond the many other duties, he deals with all the activity revolving around the Statio Peregrinorum and to its meaning for pilgrims.
"The Statio Peregrinorum" Brother Jorge explains us "is open all days of the year from 10 am to 12.30 pm and from 2 to 5.30 pm and it represents a spiritual welcome point for pilgrims coming to Assisi. The principal function is issuing the "Testimonium" to those meeting the requirements to get it, that is having walked at least 100 km or having ridden by bike 250 km. Nevertheless, even who doesn't meet these requirements or comes without credentials, won't be sent away empty-handed, but will receive a Blessing postcard.
Furthermore, the Testimonium is also issued to mascots who accompanied pilgrims in their journey, such as dogs and every kind of animal. Beyond the Testimonium – Brother Jorge continues – we take care of providing information to all pilgrims, both on Assisi and on walks, listening to their demands, issuing some "emergency" credentials to whom is about to leave for the route from Assisi and didn't know that should have requested it in advance. Furthermore, all the pilgrims receiving Testimonium are invited to the Pigrim's Mass, taking place from Monday to Saturday at 6 pm and where participating pilgrims receive a special blessing addressed to them".
Brother Jorge, besides, deals with "identifying" all the pilgrims receiving the Testimonium or the Blessing postcard, making them filling out a short questionnaire that is very important also from a statistical point of view.
"The 50% of pilgrims is Italian – Brother Jorge explains us – then we have German, Austrian, French and Dutch people. The last period saw an increasing presence of English-speaking pilgrims, also coming from Australia and US. In 2015, starting from April 18, the inauguration day, we registered 1600 pilgrims; at the end of August 2016 we have already counted about 2300".
Beyond issuing the Testimonium, registering and welcoming pilgrims, the Statio Peregrinorum is also a place for sharing, telling one's own experiences and stories, that reveal the thousand different aspects of Francis' Route and of people walking through it.
"The pilgrim is usually a person who talks gladly – Brother Jorge tells it always speaking in a direct and quiet way – and when the queue to get the Testimonium is too long it's beautiful to start a conversation and share the deep reasons of one's own pilgrimage to Assisi.
"Motivations why a person starts a pilgrimage are very different, from faith and spiritual motivation, to existential reasons of various kinds, to the friendship with someone who is walking and with whom sharing the itinerary, or to pay homage to some close people".
Obviously, Brother Jorge listens every day to many travel-stories and tells us some extraordinary ones that make us understand what is for people the value of pilgrimage and arrival to Assisi.
"There are a lot of beautiful stories, but some of them, certainly, stayed most in my mind. I remember a woman who left for Belgium on foot and that got hurt halfway, so she had to come home. As soon as she recovered, she asked to be brought back to the place where she stopped and from there she continued on foot until Assisi. "Or a group of Polish ex-prisoners, who made a vow in prison and walked from Poland to Rome, via Assisi dragging for the entire journey a wagon where they brought with them something to eat, to drink and what was needed for the pilgrimage. "Another beautiful story concerns an English man who walked from England to the Holy Land and during the journey collected peace messages. "There are a lot of similar fascinating stories, all different one from the other but equally important."
Brother Jorge, who walked through the Francis' route in the winter 2015 from La Verna to Assisi and was fascinated by it too, ends our meeting with an advice and a recommendation: "The pilgrim starts a journey on foot for different reasons, but in any case he shouldn't be considered as a "normal" tourist. I sometimes see an exaggerated anxiety to promote the walk, following too much the commercial goals and too less the spiritual values. Instead the pilgrimage's promotion happens thanks to the word of mouth amongst pilgrims, through the exchange of nice experiences lived during the journey, particularly linked to the welcoming spirit, to love and to the open mentality of people met along the road and who live on the road".
Brother Jorge, together with all the friars of Assisi, through their kindness and availability, are exactly some of these people; we learnt that there are many similar people and it's exactly them to make the Francis' Route unique.
For information about the Francis' route: www.francescosways.com