Reflect upon the experiences of Fr. Tom, Fr. Antony, and the almost fifty other pilgrims from the parish who journeyed to the Holy Land and followed in the footsteps of Jesus.  View their itinerary and read the daily updates from the pilgrims.

John Vosilla took over 200 photographs which are presented as a series of daily slideshows:


Nov 10/Wed – Depart East Meadow to JFK

Nov 11/Thu – Arrive Tel Aviv Airport/Galilee.  On arrival at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, meet guide and transfer to Tiberias, located on the shores of the Sea of Galilee.

Nov 12/Fri – Galilee.  Sail across the Galilee to Capernaum, center of Jesus’ ministry, today containing the ruins of St. Peter’s house, an ancient synagogue and Byzantine chapel.  Visit the Church of St. Peter’s Primacy and Tabgha, site of the Miracle of Loaves and Fishes.  In the afternoon, ascend the Mount of Beatitudes to celebrate Mass.

Nov 13/Sat – Galilee – Nazareth.  Today, visit Jesus’ boyhood town of Nazareth.  Celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the Annunciation, visit St. Joseph Church, Mary’s Well, the Synagogue of the Holy Family.  Free time to shop in the souk (bazaar).  Continue to Cana, site of Jesus’ first miracle, where married couples can renew wedding vows and all can pray for parents and spouses.

Nov 14/Sun – Galilee – Jericho.  In private taxis, ascend Mount Tabor for Mass where Jesus’ Transfiguration is commemorated.  Stop along the River Jordan to commemorate Jesus’ baptism.  Continue to Jericho, the oldest city on earth, located on a delightful oasis close to the River Jordan.  Overnight at a resort hotel.

Nov 15/Mon – Jericho – Jerusalem.  Ascend the Mount of Temptations by cable car.  Visit Qumran (where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found).  Travel via the wilderness of Judea, stopping at the Good Samaritan Inn up to the Holy City of Jerusalem.  On arrival in Jerusalem, celebrate Mass in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, site of Calvary and the Resurrection.

Nov 16/Tue – Jerusalem – Bethlehem.  In the morning, travel to Bethlehem, located just outside Jerusalem.  Celebrate Mass at Nativity Basilica and visit St. Catherine Church and Shepherds’ Field.  In the afternoon, see the Model of the Holy City, a wonderful replica of Jerusalem to learn about the layout of the city at the time of Christ.  Travel to the birthplace of John the Baptist and the site of the Visitation in Ein Karem.

Nov 17/Wed – Jerusalem.  In the morning, pray at the Church of the Our Father.  Walk along the Hosanna Trail, silently stop where the Lord Wept over Jerusalem, remember Jesus’ Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane and Church of All Nations (Mass). Pray at Mary’s Tomb and see the Kidron Valley.  In the afternoon visit St. Peter Church at Gallicantu and see the fascinating excavation of prison cells, dating from the time of Christ and Mount Zion, site of King David’s Tomb, place of the Last Supper and Dormition Abbey, where the Virgin Mary is believed to have ended her earthly life.

Nov 18/Thu – Jerusalem.  Pray the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa to Calvary and the Tomb.  Journey to the Jewish Quarter to pray at the Western Wall, visit the Temple Mount.  Pray at the Sheep Gate site where St. Stephen was martyred and at St. Ann Church at the pool of Bethesda.  See excavations of “Lithostrotos” Pavement and celebrate Mass at the site of Jesus’ scouring in the Ecce Homo Convent.  Festive farewell dinner this evening.

Nov 19/Fri – Jerusalem/Tel Aviv/Flight.  Morning free to rest.  Check out of hotel ending pilgrimage with a visit to the lovely Armenian Quarter of the Old City.  Travel to Emmaus for Mass at a site where the Risen Christ was recognized in the breaking of the Bread.  Dinner is provided en route to Ben Gurion Airport.  Check in for night flight home.

Nov 20/Sat – Arrive JFK/East Meadow

Notes from the Pilgrims

Kathleen Andersen sent notes and photographs throughout the pilgrimage.  The daily reports are below.

The photographs can be saved to your computer or set as your "desktop," the background image that appears on your computer screen.  Simply place your mouse over the image and right-click to see the options.

Final Day

"Our final day in Israel included visiting the church of St. Peter In Gallicantu, commemorating the place where Peter denied Jesus.

"We descended into “the pit”, where Jesus may have been held in solitary before his trial.


"While standing in this stark underground location, we heard words from Psalm 88, 'I am counted among those who go down to the Pit.' As lights went out we experienced a small bit of the darkness, loneliness and discomfort which Jesus must have felt.  This powerful experience will remain deep within us.


