Holy Land Pilgrimage 2020


Monday, November 16 - Friday, November 27, 2020
Join Father Kevin Finnegan on an exciting pilgrimage to walk, pray and ponder the Life of Jesus. Mater Dei Tours will be managing the pilgrimage. Approximate cost is $4,100, including airfare. Please contact Steve Bonello at stevebonello@olgparish.org if interested.

A detailed brochure with pricing and registration will be available by February of 2020. Call 1-800-515-2632 to join the list of brochure recipients.

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!

Holy Land Pilgrimage Recap - Part 2 of 3


We began with a winding drive up Mount Tabor, to the site of the Transfiguration - my favorite place in the Holy Land!

"And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart by themselves; and he was transfigured before them, and his garments became glistening, intensely white, as no fuller on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.' For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is my beloved Son; listen to him.' And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only." - Mark 9:2-8

Church of the Transfiguration

"And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain apart. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his garments became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, 'Lord, it is well that we are here; if you wish, I will make three booths here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.' He was still speaking, when behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.' When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces, and were filled with awe. But Jesus came and touched them, saying, 'Rise, and have no fear.' And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only." - Matthew 17:1-8

"And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, 'Tell no one the vision, until the Son of man is raised from the dead.' And the disciples asked him, 'Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?' He replied, 'Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands.' Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist." - Matthew 17:9-13

Camel Riding

In Jericho, we found a camel...and the teachers rode it.  :-)

Mount of the Temptation - Jericho

"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit for forty days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days; and when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, 'If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.' And Jesus answered him, 'It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’" - Luke 4:1-4

Shepherd's Field - Bethlehem

We sang Christmas songs in the shepherd's cave...

"And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, 'Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased.' - Luke 2:8-20

"When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, 'Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.' And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them." - Luke 2:15-20


Ein Karem - the village in Jerusaelm where Elizabeth lived, where Mary visited, and where John the Baptist was born.

Church of the Visitation

"In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the child leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” - Luke 1:39-45

"And Mary said, 'My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.  He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever.' And Mary remained with her about three months, and returned to her home." - Luke 1:46-56

Church of the Nativity

"In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn." - Luke 2:1-7

The spot inside the silver star denotes the place where Jesus was born.


In the Chapel of Saint Jerome, we celebrated the Mass of Christmas, and sang Christmas songs!  Saint Jerome spent 30 years translating the Bible here in Bethlehem, from the original languages of Hebrew and Greek.

The wall...

Bethlehem is in Palestine, which is surrounded by 500 miles of wall...built by Israel, funded completely by the United States, to keep Palestinian citizens from entering into Israeli territory.  Most of the 160,000 Christians that call Israel home, live in Palestinian territory, and many live in Bethlehem; behind this wall.

The wall restricts access to jobs, money, and opportuntity.


Church of the Pater Noster

"He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.' And he said to them, 'When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread; and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation.'” - Luke 11:1-4

The cave, where it's thought that Jesus taught His disciples to pray the Our Father.

Overlooking Jerusalem

Dominus Flevit

We had a Mass at Dominus Flevit Church.  Dominus Flevit is Latin for, The Lord Wept.
"And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, 'Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days shall come upon you, when your enemies will cast up a bank about you and surround you, and hem you in on every side, and dash you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another in you; because you did not know the time of your visitation.'” - Luke 19:41-44

The Church is shaped like a teardrop.

This is the view from just behind the altar

Garden of Gethsemane

"Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, 'Sit here, while I go over there and pray.' And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, 'My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.' And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'” - Matthew 26:36-39

This is thought to be the rock where Jesus sweat blood.

"And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, 'So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.' Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, 'My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.' And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.' - Matthew 26:40-46

Tomb of Mary

This is a Greek Orthodox Church, which commemorates the death of Mary.  We, in the Latin Rite Church, do not believe that Mary died, but fell into a deep sleep called a dormition, and then was assumed body and soul into heaven.  There are some cool things in this Church, however...such as the Icons.  These two icons below are unique, because they show Jesus standing above Mary, who appears to be dead, and show Jesus holding the child Mary.  Typically we see Mary holding the child Jesus...  This new image symbolizes the protection Jesus has for Mary in her death (Greek) / dormition (Latin). and that He has the power to take her now to Heaven.

The Upper Room

"Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, 'Take, eat; this is my body.' And he took a chalice, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink of it, all of you; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.'” - Matthew 26:26-29

The original room was destroyed, but a Church was built on the site during the Crusader period.

Today, the building is a muslim mosque.

There is a pillar remaining from the crusader Church, which shows two infant pelicans (the symbols of Christ...or Christians) feeding from their mothers flesh.

Church of the Dormition of Mary

The Church that commemorates the dormition (falling asleep) of our Blessed Mother, before being assumed body and soul into heaven!

