The following is the final guest blog, written by Shawna Rembold, about the 2018 Senior Pilgrimage to the Holy Land:

Good afternoon (or night, Israeli time). We have no idea which time zone we should be on, and when or if we should or shouldn’t sleep.

Wednesday night; myself, Father Dan, Mr. Tower, and the second group of students spent the night at the Holy Sepulchre. It was such a powerful experience for all of us. Our time at the Sepulchre started with confession, which was especially beautiful considering we were in the exact spot where Jesus was crucified to cleanse us from our sins. Some of us also received a personal “behind the scenes” tour of the church. We saw the sacristy and the rooms where the Catholic priests and Franciscan monks pray and prepare for Mass. About half of us stayed up all night praying and reflecting, while the other half tried to catch up on sleep. The doors of the church opened at exactly 4 A.M. to let us back out into the world. We walked back to the hotel in the rain, uphill the entire time. We often had to remind our selves of the agony and embarrassment Christ endured thousands of years ago. We slept about 3 hours before we had to be up and ready to go the next day. 

Each day seems to be busier than the last. We had a very full day yesterday and left pretty early this morning for the airport to fly back home (or for some of us, to the Dominican Republic). Yesterday we visited many of the sites and events that led to Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, and ultimately, His death and crucifixion. We started our day visiting the church of the Pater Noster, where Jesus taught the disciples to pray the “Our Father”. We took some time to reflect and think about the words of the prayer one by one to better understand the importance of Jesus teaching us how to pray. We also visited the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus was betrayed by Judas, arrested and taken back to Jerusalem to be tried and ultimately crucified.

Our final stop of the day was where Jesus and his apostles held the “Last Supper”. We read the Bible passage together and prayed, before heading downtown to buy some souvenirs and presents for friends and family. We celebrated Mass together at the Notre Dame center. A few of the boys had their feet washed by the priest, much like how Christ washed the feet of his disciples. After Mass, we had dinner at the hotel, where Father gathered a group of us to walk the stations of the cross. This was the most powerful stations of the cross we had ever prayed. It was so amazing and beautiful to walk the exact path Jesus took on his way to be crucified. We prayed and thanked Jesus for His gift at each of the stations. Before our trek back to the hotel, we stopped once more at the wailing, or western, wall, the last remaining wall of the Jewish temple used by Jesus and His followers. Seeing this site at night was beautiful. Back at the hotel, many of the students played card games with Miss Rose and Mr. Reichert before heading to bed.

This morning we left for the hotel, and are currently waiting for our flight back to the United States. On the bus ride from the hotel to the airport, we took turns discussing our experience via the bus microphone. While in line waiting to check in and go through security, we reflected on the food we would eat when we arrived back home. Some of the most popular options were: McDonalds, pizza, Taco Bell, cheeseburgers, taquitos, and Culvers. No matter the food choice, no one person who attended this trip is coming back the same. Not only did we strengthen our relationship and appreciation for God and Jesus, and the struggles they both endured, we strengthened the friendships and relationships with each other. This trip seemed to fly by, yet at the same time, it feels as if we have been in Jerusalem and among each others’ company for months. We have about 2 hours left of our 4-hour layover before our flight back to the United States. On behalf of myself and all the chaperones, I am extremely blessed to have experienced this trip with your sons and daughters. They were very well behaved, which made it especially easy and fun for all of us. Thank you for all you do! I know your children appreciate it, and we will never be the same.