HCEF Pilgrimage Coordinator
From May 13 – May 26, 2006 I had the privilege of leading 24 pilgrims from Detroit, Michigan, Chicago, Illinois, and Cincinnati, Ohio to the Holy Land along with their Spiritual Director Father Alex Kratz. For more than half of the group from St. Lawrence Parish in Michigan this was a very special trip since they were embarking not only on a journey to see the holy sites of Christianity but also to meet with their partner church (Holy Family Parish) in Ramallah, Palestine. This parish partnership was facilitated by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation (HCEF). Parish Partnership is one of the HCEF programs aimed at building solidarity between Western Christians and Holy Land Christians.
From the group's arrival in Amman, Jordan until their departure 12 days later, their days were filled with bright sunshine, the wonder of seeing those places talked about in the Bible, and the extraordinary hospitality of the Holy Land Christians, the living stones. As one of their leaders, it was wonderful to see their joy and amazement as they experienced Mt. Nebo, the Sea of Galilee, the Church of the Nativity, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre just to name a few of the sacred sites we visited. But my greatest joy was to see them in fellowship with their brothers and sisters in Christ at the Holy Family Parish in Ramallah. Celebrating Mass together, sharing meals, and experiencing overnight stays during this special weekend created bonds that I am sure will never be broken. The weekend experience brought hope to the Christians of the Ramallah – hope that they are not forgotten and it also clearly made the pilgrims personal ambassadors for the living stones as they return home. I was particularly moved by a discussion the group had on our last night in Jerusalem – during a debriefing session led by Father Alex, the pilgrims were asked to share their most memorable experiences and the group began talking almost exclusively about the experiences with .their families. in Ramallah. It was clear that the weekend in Ramallah had made a huge impression on everyone.
Since our return I have received two reflections from St. Lawrence Parish members about their pilgrimage and I am pleased to share them (see links below). From these reflections you will get a glimpse of the impact of their pilgrimage. I will share more of their reflections as I receive them and as you read them, I hope you will consider joining HCEF on a pilgrimage – it is truly an experience that will change your life.
- Holy Land Pilgrimage Ignites Imagination, Faith.
(By Marilyn Trumper-Samra, Youth Director, St. Lawrence Parish, Utica, Michigan)