(Editor’s note: Register staff member Rachel Zamarron is traveling with a group in New Zealand and Australia for a special EWTN project. This is the first of a multi-part series documenting her journey.)

The Fellowship has set off.

We may not have quite the variety of men, Elves and Hobbits that JRR Tolkien wrote about so long ago, but we all share one thing in common: a deep appreciation for his fantasy trilogy and literary work. Our fellowship consists of a group of students from Seton Hall University, members of the Community of St. John and two crew members from EWTN.

This pilgrimage to New Zealand, in the footsteps of the Lord of the Rings movie sites, is the brainchild of Father Francis Mary of the Child Jesus. Father's eyes light up with joy when he speaks about Tolkien's work, as if he’s speaking of a very dear friend. He quotes from The Lord of the Rings in one breath and Sacred Scripture in another, tying up the parallels for all to see. For Father Francis, Tolkien is a gateway to the depths of Christianity. 

Each member of our group is carrying a replica of the One Ring. The students have chosen one thing in their lives that is keeping them from Christ. At the end of our trip we hope to throw the rings away as Frodo did on Mount Doom, symbolizing our detachment from the old and the beginning of the new. 

We met up in Christchurch, New Zealand and traveled south to our first movie site in Canterbury. This was the scene of Edoras — the primary city of the people of Rohan:

We arrived to our campsite in wild wind that threatened to take down our tents and damage our plans. Off we went regardless, and up on the top of “Edoras” we had our first talk on the Rohirrim:

For The Lord of the Rings fans our excitement in being at our first movie site was made even more beautiful by adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in some nearby rocks sheltered from the wind:

The beauty of that moment is hard to describe.  The wind was howling and we were all exhausted, but our hearts were so full of gratitude and excitement. To be able to close out 2016 with such a trip, immersed in the incredible work of JRR Tolkien, while adoring Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament — it doesn't get much better than that. 

JRR Tolkien wrote that “if you really want to know what Middle-earth is based on, it's my wonder and delight in the earth as it is.” And so we get to experience a bit of that wonder — in his spirit, in some of the most beautiful places on planet Earth.