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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February, 2004, 17:31 GMT
Pilgrimage to raise church roof
Canon Patrick Thomas
Canon Patrick Thomas did his first St David's pilgrimage 32 years ago
A west Wales vicar is retracing the steps of a centuries-old pilgrimage to raise money to reopen a Carmarthen church that has been closed since part of the roof fell in.

Canon Patrick Thomas, vicar of St David's and Christ Church in Carmarthen, had a lucky escape as he and others had been sitting in the pews at St David's shortly before they were smashed by falling masonry.

On Tuesday morning he set out on the 50-mile-route that will take him through St Clears, Whitland, Narberth and Haverfordwest to St David's Cathedral on the Pembrokeshire coast.

Funds raised will go towards repairing St David's church, which has been closed since the incident last November.

I've been receiving very useful advice from a member of my congregation who is a chiropodist
Canon Patrick Thomas

Mr Thomas said: "A great many people have played a part in preparing for the pilgrimage and have offered assistance on the way.

"One of my parishioners has even had a special walking stick made for me, with a carving of the head of St David on the handle.

"I've also been receiving very useful advice from a member of my congregation who is a chiropodist."

It is not the first time Mr Thomas has made a pilgrimage to St David's.

In 1972, when he was a student, he walked and hitch-hiked his way from Shrewsbury to the cathedral.

"I was trying to work out what to do with my life at that time," he explained.

"The journey had such an impact on me that it eventually led to me being ordained in St David's Cathedral in 1979, and I've served in the diocese ever since."

He is being joined on the walk by several parishioners including Carmarthen undertaker Peris Rice and councillor Roger Nock.

When they arrive at the cathedral on Friday, the Dean of St David's, the Very Reverend J Wyn Evans, will celebrate a special eucharist for the pilgrims.

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