Saint Peter in Gallicantu

"And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, 'You will all fall away because of me this night; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.' Peter declared to him, 'Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.' Jesus said to him, 'Truly, I say to you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.' Peter said to him, 'Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.' And so said all the disciples." - Matthew 26:30-35

"Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a maid came up to him, and said, 'You also were with Jesus the Galilean.' But he denied it before them all, saying, 'I do not know what you mean.' And when he went out to the porch, another maid saw him, and she said to the bystanders, 'This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.' And again he denied it with an oath, 'I do not know the man.' After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, 'Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.' Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, 'I do not know the man.' And immediately the cock crowed.  And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, 'Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.' And he went out and wept bitterly." - Matthew 26:69-75

"Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?' Jesus said to him, 'You have said so.' But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he made no answer. Then Pilate said to him, 'Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?' But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge; so that the governor wondered greatly." - Matthew 27:11-14

Western Wall

The Western Wall is a small segment of a far longer ancient retaining wall, left over from the Second Jewish Temple, built by Herod the Great.  It is considered Holy due to its connection to the Temple Mount.  It has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries; a place for mourning the destruction of the temple.

...to be continued. Onto part three!

Holy Land Pilgrimage Recap - Part 3 of 3



"Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. Martha said to Jesus, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.' Jesus said to her, 'Your brother will rise again.' Martha said to him, 'I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.' Jesus said to her, 'I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?' She said to him, 'Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.' - John 11:17-27

"Then Mary, when she came where Jesus was and saw him, fell at his feet, saying to him, 'Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.' When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled; and he said, 'Where have you laid him?' They said to him, 'Lord, come and see.' Jesus wept. So the Jews said, 'See how he loved him!' But some of them said, 'Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?' - John 11:32-37

"When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, 'Lazarus, come out.' The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with bandages, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, 'Unbind him, and let him go.' - John 11:43-44


Celebrated in the crusader chapel, dating from the 14th century.  We celebrated the Mass of the raising of Lazarus.

Deb Skinner rides a camel!

The fruit in Israel is fantastic!

Jordan River

We went down to the Jordan River and renewed our baptismal promises.


This is the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.  The Dead Sea Scrolls are the oldest manuscripts we have of the Old Testament.


Via Dolorosa - The Stations of the Cross

4:30am wake-up call, in order to get started with the stations at 5:30am, so that we could avoid all the cramped street traffic, and shop owners which would soon be occupying the space, along the path to Calvary.

We adore you O Christ, and we praise you - because by your Holy Cross, you have redeemed the world.

As the sun rose, we approached the final stations, which are located inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

The site of clavary.  You can see the rock, on which Jesus was crucified, just below the glass.

The Tomb of Jesus

"When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who also was a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body, and wrapped it in a clean linen shroud, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock; and he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb, and departed. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb." - Matthew 27:57-61

The final station is in the tomb - where Jesus was laid after He was lowered from the cross.

This is a newly installed window, that allows you to view the actual rock of the tomb where Jesus was laid!


We were extremely fortunate to be able to have Mass in the Tomb.  I celebrated the High, Chanted Latin Mass for the Franciscans, which was a great honor and priviledge.

It was Easter Mass, of course!  HE HAS RISEN!

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land March 5/15/2017

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Join Father Neil Bakker on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, March 5-15 2017.  The pilgrimage to Lourdes France has been postponed and replaced with a guaranteed trip to Israel.  This trip has already sold enough spots to guarantee fulfillment, but there are still spots available!

Father Neil spent over 3 weeks in the Holy Land just about 2 years ago, and knows the land very well.  Enter into a once-in-a-lifetime Biblical Journey, following in the footsteps of our Lord, Jesus Christ.  

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

† Round-trip airfare from Minneapolis
† All airport taxes & fuel surcharges
† 8 nights at centrally located first class hotels: (or similar)
             1 night: March 6-7 Dan Panorama, Tel Aviv
             2 nights: March 7-9 Leonardo Plaza, Tiberias
             5 nights: March 9-14 Notre Dame, Jerusalem
† Transfers as per itinerary
† Breakfast, LUNCH and Dinner daily
† Wine with dinners
† Transportation by air-conditioned motor coach
† Free Wi-Fi on motor coach
† Wireless headsets where needed
† Assistance of a professional local Catholic guide (s)
† Sightseeing and admissions fees as per itinerary
† Catholic Priest available for Spiritual Direction
† Mass daily & Spiritual activities
† Luggage handling (1 piece per person) 
† Tips to hotel staff, restaurants, luggage handlers
† Flight bag & portfolio of all travel documents

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Trip Details:

Day 1: March 5, 2017: Depart USA
Board your flight for the start of your journey to Tel Aviv, with complimentary meals and beverages served on board.

