Holy Land Pilgrimage Day 1
Our EC students have arrived in Israel! EC teacher Nghiem Nguyen is a chaperone on the trip, along with high school formation directors Fr. Daniel Pajerski and Jill Swallow. Mr Nguyen writes:
“After months of anticipation, we have arrived. We have all been looking forward to this very special ‘vacation’. We left Detroit bright, early, and in good spirits.
Our flight to Newark was short and uneventful, but the six-hour layover gave us plenty of time to eat, relax, and enjoy each other’s company. Although many of the students lamented being surrounded by the incredible aromas of grilled meat on a Friday, we all remained true to our Lenten tradition. The remaining hours were spent wandering around the airport and engaging in a marathon Euchre session.
The 10-hour flight to Tel Aviv gave each of us more time to entertain ourselves with movies, games, and books. Sleep was hit or miss with this group. A few of the boys nearly achieved a full night’s rest while everyone else remained restless. Regardless of how much sleep we had, everyone was awake and cheerful when we landed.
We boarded the bus and began our vacation in the port city of Haifa, where we had a delicious lunch with an incredible view of the Mediterranean Sea.
After lunch, we visited the Estella Maris Monastery. According to tradition (of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths), the prophet Elijah lived in the cave at this location. In the 13th century, hermits began to occupy the cave, and it eventually became the home of the Carmelites. The church was named Estella Maris (Star of the Sea) in honor of our Blessed Lady. We celebrated mass in a cozy and intimate chapel.
Everyone participated in reading or singing. The acoustics of the chapel made all of our voices sound beautiful and harmonious. After Mass, we did some sightseeing at the beautiful Bahai Gardens.
We then headed to our hotel in Nazareth for some much needed rest and “freshening up”. After dinner, Father Daniel led the boys on a walk through the busy city of Nazareth toward the Church of the Annunciation (the ladies opted to stay in since we are going to visit the same church tomorrow). Father Daniel led, the boys followed, and I walked behind them. There was lots of lively conversation during our walk, but I knew that we had arrived when all 7 boys immediately fell silent. Here, where the “Word was made flesh”, we all stopped in reverence. We have all prayed the Hail Mary before, but I can tell that our students were deeply moved to pray and offer their intentions in the spot where our Blessed Mother had said “yes”.
We may have left Detroit as tourists, but we have arrived as pilgrims, and all of us are looking forward to continuing this journey of faith.”