The Canadian Company of Pilgrims (CCoP) is a non-denominational volunteer-run association that supports Canadians interested in the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. We share the Canadian representation with l’Association Québécoise des pèlerins et amis du Chemin de Saint-Jacques.
The CCoP provides information and generates awareness and interest in the Camino through a network of chapters across Canada and also through its website and Facebook page. Local Chapters provide a forum for the exchange of information about the Camino and also offer practical training and information sessions.
The CCoP is also part of an international network of similar organizations operating locally and nationally throughout the world.
Our Mission: To share our love of the Camino, inspiring and enabling others on their Way
Our Vision: A vibrant, engaged and inclusive Camino community
Our Values: Open, generous, hospitable
Board of Directors
Lauren Rendle, President (Calgary)
Ellie Witzke, Past President (South Bruce Peninsula)
Len Polsky, Vice President (Calgary)
Barb Smith, Treasurer (Saskatoon)
David Ramsay, Secretary (Halifax)
Tom Friesen, Chapter Liaison (London)
David Duncan (Hamilton)
Donna Coutts (Vancouver)
Dori Antolin (Toronto)
Jim Rondeau (Victoria)
Lea Pennock (Saskatoon)
Robert (Robin) Inglis (Vancouver)
Tim Boreham (Ottawa)
CCoP Newsletter Pilgrim Footprints
Julie Burk, Lisa Mennell, Charles Moody – co-editors
Alfredo Martínez Serrano, Ambassador of Spain (message)
Communications Committee (Contact Chair)
Ensures both external and internal communications are coordinated, timely, and inclusive.
Finance Committee (Contact Chair)
Assists the Board in its’ responsible stewardship of the organization’s finances including providing advice in the development of relevant policies and procedures.
- Donations Committee
Coordinates and distributes funds received from donations and allocations from CCoP.
- Investment Committee
Manages the funds for the Lifetime investment fund.
Governance Committee (Contact Chair)
Develops and maintains effective governing structures.
International Engagement Committee (Contact Chair)
Engages with the greater Camino community.
IT Committee (Contact Chair)
Manages and maintains the CCoP IT systems.
Member Engagement Committee (Contact Chair)
Creates additional value for CCoP members, serving and foraging meaningful connections.
- Member Benefits Committee
Identifies, recruits, and manages the delivery of member benefits.
Nominations Committee (Contact Chair)
Ensures that vacancies on the Board of Directors are filled in a fair and timely manner.
Camino Spirit Fund
We know that many of our members are looking for ways to ‘give back’ to the Camino. The Canadian Company of Pilgrims operates a donation-based Camino Spirit Fund that supports the Camino by meeting short-term needs or funding larger projects that relate to services along the Camino de Santiago routes. Funds may be used to help with operating costs like replacing bedding and furniture, to pay for renovations, or to meet unexpected costs such as purchasing a new boiler. In addition, on occasion CCoP may create a campaign to support a special initiative such as the John Brierley Memorial Fund. Go to our Donate page to learn more about ways to ‘give back’. Donating is easy and simple. Just sign in as a member, and upon payment by credit card, you will receive a “Thank You” confirmation email. As a Canadian non-soliciting Not-for-Profit Corporation, the Canadian Company of Pilgrims cannot issue a tax receipt, and can accept donations only from members. Sign up to become a member.
A Brief History of The Canadian Company Of Pilgrims
The Canadian Company of Pilgrims was founded in 1994 by Reverend Ben Lochridge, an Anglican priest whose dream was to walk the Camino. His dream was realized when, as a rector of Saint Paul’s in Mississauga, he took a paid sabbatical leave and in April of 1994 he and his wife, Vivian, received the pilgrim’s blessing at Saint James Cathedral in Toronto and headed straight to the airport. They started their Camino in Le Puy, France and Ben arrived in Santiago in June.
Upon returning to Canada Ben was interviewed by the Toronto Star and received many phone calls from people asking about this mythical, mystical, magical journey he had taken. However, his first presentation that consisted of 350 slides drew little interest, so in true Camino fashion, he and his friend, Mike Henry, hiked to the nearest bar. Undaunted, Ben and Mike drafted a constitution to set out the parameters of the group that they called the Little Company of Pilgrims.