Day 2: March 6, 2017: Arrive Tel Aviv
Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, you will collect your luggage in the baggage claim area, and continue to the arrival’s hall where you will be greeted by a tour guide and/or driver. Your group will transfer to your hotel in Tel Aviv for dinner and overnight. Enjoy dinner at the hotel before retiring for the evening.

Day 3: March 7, 2017: Caesarea - Stella Maris - Nazareth - Tiberias
Theme: The Annunciation
Following breakfast at your hotel, your group will head to Caesarea, the former capital of Judea. You will have the opportunity to visit the archaeological remains of this ancient port, which aided as base for the Herodian navy. Shortly after the time of Jesus Christ, it was revealed to Peter, in Caesarea, that the Good News (to repent) is not only intended for Jewish people but also, the entire world. This is also the place which officially ended the tradition of adhering to the Jewish ceremonial laws. As a result, Peter baptized a group of gentiles, the Roman Centurion, Cornelius, and his family. Your tour continues as you travel North to Haifa. In Haifa, you will find Stella Maris, a Carmelite Monastery. The monastery is located above the cave where Elijah, the prophet, once lived. A colorful painting of this “wonder-worker” can be found on the ceiling of the Church. Following this visit, your group will depart Stella Maris and enjoy the scenic drive (with view of the bay of Acco) to Nazareth. In Nazareth, you will experience the town where Mary once lived and where Jesus lived as a child (Matthew 2:23). During the visit to Nazareth, your group will visit the Byzantine Church of St. Joseph, to which tradition identifies as the workshop and home of the Holy Family. Also, your group will visit Mary’s Well where the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she will bear the Son of God (Luke 1:30-34). Dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Day 4: March 8, 2017: Tiberias: Sea of Galilee
Theme: The Ministry of Christ in the Galilee
Your group will begin this day with breakfast at the hotel, followed by a boat ride on the beautiful and scenic, Sea of Galilee (Luke 5:1). During this ride, your group will also view the remains of a boat that dates back to the time of Jesus. Following the Sea of Galilee, your group will continue on to the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus proclaimed his great Sermon on the Mount (Luke 6:20-49). Near the mount is Tabgha, one of Jesus’ miracle sites. At Tabgha, Jesus fed the crowd of 5,000 people from five loaves of bread, and two fish (Luke 9:10-17). Also, in Tabgha is St. Peter’s Primacy where Jesus bestowed church leadership upon Peter (John 21:9).Your tour continues as you visit the birthplace of Mary Magdalene, in Magdala. During the time of Jesus, this village was a prosperous fishing village that exported fish and garum (a fish sauce reduction; popular in Roman cooking). Your day concludes at Capernaum, the launching place of Jesus’ ministry. In Capernaum, your group will have the opportunity to see the Synagogue of where Jesus taught (Mark 1:21-29), and gave His sermon on the Bread of Life. Your group will enjoy dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Day 5: March 9, 2017: Mt. Tabor – Jericho – Jordan River - Jerusalem
Theme: The Transfiguration
Following breakfast, your group will drive to the site of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor (Matthew 17:1-50). At this site, you will have some time to reflect on Christ’s Humanity and Divinity. Your group will also have the opportunity to celebrate Mass at the Basilica of the Transfiguration. The tour continues as your group heads South on the Jordan Valley, to the oldest inhabited city in the world, Jericho (Joshua 6:12-25). In Jericho, you will have the opportunity to view the exact location, the Mount of Temptation, of where the Devil tempted Jesus during his fortyday fast (Luke 4:1). Following the visit to this mountain, your group will continue to Jesus’ baptismal site on the River Jordan (Matthew 3:13-17). After some time at the Jordan River, your group will end their day with a transfer to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem, your group will check-in to your hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 6: March 10, 2017: Jerusalem: Temple Model - Ein Karem - Bethlehem
Theme: The Visitation and Nativity

