Dean of St Stephen’s Cathedral Fr Ken Howell: My days in the Holy Land were both graced and full of interest.
Coming back, I feel a great sense of privilege to have been able to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, especially by the Sea of Galilee and in Jerusalem.
Our pilgrimage began in Jordan (on February 15) where we visited the site of Jesus’ baptism. There I had the joy of celebrating Mass in an open chapel close to the place of the baptism.
Having been ordained on the feast of St John the Baptist, it was a special moment to recall the close connection of St John and Jesus, especially in this significant act.
Among other memorable moments were Masses celebrated on the Mount of the Transfiguration, the place of the Sermon on the Mount and within the tiny space that is the altar of the Holy Sepulchre – indeed a rare and holy privilege.
Fr John Conway, of Gatton and Laidley parishes: Most of the places our pilgrimage group attended throughout the Holy Land were significant as each drew us further into the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
But, for me, a powerful moment came as we spent time at a place that had been known as a simple breakfast venue of long ago. Today it bears the name of the event that it commemorates, The Primacy of Peter.
“It was by the Sea of Galilee, and it happened like this …” (John 21:1- 19). Such is the beginning of this chapter of John’s Gospel where, after the resurrection, Jesus meets his disciples by the Sea of Galilee.
They had been fishing and Jesus called them to come and have breakfast. It was after they had eaten that Jesus commissioned Peter to undertake his role as leader of the early Church, and it was here in this place that Peter said yes.
“Do you love me?” Jesus asked him three times as they stood there on the edge of the lake, “Do you really love me?” and three times Peter responded, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” “Feed my lambs,” Jesus said to him. “Peter feed my sheep.”
As I stood at that place of ministry, at that place that perhaps marked the beginning of ministry and leadership in Peter’s life, I also had a sense of the invitation and the commission that is placed at the feet of all priests as they enter into this call to ministry.
It was in that sacred moment as I knelt at that Rock that marked that spot, I was a part of that call and commission, and I too endeavoured to respond to that same call, that same challenge, that same invitation. “Do you really love me?”
That moment, that place has stayed with me, as I think of Peter’s experience and at the same time I also ponder this great call of ministry within my life. “Feed my lambs, feed my sheep.”
Fr Tim Harris, of Surfers Paradise parish: I had a truly extraordinary experience in the Holy Land. I enjoyed every minute of it.
It was great to travel with 28 other priests from around Australia who shared a common interest.
For me the trip has allowed me to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to see for myself the landscape and context in which Jesus lived and died.
Fr Pat Molony, of Burleigh Heads parish: Having been privileged to spend eight days in the Holy Land and the Holy Places, this Lent and Easter will have me listening intently to the Scriptures and being aware of places and names as never before.
A pilgrimage helps you to more clearly see and hear so as to be better able to follow.
Fr Paul Kelly, of Maryborough parish: It is hard to describe the feeling when celebrating Mass in the grounds of the Beatitudes church, with the Sea of Galilee in the background.
The cool, relaxing breeze seems to settle and make ourselves peaceful and connected to this place.
I could really imagine that same gentle breeze as Jesus gave this important teaching – with his words resonating through the air and being reinforced by the gentleness of the breeze.
Maryborough parishioners will be happy to note an amazing connection with the Church of St Peter in Gallicantu (referring to the cock crow when Peter denied Christ). The church outside Jerusalem has a rooster on the roof and is administered by the French order of Assumptionist priests. This is the same order as Fr Tissot’s, the first Maryborough parish priest 150 years ago this year. In Jerusalem we went to Ein Karem, the place of birth for John the Baptist and home of his mother Elizabeth. It is the location of the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth.
John the Baptist is one of my special saints since I was born on the vigil day of the feast of John the Baptist’s birth.
Fr John Scarrott, of Moorooka Salisbury parish: The eight days in the Holy Land were a revelation. To walk in the same country as Jesus was awe-inspiring.
The Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked with his disciples was lush and full of olive groves, bananas and mangoes.
The Mass we celebrated on the Mount of the Beatitudes, where Jesus delivered his Sermon on the Mount was impressive as was the Mass on the Sea of Galilee.
Fr Kevin Smith, of Coolangatta parish: The chance to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land at any time is a wonderful experience but to share in this in my 25th year of priesthood was an added blessing.
I had visited Israel before but when going to such places in the context of faith new insights and inspiration are always a possibility.
A highlight was to celebrate the Eucharist with fellow pilgrims and the Franciscans at the Holy Sepulchre over the tomb of Jesus. There we prayed for our families, parishioners, and as the psalmist implores, for the peace of Jerusalem.
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