Entering the final day of our journey…

"Access to the Land" Pilgrims, 2010, with Passionists Fr. Paul and Fr. Marita, who serve the Passionist Church in Bethany outside of Jerusalem

Dearest Friends,

Tomorrow we board our plane for home, anxious to return to our loved ones but with hearts that are full and grateful for all that we have seen and experienced together.

We gathered to share some feelings about the trip this evening, knowing that they will only deepen, change or reveal themselves in new ways over time. Person after person spoke of the power of this journey as we came together in friendship, faith, and as students and teachers of another. We have learned from and with each other. We wondered how we can take the learnings of this trip home and use them to serve others. We wonder where God will point our pilgrims’ feet next?

We are so truly grateful to Fr. Donald Senior for his incredible leadership, spiritual gifts, humor, patience and amazing good will no matter what the obstacle, human or divine. We cannot thank our bus driver, Riad, enough for caring for us so lovingly. He is a man of enormous heart.

This has been a transformative journey as we came to know more personally the place in which Jesus was born, lived, preached, loved, died and overcame death. We will never experience Scripture in the same way. A special thanks to Stauros USA and Don Grossnickle for his work in bringing together this wonderful group of pilgrims who opened their hearts and minds to the enormous power of this land, its history and people.

Finally, thanks to our loved ones who supported us from afar. You were never far from our thoughts and prayers. Please pray for us as we make our way home. See you soon! ~Nancy Nickel 

Here is the  final blog entry from Sr. Pat Connolly, written late Wednesday, 8/25:

On Tuesday, 8/24, we had another terrific day–awesome, breathtaking views on top of the mountain at Masada. After a cable car ride we climbed or were “pushed” further the mountain. We saw the remains of Herod, King of Judea’s, palatial fortress, theatre, hojuses, cistern and other objejcts of their self-contained enormous city. We all survived 110 degrees, plus humidity.

Susan and I skipped dinner and the optional gathering talk with the group. We slept from 7:30 p.m. to 7 a.m.

On Wednesday, 8/25, we had another “Can you top this day?” One of the many stops was a return to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. We were able to see the slab that they laid Jesus on in the tomb. The exterior of this was 19th century but the resting place of Jesus was authentic. Awesome experience. I prayed for my family, friends and the Grey Nuns there. I placed my Grey Nun crucifix on the part of the stone where Jesus’ head laid.

Another highlight was Mass at the Church of the Dormition. It was built and staffed by the Benedictine Monks from Germany. They came there after WWII in reparation for the Holocaust, setting up a peace center. They have an annual peace concert which is well known and draws crowds of people from all over.

Fr. Don was the celebrant with many of us being ministers of the liturgy. One highlight was a very quiet, paraplegic Down’s syndrome teenager being the Eucharistic minister. He and his mother are part of our group.

I’m sure after reading this and the rest of this “blog” you would agree this was another “can you top this day.”

Barb K – I’m “going with the flow” and trying to absorb everything in.

 This trip has been worth it and I would definitely recommend it to others. I would say even for the able-bodied it is not for the “faint of heart.” The only reason I am doing so well is due to Susan Gibson and all the other able-bodied people in our group. Everyone pitches in to either relieve the attendants and/or come forth when 4 or 6 are needed for a wheelchair lift.

Tomorrow is our last day and then home on Friday.

Blessings and peace,

Love, Pat

P.S. Nancy Nickel has been telling me when anyone leaves me a message on the blog.

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