This morning, you will have breakfast and then depart for a day in Jerusalem, which houses the temple to which Jesus was Presented (Luke 2:22). Your group will visit a model of the Second Temple, as it was in the time of Jesus. Following this visit, your group will take a short drive to the village of Ein Karem, the birthplace of John the Baptist. It is known that there are two churches in Ein Karem, both representing the two homes of Zechariah and Elizabeth. The first is in a valley where the birth of St. John the Baptist is commemorated (Luke 1:39-80) in the Church of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. The second is on a hill where Elizabeth spent five months in seclusion (Luke 1:24) at the Church of the Visitation. Your group will visit both of these churches and have the opportunity to pray the Mystery of the Rosary as you walk up the hill to the Church of the Visitation. In the afternoon, your group will transfer to Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus. In Bethlehem, you will have the opportunity to view the Shepherd’s Fields (Luke 2:8). In the caves of these fields, you are still able to see the soot marks of fires that shepherds lit to keep warm. The tour concludes at the Manger Square, which stands in front of the Church of the Nativity. As you enter the Church, you will proceed down to the Grotto of the Nativity, which marks the spot of Our Savior’s birth (Matthew 2:1-18). Beneath the Altar, there is a silver star and a Latin inscription that states: HIC DE VIRGINE MARIA JESUS CHRISTUS NATUS (Here Jesus Christ was born to the Virgin Mary). Following Mass in this Sacred space, your group will return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 7: March 11, 2017: Bethany - Dead Sea
Theme: Early Years in Jerusalem & the Wilderness
Following breakfast at your hotel, your group will travel down the Jordan Valley to Qumran. Qumran is made up of 2,000 year old ruins from the days of the Second Temple, and also the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written and discovered (Ezekial 47:8-10). These writings have helped further the understanding of Jewish background in Christianity. Time and weather permitting, your group will have the opportunity to take a float in the Dead Sea, the lowest and saltiest spot on Earth. Your tour will continue as you travel through the Judean Wilderness, the site where Jesus spent his 40 days of fasting. The day of touring culminates with a transfer to Bethany. Bethany is the site where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, which foreshadows His own Resurrection (John 11:38-44). Your group will celebrate Mass and return to the hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 8: March 12, 2017: Jerusalem: Mt. Of Olives - Gethsemane - Mt. Zion - Western Wall
Theme: Palm Sunday and the Agony in the Garden
After breakfast, we will make our way to the Mount of Olives, where you will be able to take in the beautiful, panoramic view of Jerusalem. Historically, the Mount of Olives was a mandatory transit point for Jesus during many iconic moments. Your group will visit the Pater Noster Shrine, where Jesus taught His disciples the Lord’s Prayer (Pater Noster) (Luke 11:1-4). You will have the opportunity to stop at Dominus Flevit, which is a Church that commemorates where Jesus wept for Jerusalem (Luke 19:41). The tour continues on to Gethsemane, a garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives. Jesus brought His disciples here to pray the night before He was crucified (Luke 22:29-53). The Garden still contains trees with roots that date back to the time of Jesus. Beside the Garden is your next stop, the Church of All Nations, built over the “Rock of Agony”. This is where Jesus prayed alone on the night of His arrest. Throughout this time, you are invited to remain in prayer and to reflect on Christ’s agony that he experienced. Your group will have the opportunity to visit the Western Wall, which is the last remnant of the Jewish Temple after it was destroyed in 70 C.E. The tour continues as you will visit the house of the High Priest Caiaphas (Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu). This Church commemorates where Jesus was examined and eventually imprisoned before the Council in Jerusalem. It also commemorates Peter’s Denial of Christ (John 18:15-18), Peters’ repentance, and Jesus’ forgiveness of Peter. You will also visit the Upper Room on Mt. Zion. The Upper Room is where Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-30) and, where Jesus appeared to His disciples after His Death and Resurrection (Mark 16:14). In addition, your group will visit the nearby Benedictine Church of the Dormition. Tradition tells us that this Church is where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, “fell asleep.” At the end of this prayerful day, your group will return to your hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 9, March 13, 2017: Jerusalem: Via Dolorosa - Holy Sepulchre
Theme: The Way of the Cross, The Crucifixion, The Resurrection
Your group will have a very early morning wake-up, which will begin the Via Dolorosa (The Way of the Cross) at the Antonia Fortress. This is the spot where Jesus was condemned to death by Pontius Pilate (John 18:28-19:16). Following His condemnation, He was taken (on the Road to Calvary) to His place of Crucifixion. Your group will reflect upon the Stations of the Cross as you travel through the markets of the Old City to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher (Luke 23:26-33). This Sacred destination is the site of Calvary (Jesus’ crucifixion place) and, His tomb (Luke 23: 50-55). Your group will celebrate Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Following Mass, your group will return to the Hotel to enjoy breakfast. We will continue our day with a visit to the Church of St. Anne’s, the home of Jesus’ maternal grandparents (Anne and Joachim); and the Pool of Bethesda, where Jesus healed the crippled man (John 5:1-9). This afternoon, your group will enjoy a revisit to the Old City. Following this visit, your group will enjoy dinner and overnight at your hotel.

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Day 10: March 14, 2017 : Tel Aviv – USA
After an early breakfast and heartfelt farewells, transfer to the Tel Aviv airport for return flights home.

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Photo Credit: Father Neil Bakker

Lourdes Pilgrimage with Fr. Neil Bakker



Join Fr. Neil on an Anniversary Pilgrimage to Lourdes France, February 8-15. Go to: www.pilgrimages.com/frbakker for more information!