"Outside were the steps which Jesus walked down to go to the garden of Gethsemane, and then walked up as he was brought to trial.  Again, the power of actually walking the stairway which he walked brought deep emotional responses.


"We then traveled to the museum to view the huge outdoor model of the city of Jerusalem at the time of Christ.  The picture you see is of this amazing model —you can get an idea of its size by the size of the 3 people viewing it on the far side.  Viewing this at the end of our journey, we found we were able to identify many of the sites thanks to our actual visits.


"This was also the location of the exhibit of the Dead Sea Scrolls.  We toured the darkened, well cooled exhibit, but pictures were not permitted.

"We then traveled to Abu Gosh, one of the possible sites commemorating the road to Emmaus.  The town was known as a resting place for the Ark of the Covenant for 20 years before King David brought the Ark to Jerusalem.

"We climbed the steps to the chapel where we celebrated Mass, experiencing Jesus in the breaking of the bread, and experiencing the hospitality of the Benedictine community there.


"After stopping for supper, we headed to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv, waiting for the plane to bring us home.  Everyone was exhausted, but so grateful.  Having been deeply touched by the heart-felt experiences we have shared, the desire is to remember these blessings and to share them.


"After a long but smooth flight to JFK, we arrived back at St. Raphael’s, happy to be home safely, and anticipating with great hope as our journey continues."


November 18

"Today began early (5:30 a.m.)  We walked the Via Dolorosa, following the steps of Jesus as we prayed the Stations of the Cross.   The numbers of people in the alleyways were much lower at that time.

"Taking turns carrying the cross and reading the prayers enabled all of us to be active participants in this ritual.  After the tenth station, we entered into the church of the Holy Sepulchre to pray the remaining stations.


"Arriving so early, we were the second group on line to enter the tomb where the body of the crucified Jesus was laid.   It’s necessary to bend down to enter the cave, which could only accommodate 4 pilgrims at a time.  Though the visit inside the tomb had to be brief (long lines had already formed by 8:30 a.m.), the experience was quite moving.


"We were very fortunate that while we were in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, our guide was able to arrange for us to celebrate Mass at the nearby altar of Mary Magdalene.  The nearness to the altar, to the tomb, and to one another made this a wonderfully intimate and special celebration with the Lord


"Later we gathered outside the location of the Upper Room, where we heard again the story of  the Last Supper, when Jesus gave us the gift of himself in Eucharist.  We are called to follow Jesus’ example, washing the feet of one another, being ministers of service as he was.


"We entered the Upper Room (it’s not the original, being re-constructed later) and found no altar table.  We did see the symbol of a pelican, who will feed her young with her own self, as Jesus feeds us, and connected with the pelican window in our own Blessed Sacrament Chapel.

"The last stop of the day was at the Western Wall of the Jewish quarter, sometimes called the Wailing Wall.  We heard some of the history of the wall, saw the many people praying and chanting, witnessed a bar mitzvah celebration, and went to pray at the wall ourselves.  The book containing the prayer intentions written by our parishioners was held up to the wall.


"Back at the hotel we were able to go up to the roof for another panoramic view of the city.  We again shared our experiences of the day and of the pilgrimage — at least to a degree.  We all find that we’re almost on sensory overload and find it hard to put our feelings into words.  It’s too soon.  Like pictures taken with “old fashioned” film, we need time in the quiet of the dark room to allow the images to develop and be revealed to us in ways we can share.

"It’s been amazing.  Our group has bonded in special ways which we anticipate nurturing.  We’ve feasted on a banquet beyond our imaginations. 

"Tomorrow we go to Emmaus, and to the airport, and head for home.  This is the last posting until we arrive back home.  More will be posted during the coming week.  We’ve prayed for you every day and have felt your prayers with us.  Please continue those prayers for a safe journey home."

November 17

"We began the day with a panoramic view of the many places we would be visiting.  Peter, our guide, pointed out the many sites, explaining their history, dating them chronologically, sharing his amazing knowledge of all the faiths and cultures over the centuries.  We were all struck by the distances involved between places.  We then got to experience those distances for ourselves as we walked—and walked.


"One of the stops along the way was the Church of the Pater Noster—Our Father.  Again, this prayer which Jesus taught us was displayed on the walls in languages of many nations.