In the years that followed, the gatherings grew in size and developed a basic organization that provided support for Canadians preparing for, and returning from, the Camino. By 2006 the Little Company of Pilgrims out grew its name and it was changed to the Canadian Company of Pilgrims (CCoP). The CCoP received the backing of the oldest and largest English-speaking Camino group, the London, UK-based Confraternity of St James, and the right to issue credentials recognized by the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela.
From 2000 – 2008, the CCoP under the leadership of Barbara Cappucitti, established new chapters in Victoria and Surrey, BC, Edmonton, Alberta, London and Ottawa in Ontario, and Saint John, New Brunswick. Austin Cooke took over as president from 2008 – 2015 and the CCoP expanded further, as the word about the Camino spread across the country. From 2016 – 2019, with Wendy Loly at the helm, the CCoP grew to 16 chapters. In March 2018, the CCoP had its first ever conference of chapter coordinators in Victoria, BC.
In 2019, the Canadian Company of Pilgrims celebrated its 25th anniversary. Since its founding, the CCoP has issued over 20,000 credenciales and is now over 3,000 members strong, with 18 chapters across Canada. The CCoP looks forward to the next twenty five exciting years!
This message was from our Honorary Patron, His Excellency Alfredo Martínez, Ambassador of the Kingdom of Spain to Canada, for our 2022 AGM
H.E. ALFREDO MARTÍNEZ, AMBASSADOR OF THE KINGDOM OF SPAIN TO CANADA,
AT THE CANADIAN COMPANY OF PILGRIMS ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING
I would like to greet you all and to thank wholeheartedly the organizers of this Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Company of Pilgrims, especially President Lea Pennock, for their very warm invitation to participate as Ambassador of Spain and as a person who loves El Camino de Santiago.
Thanks to each one of you for keeping the Camino alive and flourishing in Canada.
In the middle of this pandemic, I want to share some reflections about the values and lessons that all of us- because I have also been a pilgrim myself – have learned from the Camino:
- The Camino grants you, as a wonderful gift, the opportunity for introspection. Walking in the middle of nature; following a path towards the end; sharing time with yourself to allow you to depart from the rush of a busy life which has an impact on us every day.
- The Camino is a wonderful opportunity to meet others. People from different countries, backgrounds and motivations all come together on the Camino. Everything pushes you to see the best in one another.
- The Camino is a gorgeous chance to encounter nature, culture and art. Since the first pilgrimage by King Alfonso II of Asturias in the IX century, the human spark seeking beauty and transcendence has built the Camino. This approach is still there, alive and vibrant.
- The Camino is definitely an energizing exercise. Walking many kilometers a day you really feel how many things and goods are superficial. You Canadians know better in this wintertime than anybody else because you are compelled to live with layers. Sometimes we put them on as we need them in life but we can never ever forget the authenticity of the need to go deep into our souls to seize what really matters, what is essential, what makes us better. Stage after stage you find yourself getting rid of not necessary, and focus on the fundamentals.
All this happens because the Camino is a metaphor for life and, whatever the motivations might be –and they are as many as the pilgrims you will find on the way- we need to answer at least once in life this central question that asks us: what is the sense of life?; what is its meaning?
As a Spaniard and as Ambassador of Spain, my country which I greatly love and to which I devote my professional life, it is an honour to welcome and embrace the Camino that, as a gift, offers us the possibility to enjoy, suffer, learn, open our hearts and minds and make us grow. Every century, we celebrate twelve holy years, when July 25 falls on a Sunday, and Xacobeo 2021/2022 is one of them. The jubilee tradition not only offers you exceptional experiences, such as entering the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela through the Holy Gate, but also the opportunity to enjoy a hundred extraordinary performances, wonderful Spanish meals, and cultural activities along the road.
I can assure you that all Spanish administrations and agencies are actively involved in making this very special year a success.
The Spanish Embassy in Canada through its Tourist Office, which is fully at your disposal, began the New Year by illuminating the symbol of Xacobeo on the facade of the Cathedral in Ottawa where the ancient church of Saint Jacques was previously built. We were privileged to be accompanied by Mr. Austin Cooke, whose presence was warm, enjoyable and wise, even at 19 degrees below zero.
When everyone is looking forward, after lockdowns and the need for patience, to rediscovering the world, nothing could be better than the Camino, which in this very special year 2022 waits for all of us.
Thank you very much once again and you know that the doors of the Spanish Embassy are fully opened up for you. We really feel proud and grateful to Canada and to the Canadian Company of Pilgrims that, as I underlined at the beginning, is really keeping the Camino alive and going beyond.