Holy Land Pilgrimage Recap - Part 1 of 3

Link to Part Two

Link to Part Three

by Father Neil

It all started with a visit from our school principal, Maureen Trenary, in early December asking about the details and the price of an upcoming pilgrimage I was going to be leading in March.  We both knew the Holy Spirit was at work on this project and that this was going to be a great adventure for everyone involved.  We received a grant from the Catholic Schools Center of Excellence which covered some of the cost, and had some very generous benefactor's who were interested in this great opportunity to reward and give these educators a new opportunity to experience our Lord's life up-close-and-personal!

After selecting 13 educators from Our Lady of Grace Catholic School to join me on this pilgrimage with 206 Tours, we began planning and meeting.  This was certainly going to be a trip they would NEVER forget!

DAY ONE - Traveling...and more traveling.

We arrived into Tel Aviv on Sunday, March 5th to a beautiful Sunset!  

After Mass and dinner, went for a walk along the Mediterranean Sea, to the ancient city of Jaffa, where we ran into a wonderful priest who gave us a private tour of Saint Peter's Church!  He was headed out to buy peanuts, and willingly took us in for a look around!

This is what the Church of Saint Peter looks like during the day.


After a good nights sleep, we awoke to a beautiful scene along the sea!

Caesarea Maritima

We departed Tel Aviv and headed north up the coast, to the Herodian city of Caesarea Maritima.  This ancient port city was built by Herod during 22-10 BC, and features a Roman theater, aqueduct, and hippodrome - a stadium for horse racing and chariot racing.

Remnants of the tile floor, in the original bathing pools of the Herodian palace.

Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery

North of Caesarea about 26 miles, is another ancient port city of Haifa.  It sits at the foot of a very large mountain range, atop which sits the Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery.  This is where the Carmelite Monastery finds it's home, and the order claims it's roots. Located in this area is a cave where it is recorded in scripture that Elijah setup lodging (1 Kings 19:9-18).  Today, the Carmelites have a very beautiful Church located on this Mountain top!


On our way to Nazareth, we passed through the Jezreel Valley - a large, fertile plain and inland valley south of the Lower Galilee region.

Basilica of the Annunication

"In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary." - Luke 1:26-27

The Basilica of the Annunciation sits atop the cave where the Angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary, our Mother, and the Word became flesh.  The first shrine was likely built sometime in the middle of the fourth century, but the current sturcture dates to 1969.

Many nations have sent mosaic images of the Annunciation scene to be displayed in this Church.  The one below is from Japan, and is comprised of real pearls.

The cave where the Angel Gabriel visited the Virgin Mary and the Word became flesh.


We had Mass in the Chapel of Saint Joseph, built over the excavated workshop where Saint Joseph worked.  We celebrated the Mass of the Annunciation.  It was a beautiful Mass - Mrs. Deb Skinner, our music teacher, played the organ!

Near the workshop, an important discovery was made - they found a baptismal font, where many Christians in the first centuries of the Church would have been baptized!


Next, we went to Cana - the site of Jesus' first Miracle.  Here we offered to the married couples on the trip, the opportunity for them to renew their wedding vows.

"On the third day there was a marriage at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; Jesus also was invited to the marriage, with his disciples." - John 2:1-2

DAY THREE - The Sea of Galilee

Getting up bright and early the next morning, we embarked on a morning boat cruise on the Sea of Galilee.

"And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." - Mark 4:37-39


Jesus first preached in the city of Capernaum, and began His public ministry in his area.  This is where He called his disciples Peter, Andrew, and James, and healed Peter's mother in-law.  Our tour guide told us a joke - "Why did Peter deny Jesus three time?  Because he healed His mother in-law!" :-)

Synagogue where Jesus first preached.

"The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, 'How can this man give us his flesh to eat?' So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.  He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever.'  This he said in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum." - John 6:52-59

The shore where Jesus called his disciples.

"And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” - Mark 1:16-17 

The city of Capernaum.

Many of the homes would be grouped into multi-units.

The home of Peter's mother in-law.

"And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. And the whole city was gathered together about the door. And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him." - Mark 1:29-34


We celebrated the Mass of the Apostles - calling to mind how we are all unified under the headship of the Apostles in the Church, and how Jesus left us a Church and a mission to spread His Good News of Healing and Peace to all the world!

Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves

"And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke them, and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces." - Luke 9:16-17

We had fish for lunch.  Our Vice Principal Rikki loved it - head and all!  :-)

Primacy of Peter

"He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'  And Jesus answered him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven,§ and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.'  Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ." - Matthew 16:15-20

Mount of the Beatitudes

"Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. 2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying: 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven....'" - Matthew 5:1-3

End of Day 3

...to be continued.  Onto part two!