Bishop Bill Wright and Elizabeth Doyle are leading the pilgrimage for school principals, Religious Education Coordinators, Ministry Coordinators and teachers.
32 pilgrims left on 26 September, after Mass and a pilgrim’s blessing at the Cathedral.
Here are some of the highlights of the first week of their trip, courtesy of Religious Education Coordinator, Maryanne Hacker and Principal of St James’ Primary School, Muswellbrook, Aaron Moon:
Our first day has seen us travel to Mt Nebo, the site where Moses looked over the promised land and blessed Joshua to lead the Israelites (Joshua 1:6-9). We stood at the peak of the mountain and looked over the ‘land of milk and honey’ as Moses did. Bishop Bill celebrated Mass in the Church at Mt Nebo where lots of visitors stopped in to join the Mass.
At the Baptismal site at Bethany beyond the Jordan. It was here that John the Baptist baptised Jesus.
Together, we celebrated Mass and renewed our baptismal promises as we reflected on the many moments of conversion in our lives. We paused in prayer remembering our intentions and the intentions of those who have asked us to pray for them. It was a surreal experience to be in this sacred space.
The town of Capernaum which Jesus visited often and stayed with Peter’s mother-in-law. Here they have excavated what is believed to be the house where Jesus stayed. We walked down to the shore where Peter cast out his boat and cleaned his nets.
The group visited Magdala which sits on a junction of trade routes where Jesus visited regularly. We visited the remains of a synagogue and market; however the highlight of this visit was the Duc in Altum Chapel. Duc in Altum (Put out into the Deep) are the words Jesus spoke to his apostles. These words ring out for us today, and they invite us to remember the past with gratitude, to live the present with enthusiasm, and to look forward to the future with confidence.
After our visit to Magdala, we set sail on the Sea of Galilee. It was hard to imagine the fear of the disciples when Jesus calmed the storm as it was so calm and peaceful as we floated in the middle of the lake. Bishop Bill led us in reflection and we paused to remember that we are safe and Jesus is always there to calm any storm that we may encounter. We then viewed the remains of a 2000 year old fishing boat that was found following a time of drought and was carefully excavated and preserved. We finished the first part of our day with a fish lunch at a local restaurant.
We visited and celebrated Mass at the Church of the Primacy of Saint Peter. The deeds and miracles of Jesus are not actions of the past. Jesus is waiting for those who are still prepared to take risks at His word because they trust his power utterly.
We visited Nazareth village – a living representation of the life, times and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. We talked with the village residents and got a small glimpse into how Jesus and his family would have lived. A highlight was sharing in a traditional first century meal. As we left, we were each given a small oil lamp to remind us to always shine the light of Christ and to share that with all we come in contact with. ‘I am the light of the world, he who follows me will never walk in darkness’.
“And the word became flesh.”
This afternoon the pilgrims visited the Basilica of the Annunciation. The Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is a modern Catholic Church built over the remains of Byzantine and Crusader churches. It incorporates the cave in which the Virgin Mary received the news from Gabriel that she would give birth to Jesus. We were so fortunate to celebrate Mass in the upper Church. A moving and memorable experience for all pilgrims.
Mt Tabor – the site of the transfiguration. ‘This is my beloved son with whom I am well pleased. Listen to him.’ This moment was a turning point for the disciples. Christ’s glory was truly revealed to them and they began to understand what it might truly mean to follow Jesus and to be his disciple.
May we have the courage to leave the comfort of the top of the mountain and follow Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem to take up his cross.
The amazing Port of Caesaera. This site boasts a rich history, including extravagant constructions by Herod the Great. We were able to view the ancient port, as well as walk through the hippodrome, Roman amphitheatre and Roman baths. We even saw mosaics on the rock shelf where Herod held ‘pool parties.’
We left Tiberius to begin our journey to Jerusalem. The first stop along the way was the Mount of Beatitudes. From a rock on top of a small cave on the side of the mountain, a natural amphitheatre is formed. It is believed that it was from this place that Jesus shared the beatitudes.
We celebrated Mass in this place where Bishop Bill encouraged us to pray for each other that, marked by the qualities of the beatitudes, we will have a peace that passes all understanding and will bring God’s joy to the world.
The pilgrims headed into the hills to the Palestinian village of Sebastiya. Here we shared a traditional meal from Samaria. We walked to the ancient Sebastiya Cathedral of St John the Baptist, with a tomb crypt underneath. It is believed that John the Baptist’s disciples buried his body somewhere around here after he was beheaded by Herod Antipas during the infamous banquet at which Salome’s dance enthralled the governor (Mark 6: 21-29). We walked back down into the town where a number of pilgrims partook in a camel ride.
The pilgrims will return on 13 October.
Check out the November Aurora for more photos and stories of the pilgrim’s experiences.