The educators began their mission trip and pilgrimage to the Holy Land on July 5, 2010. The trip is an educational initiative organized by HCEF and sponsored by the Archdiocese of Cincinnati Education and Mission Office. Nancy Hemminger, a long-time HCEF volunteer is the coordinator, and Staff from the Catholic Telegraph of Cincinnati will document the pilgrimage.
A unique feature of this trip is that it will allow each participant to be on his or her own personal “journey” in the Holy Land while also setting aside time to participate in Project HOPE (HCEF Outreach to Palestinian Educators). This will provide an opportunity for the ‘pilgrim’ teachers to share classroom strategies and experiences with their Palestinian counterparts to benefit their students.
The goal of Project HOPE, under the aegis of HCEF’s Ecumenical Center for Research and Development (ECRD) in Bethlehem, is to bring hope to the Palestinian people, especially to the children, to assure them, that outside the walls confining their towns and villages, there are American Christians who deeply care for their well-being and the education of their children.
Saturday, July 10 will be celebrated as ‘A Day of Solidarity’, and will begin with Mass at the Milk Grotto. After Mass, ‘pilgrim’ teachers will go to the HCEF Center in Bethlehem to meet the ECRD staff and their Palestinian partner teachers. Following a tour of ECRD, they will together, hang a cross at the HOPE Resource Center! Following lunch, the teachers and administrators will be paired and form cluster groups for a time of sharing and discussion.
The twelve day trip beginning in Amman, Jordan will encompass many of the principal sites of Jesus’ life. These will include visits to the baptismal site of Jesus on the Jordan and Mount Nebo where Moses first glimpsed the Promised Land. In Jerusalem there will be visits to the Old City, the Western Wall — the holiest shrine of Judaism, the Temple Mount, the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane. There will be time for private prayers and mass at the Shrine of the Holy Sepulchre, followed by an audience with H.B. Patriarch Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
The portion of the trip to Galilee will include visits to Nazareth, Cana and the Sea of Galilee with an overnight stay at the Mount of Beatitudes. The pilgrims will ascend Mount Tabor, the most striking mountain in Galilee and the site of Jesus’ transfiguration.
Several days will be spent in Bethlehem. There the group will meet the ECRD staff and their Palestinian partner teachers and will have time to interact with the local Christian community. A special mass will be celebrated in the Church of the Nativity. From Bethlehem there will also be day trips to the surrounding area including Capernaum, Beit Jala, Ein Karem, and Birzeit. There the group will visit and meet with the residents of the HCEF Senior Center followed by a visit to Birzeit University.
In summing up the group expectations for the trip, Nancy Hemminger said: “We will give God plenty of time to work on us, and when we return home, we will have the faces and stories of Jordanian and Palestinian Christians –the ‘Living Stones’ of the Holy Land deeply embedded in our minds and hearts.”