The Impact of a Holy Land Pilgrimage

THE IMPACT OF A HOLY LAND PILGRIMAGE

“I will never read the Gospel the same again!”

“Meeting the local seminarians in the Holy Land was a highlight. And receiving the Pilgrim Shell at the Patriarchate was a moment etched in my memory forever.”

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Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Old City of Jerusalem

“As I entered the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Solemn Entry procession, I could not hold back the tears. To visit the Empty Tomb, the stillness and peace I felt in that Tomb stays with me till today.”

These are a few of the impassioned comments I heard from among a group 25 jovial pilgrims gathered recently at the home of our Lieutenant, Sir Michael Feeley and Lady Janet Feeley. This was mid-January, and already, the group was gathering for their second pilgrimage reunion. They had just returned in mid-November, having journeyed under the leadership of Msgr. Sir Kevin Kostelnik, on a pilgrimage hosted by the Western USA Lieutenancy of the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchure.

A pilgrimage is such a rich alchemy of these experiences – of our faith, of solidarity, of community and that’s why our Lieutenancy remains strongly committed to offering life-changing pilgrimage experiences to our members, offering two pilgrimages each year.

Yes, making a Holy Land pilgrimage remains an obligation of our membership. But what happens there, and what makes the pilgrimage so powerful? As Director of Pilgrimages for our Lieutenancy for several years now, I can offer three points of reflection to illuminate how these pilgrimages change our lives:

  • Church of Nativity

    Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

    The Holy Land is an intimate experience of Jesus Christ. When we visit the hometown of a close friend, for the first time, we connect the stories we heard about them to the places where the stories took place, and our friendship deepens. We literally “step into their story.” Now, imagine having the same experience with the Gospel stories and the life of Our Lord! Visiting the Holy Land allows us to connect the stories we have heard about our Lord with the sites we see. Those stories ‘enter’ us in a way that they don’t leave us the same. Ask anyone who has been!

  • The Holy Land is an experience of the people we support. Who among our pilgrims will not forget the visit to St. Vincent’s Home for Children with special needs? Or sitting at the lunch table with fresh, young seminarians, engaged in heartfelt conversations? Or celebrating Mass in Arabic with the local parish? By traveling to the Holy Land, we meet the people we support; we see and hear how our support changes lives for the better.
  • The Holy Land is an experience of the community and fellowship of our Order, and the opportunity to make new friends. As I looked around the room at gathering for Msgr. Kostelnik’s reunion, I saw hugs and high fives, tears and belly laughs, quiet moments with a supportive arm around a shoulder, joking moments of mocked boxing. A bond was formed among these pilgrims, and you could feel it. Pilgrimage brings us closer.

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    The Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre Pilgrim Shell

At the end of our pilgrimage, a peak highlight for every member of the Order is a specially arranged visit to the Latin Patriarchate to receive their Pilgrim Shell, a lifelong recognition of our journey to the Land of Our Lord, marking us as a Pilgrim, forever changed in our closeness to Christ, our connection with the people of this land, and our deepened connection with each other.

Written by J. Scott Scherer, president, Catholic Travel Centre, KHS.

 

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