Original text written by Natalie Hoefer for the August 5th issue of the Criterion.
Members of the archdiocese are invited to join Msgr. William F. Stumpf, vicar general, on an 11-day pilgrimage to the Holy Land coordinated by Tekton Ministries on Jan. 23 through Feb. 2, 2017.
The pilgrimage to this region, the birthplace of the Christian faith, includes Mass each day and stops at sites in many towns and cities noted in the Bible, including Bethany, Capernaum, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Cana, Jericho, Jerusalem and others.
Msgr. Stumpf traveled to the Holy Land in 2010, and is thrilled to be going back.
“The Scriptures just become so alive” after visiting the land where Christ lived and died, he says. “You never read the Scriptures again in the same way.”
While a pilgrimage is enjoyable, he notes, it is different than a vacation.
“On a pilgrimage, we step out of our daily lives to renew ourselves in our faith, to deepen our relationship to God,” Msgr. Stumpf says. “To do that, we go away to a place that is holy and draws us even more into the experience.
“I always go on a pilgrimage feeling that there’s something that God is going to reveal or teach me and help me to see through the experience. You go into a pilgrimage with an open heart, and a sense of, ‘I’m going into this openly, Lord. Grace me with whatever it is that you need to bring about in my life.’ And God is always provident—he’ll make that happen.”
Msgr. Stumpf and those accompanying him on the pilgrimage will depart from Indianapolis on Jan. 23.
After arriving in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Jan. 24, pilgrims will drive along the Mediterranean coast to Haifa to spend the night.
In Haifa, pilgrims will visit a Carmelite monastery and the cave where the prophet Elijah lived. After Mass there, the group will travel to Cana, where Christ performed his first miracle at a wedding feast. Couples will have the opportunity to renew their wedding vows before traveling on to Tiberias.
This old city, located on the banks of the Sea of Galilee, will serve as home base for two days and three nights. While there, pilgrims will visit numerous sites of biblical note in the lush region of Galilee.
First among those sites is Nazareth, where Mass will be celebrated at the Church of the Annunciation, honoring the site where “the Word was made flesh” (Jn 1:14). In this church, pilgrims will see the underground room where Mary said “yes” to the Archangel Gabriel when she was asked to consent to become the mother of God’s Son.
After seeing other sites in Nazareth, the pilgrims will travel up Mt. Tabor, where Christ revealed his divine nature to Peter, James and John in the Transfiguration.
On Jan. 27, pilgrims will experience a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee—also known as Lake Tiberias—the body of water which figured so greatly in the lives of the Apostles both before and after becoming Christ’s disciples. Pilgrims will visit a church along the shores of this inland sea commemorating Christ’s call there to Peter to “feed my sheep,” a founding moment for the papacy.
Pilgrims will also visit towns along the shores of the Sea of Galilee: Capernaum, the center of Christ’s ministry for three years and the place where he called several of his disciples; Tabgha, where Christ multiplied loaves and fish; and the Mount of Beatitudes, where he proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount.
Pilgrims will visit the Mount of Beatitudes again on Jan. 28 for Mass, then travel around the Sea of Galilee to Kursi, where Christ drove out a legion of demons from a man, releasing them into a herd of swine.
As they make their way toward Jerusalem, which will serve as home base for the remainder of the pilgrimage, pilgrims will have the opportunity to renew their baptismal vows at the site of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River.
The first day in Jerusalem will begin with a trip up the Mount of Olives, taking in the spectacular view of Old City Jerusalem.
On the Mount of Olives, pilgrims will visit the Church of Pater Noster, marking the traditional site where Christ taught his disciples the “Our Father,” and then walk down the Palm Sunday Road for Mass in the Church of All Nations at the Garden of Gethsemane. The day will end with a trip to Ein Karem, birthplace of St. John the Baptist and where Mary visited Elizabeth and proclaimed the “Magnificat” (Lk 1:46-55).
The pilgrims continue honoring Mary the next day with a trip to the Church of St. Anne, believed to be the birthplace of the Blessed Mother. Also on this day the pilgrims will walk the powerful “Via Dolorosa,” the Way of the Cross, through the stone streets winding through Old City Jerusalem, ending at Mt. Calvary in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Mass will be celebrated.
The day also includes visits to several sites within the Old City, including the “Wailing Wall,” which is all that remains of the ancient Jewish Temple that was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., the Pool of Siloam, and the Upper Room—the traditional site of the Last Supper. The day ends again honoring Mary with the praying of the rosary in the Church of the Dormition.
On Jan. 31, pilgrims will visit Bethlehem and celebrate Mass in a cave at the Shepherd’s Field. In the city of Bethlehem, pilgrims will visit numerous sites, including the Church of the Nativity, built by the order of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century over the traditional site of Christ’s birth. They will also gain a sense of the struggles for the Palestinian Christians who live within the Israeli-built wall around the town.
On the last full day of the pilgrimage, two famed sites of the Bible will be visited.
The day will begin with Mass in Bethany, home of Mary, Martha and their brother Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. Pilgrims will then drive to Jericho, an ancient city known to have existed as far back as 1250 B.C. It was there that God, through the leadership of Joshua, brought down the city walls with blasts of trumpets as described in the Old Testament (Jos 6). Christ himself endured his 40 days of temptation looking down upon Jericho from what is now called the Mount of Temptation, a site the pilgrims will visit.
The day will end with a trip to Qumran, where pilgrims will explore the caves where the famed Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.
The final day, Feb. 2, will be spent in transit back to the United States.
The cost per person is $3,320 for double occupancy, or $4,045 for single occupancy, plus airline taxes and fuel surcharge.
The cost includes roundtrip economy class airfare from Indianapolis to Tel Aviv, accommodations for nine nights, hotel taxes and service charges, breakfast and dinner daily, sightseeing with a licensed Christian guide, entrance fees, land transportation, gratuities and portage of one piece of luggage at airports and hotels.
Lunch, drinks, hotel extras and other personal expenses are not included.
“If you ever talk to anyone who’s been to the Holy Land,” says Msgr. Stumpf, “they always say the same thing: ‘I’m so glad I made that pilgrimage. It was such a powerful experience for me.’
“It does affect you profoundly. Don’t let yourself miss out, because it is a wonderful opportunity.”