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Enjoy the series of blogs over this next week as the Everest community accompanies the Class of 2019 on their annual senior pilgrimage to the Holy Land. This guest post is written by Mrs. Kathie Nalepa.

“Our band of pilgrims departed Detroit on Friday (day 1) at 3:20 P.M. for Frankfort, Germany, reaching our final destination of Tel Aviv, Israel on Saturday (day 2) at 4:00 P.M. due to the 7-hour time change. There was not much sleeping on the plane as it was daytime for us for most of the two flights, and we were all pretty excited about what lies ahead.

At the airport we met our guide for the week, Hani, and our driver, Sami. Both are Christians with much experience to share. The first words Hani said to us were, “Welcome home!”, a reference to the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament… for coming to the Holy Land as Christians, we are truly “home”. We began a two-hour coach bus ride to the ancient town of Nazareth – yes, the Nazareth, home to Mary and Joseph.

Upon arrival at our hotel, Casa Nova – New House –  run by the Franciscans which is right next door to the Basilica of the Annunciation, and a quick “freshen up”, Fr. Thomas celebrated Mass for us in the intimate hotel chapel.

Then we were on to dinner of fish, beef, a delicious green bean soup, and – of course – hummus and pita. It was the real deal … and so good!

One particularly special part of the senior pilgrimage each year has been the time together at the end of the day to come together and share thoughts or experiences the students may want to talk about. Tonight Fr. Thomas led a sharing on expectations: “What might you be expecting for this pilgrimage?” We were able to gather outside in the beautiful courtyard of our hotel, with the sounds of the town of Nazareth all around – including the Muslim prayer call by the muezzin, that is broadcast by speaker throughout the town five times daily. Fr. Thomas just spoke a bit louder!

The opportunity to walk around the narrow streets of Nazareth for a while was taken advantage of by many, before getting some sleep to prepare for our early day tomorrow which will begin with Mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation, the exact spot where the “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Really! “Incredible” just doesn’t communicate the awe we are already experiencing.”