"A highlight for us was encountering our guide Peter’s brother, also a guide, who prayed the Lord’s Prayer for us in Aramaic, the language which Jesus spoke.  An amazing experience.   Inside we also sang the Our Father in English


"We also visited the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed, sweating drops of blood.  We were able to celebrate Mass in the church, surrounding the stone.  We brought all our own sufferings, those of our families and friends, and the sufferings of all our world to the stone, praying with Jesus.


"Another stop was at the Pool of Bethesda, where we listened to the scripture reading of the man crippled for 38 years, whom Jesus healed at this site.  We prayed for healing for all, ritualizing the prayer with a laying on of hands.


"We visited the place where Jesus was tried, praying for all in prison or on trial, especially those unjustly accused.

"Walking back to the hotel, we journeyed through the crowded indoor market place, and the equally crowded outdoor market place.


"Once again back at the hotel, we reflected on our day’s journey, sharing thoughts and emotions. This continues to be an overwhelmingly blessed time for us all."

November 16

"We began with a visit to Nativity Basilica, bending to enter through the 'Door of Humility.'

"Entering the place designated as the birth place of Jesus, touching the star inlaid in the ground and the manger area brought great feelings of wonder, awe and intimacy with the Word made flesh.

"We passed through the Church of St. Catherine.  This is the location of the broadcast of the celebration of Midnight Mass from Bethlehem.

"We then descended into the chapel of St. Jerome, translator of Scriptures.  In his chambers an area is reserved for the celebration of Mass by pilgrimage groups.  We heard the Christmas scriptures proclaimed, reflecting on how we continue to give birth to Jesus, Emmanuel, God-with-us.  Carol Ann and Bill renewed their marriage vows during Mass.

"Singing Christmas carols at Mass in Bethlehem was a memorable experience,  We all know that this year’s celebration of Christmas will touch us in new and wonder-filled ways.

"In the afternoon we spent time at the area called Shepherd’s Fields. There were many beautiful scenes outside and inside.  A dome was built with the center window designed to allow the star light to shine through.  Half the surrounding angels look up with the other half looking down, representing the divinity and humanity of Jesus.


 "At the place of Mary’s visitation to Elizabeth some of us sat in front of the words of the Magnificat, displayed in 153 languages.

"We went on to visit the birthplace of John the Baptist, where we gathered in an outdoor alcove to pray a decade of the rosary.


"Later we were given a wonderful presentation about the Shroud of Turin.  We again gathered to share our thoughts and reflections.

"Bassam, our driver, and Peter, our guide, been absolutely wonderful,  They have added immensely to our understanding of the history of this land and the history of faith.  And they’re a lot of fun!


 "There are so many more pictures and experiences, but they cannot all be shared at this time.  By the end of each day we feel overwhelmed with an abundance of new amazing graces." 

November 15

"Our itinerary varied a little today.  We began by visiting the Church of the Good Shepherd, the local parish for the small number of local Catholics in Jericho.  The percentage of Christians remaining in this area is small, yet they have a vibrant community.

"We celebrated Mass in the hall of the parish, hearing the gospel of Jesus seeking Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus seeking Jesus.

"We later saw a sycamore tree, the kind Zacchaeus climbed.  The landscapes have been amazing — from desert to lush gardens—and also trees, bushes and flowers blooming in the midst of desert sands.

"Our next stop was the Mount of Temptations.  The calm, level, peaceful entrance hid the amazing journey before us.

 "We traveled by cable car to a stop which was not the end, but rather the beginning of a long, long, long, climb to the Mount of Temptations, commemorating  the temptations of Jesus by Satan in the desert after 40 days of fasting.

"The desert scene became so real — from the mountains of sand and rock, to the dry, weary land, to the heat.  The temperature was in the 90s, making our journey upward quite an experience.

At the top we entered the monastery which houses a rock on the site of the temptations.  There was an opportunity to kneel at the rock, to speak privately with Jesus about this experience.


 "The journey down the mountain seemed more challenging than the ascent!  We again took cable cars down, and returned to the bus.  Fr. Antony, however, chose a different mode of transportation.  That picture will be posted when we return.

 "We traveled on to the Dead Sea where many of us donned bathing suits and went slip-sliding into the muddy salt waters of the Dead Sea and experienced the wonder of floating — like being held in God’s hands.  The shouts and laughter of the many nationalities of people enjoying this experience was great.  These pictures, however, will never be posted!!!

"We ended the day with another gathering to share our thoughts and reflections, once again amazed and grateful for the wonder of this journey."

