Mary Ellen Schraeger
Member of St. Lawrence Parish, Utica, Michigan
I had a few misgivings when the opportunity to go on the Holy Land Pilgrimage with my parish presented itself. I was not concerned about safety. My first concern was affordability. I have always wanted to go to the Holy Land so I decided no matter what I was going. My second concern was spiritual. Was I going as a tourist or was I really trying to gain knowledge regarding my faith and spirituality? I have to admit that I was not a reader of scripture unless it was at Mass or during a parish mission. I didn't pray the Rosary daily.
The Holy Land Pilgrimage was so very much more that I had ever anticipated. I can go on and on about the sites we saw. They were wonderful and I have pictures to remind me of them but it wasn't just the sites that moved me. It was the masses, the singing, the readings and rosaries we shared. The love we felt for each other because we were able to experience these special moments. I have a hard time explaining to friends and family that I am a different person since being in the Holy Land and meeting the people who live there. I carry such a full feeling in my heart that I am doing things that I have not done before. I get up and attend morning Mass not because I have to but because I want to be there. I pray the Rosary more and listen to the readings more closely. I have begun reading the Bible each day not just occasionally.
I will always carry the memories of the ancient sites but I will live them every time I hear a reading which brings me back to a particular site. Every time I hear the news and the effect on the Palestinian Nation I become concerned for my host family and our sister parish in Ramallah. They are such wonderful people and deserve all the prayers we can offer for them. Did I gain knowledge about my faith and spirituality? Absolutely, and I will continue to add to that knowledge through the help of the Holy Spirit for the rest of my life.