 November 14

"Today we did some traveling.  The morning began with a trip to Mt. Tabor, site of the transfiguration of Jesus.  The bus brought us up the mountain to a certain point, but then we had to take taxis the rest of the way.  Why?  Because the road going is quite curvy and steep - to say the very least!!!  It was an 8 minute experience!  But was it ever worth it!  There are beautiful gardens

and the beautiful church

which includes a main chapel depicting Jesus and two side chapels depicting Moses and Elijah.  .

"We celebrated Mass outside in a grotto.  We sang 'In This Place' -- and the presence of Jesus was truly felt in this place, as he invited us to open ourselves us to knowing that we are God's beloved -- and allowing this to move us beyond ourselves, sharing God's transfiguring love with all.

"A long and 'interesting' bus trip followed as we headed to Bethlehem.  Passing through the security checkpoint from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and back was necessary.  All went very smoothly, but it's sobering to recognize the realities of life in this area.  No pictures taken here.

"We spent some time in Bethlehem -- shopping!  We will return again tomorrow to several places. There are so many tourists, our guide has to make appointments at each place.  We've seen and heard joyful voices from many nations.

"Another long bus ride through varied terrain -- crowded cities, small villages, mountains of desert sand -- some saw camels.  We arrived at our hotel for the night, and were welcomed with glasses of juice


Our guide and driver keep reminding us to drink lots of water during the day.  Dehydration can happen quickly.

"Tomorrow we head back to Bethlehem and Jerusalem and to the Dead Sea.  Our hotel has a small pool with water from the Dead Sea.  A few of us dipped our feet in as a prelude to floating tomorrow!

"After supper and a quick sharing of thoughts, we said good night, very tired, yet very grateful."

November 13

"Another busy day and warm day.  A visit to the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.



 "We renewed our Baptism promises and were each sprinkled with water from the Jordan.



"We then headed to Nazareth where we visited Mary's well, a 'church synagogue,' walked on streets of stone through a long, long, narrow, narrow, winding, winding and very crowded market place, finally arriving at the Basilica of the Annunciation.



"We celebrated Mass in the basilica, whose altar stands in front of Mary's house, where the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she had been chosen to be the mother of Jesus.



"After lunch we went on to Cana, the site of Jesus' first miracle, changing water into wine.  In one of the chapels the couples on our pilgrimage renewed their wedding vows.



"We again gathered in the evening to share our reflections on the day's experiences.  Among the thoughts:


I just felt holy.

So many people, and such joyfulness.

Connecting with the humanness of Mary

Thinking of our own annunciations

New insights into familiar scripture stories

Specialnness of renewing vows at Cana

An honor to be present to those couples

Overwhelming -- so much to reflect on --  needing time to develop the images

Everything is a highlight!!"


November 12

"A busy and beautiful day.  Temperature in the 80s.  We started out at Tabgha, site of the miracle of the loaves and fishes, listening to Peter, our guide, provide background for this Scripture passage and sensing the wonder of being present with Jesus then and now.



"We moved on to the shores of Lake Galilee, visiting the church of Peter's Primacy and being able to walk to and in (if not on) the water.



"Then on to a wooden boat to sail on Sea of Galilee. The waters were calm; the sun shining brightly.  Hearing the stories of Jesus and his disciples on the water while actually being on the water was amazing.  We had some quiet time, then joined our voices in singing 'Be Not Afraid.'.  We also prayed for peace, singing 'Let There Be Peace On Earth,' followed by 'How Great Thou Art.'.  What an extraordinarily touching, emotional and hopeful experience.



"Lunch brought us to a Lebanese restaurant where almost everyone enjoyed St. Peter's fish -- bones and all!  We then continued on to Capernaum, visiting an ancient synagogue and St. Peter's house.  The afternoon ended with a visit to the Mount of the Beatitudes.  We celebrated Mass outdoors listening to the sounds of nature which nurtured Jesus.  Singing 'Rejoice and be glad!  Blessed are you!  Holy are you!' on the mount, right at the shore of the Sea of Galilee, was deeply moving.



"Many of us gathered after supper at the hotel to share some reflections on our experience of the day.  We echoed and re-echoed one another's feelings of wonder, awe and gratitude, recognizing it will take time - a lifetime - to allow this experience to touch every nook and cranny of our lives.  We are grateful."



November 11

"We arrived safely!  Had a smooth 10 hour flight - with some "comfort challenges!" Then a 3 hour bus trip to Tiberias.  Checked in at the hotel with a nice buffet supper.  Took a few pix, but we're TIRED.  Hoping that God's blessing of sleep will transform bleary-eyed travelers into wide-eyed pilgrims!  Tomorrow, after a 6:30am wake-up call, we explore places in Galilee where Jesus ministered."

Page Updated November 24, 2010
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