Betty and Jun renewed marriage vows (37 years) with Fr Wim officiating Betty and Jun renewed marriage vows (37 years) with Fr Wim officiating

Pilgrimage to Holy Land - A spiritual journey thru the birth ministry passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ

by Jose Relunia Jr.


I am happy that Betty and I were able to join the pilgrimage to the Holy Land organized by the Diocese of Parramatta for the period 23 Sept – 6 Oct. The pilgrimage of 54 parishioners from the Diocese of Parramatta was led by Fr. Wim Hoekstra. Among the Filipino pilgrims were Ernie and Au Aaron, Arts and Nerissa Calub,    The pilgrims walked where Jesus walked; prayed where Jesus prayed; heard masses celebrated by Fr. Wim on Holy Places of Jesus life. At Cana, couples renewed their marriage vows officiated by Fr. Wim.  The couples who renewed their vows also received a Certificate from Cana authorities. We also boarded a boat to experience the life at the Sea of Galilee and retraced the events at the time of Jesus and the apostles. We also floated at the Dead Sea.  Lastly, we went to Bethany where Fr. Wim celebrated mass at the baptismal site.


The 14 day pilgrimage started in Jordan, then travelled to Israel and back to Jordan. The pilgrimage was very good and highly recommended for those who have not done a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The tour guide, Guiding Star represented by Ramon was very knowledgeable and passionate Christian. The photos included in this article highlight some of the important places.


In Jordan, we went to the Christian village of Madaba where the pilgrims saw the mosaic map of the Holy Land. From Madaba, we went to Mt Nebo where Moses viewed the Promised Land. It is at Mt Nebo that Moses was known to have been buried. The following day, the pilgrims went to the Red City of Petra for a full day tour. Petra is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Petra is really beautiful solid rock extending to approximately 3 kilometers ( as photos will show) – deserving of its recognition.


It was on 26 Sept the day of Atonement (Yom Kippur), the holiest day in the Jewish calendar that we had a full day walking tour of the Old City of Jerusalem. We walked the Via Dolorosa (Stations of the Cross). The pilgrims attended mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. 

Among the Holy places we visited were:


Garden of Gethsemane at the base of Mount Olives – Jesus spent the night with the disciplines before his arrest by the Romans


Place of Ascension and Peter Noster (where Tagalog, Ilongo, Pampango, Bisaya translations are displayed), Located nearby is the Church of Dominus Flevit where Jesus wept over Jerusalem.


Via Dolorosa  (Way of the Cross) – as mentioned earlier. We walked the Via Dolorosa – a mile long route through the Old City of Jerusalem, leading from the Antonia Fortress where Jesus was condemned by Pontius Pilate, to Golgotha (Church of the Holy Sepulcher) place of Jesus crucifixion and death. There are 14 Stations of the Cross. 


Cana is the site of Jesus first miracle – transforming water into wine at a Wedding Feast.  Pilgrim couples renewed their marriage vows officiated by Fr. Wim Hoeskstra. 


Mt Tabor – the high mountain where before the eyes of Peter, James and John, Jesus underwent the transfiguration. Afterwards, he was seen conversing with Moses and Elijah.


Nazareth –   Jesus spent his boyhood and lived with Joseph and Mary. Visited a) Basilica of Annunciation recalling the annunciation of Angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary of the approaching Virgin birth and b) the Synagogue Church where Jesus preached. Visited Nazareth Village – an excavated village dating from around 1AD . The excavations have carefully renovated the synagogue and houses to give a unique insight into village life and agriculture as it would have been at the time of Jesus.l 


Sea of Galilee – is a small lake fed by the Jordan River.  At Sea of Galilee, Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea ; taught from Peter’s boat, calmed the storm and walked on water. 


Capernaum – located on the Sea of Galilee, it was the centre of Jesus ministry – healing the sick, preaching in the synagogue and performing miracles.


Tabgha – Jesus performed  the miracle of loaves and the fishes. Visited the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and the Church of St Peter’s Primacy. Tabgha is known for its splendid mosaic about the miracle of the loaves and fishes.


Bethlehem – birthplace of Jesus.  Mass at Church of Nativity.v Then went to Shepherds fields to see the caves used by the Shepherds to tend their sheep.


Cenacle – The Upper Room of the Last Supper and Pentecost


Mt Zion -  Mass at Church of Peter in Gallicantu –


Western Wall  -  the last remaining Wall of the Temple area and the holiest site for the Jewish faith.


Masada – Herod’s magnificent mountaintop palace and fortress.  It was the last stronghold of the Jewish resistance to the Romans. The 960 defenders would rather die ( mass suicide) than surrender to the Romans.


Caesarea (the Roman City of Herod) where sights include Crusader fortifications, the Roman aqueducts and amphitheatre,


Qumran – the Dead Sea scrolls were found on its caves.


Dead Sea (lowest place on earth located at 416 meters below sea level. It is also the saltiest body of water on earth –eight times more salt than the ocean.  


Jericho – oldest town in the world


Bethany -   home to Lazarus, Martha and Mary


Church of Visitation and Church of St John the Baptist and others.   


The spiritual journey to the Holy Land enabled me to relive the times of Jesus as mentioned in the Bible. It is a walking pilgrimage and for us it was timely as we were still able to cope with the walking experience.


After the 14 day pilgrimage, Betty and I visited Dubai ( four days) , a beautiful, safe and clean city. Dubai has the reputation of having the tallest building in the world ( Burj Khalifa) and 7 Star Hotel (Burj Al Arab). Dubai is also famous for its gold markets.  You feel like home in Dubai as there are lots of Filipinos in hospitality and retail industry. Speaking of Filipinos, Jordan has announced while we were here that they are hiring 1,000 Filipino nurses bringing the total to 27,000. 


          pilgrim3-JR at Petra 4              pilgrim2-Church of Holy Sepulcher


                     Petra (Jordan) one of the new 7 Wonders of the World            Church of the Holy Sepulcher (last station of Via Dolorosa)


          pilgrim4-Via Dolorosa Station 5                   pilgrim5-Swimming at Dead Sea - lowest place on Earth

                               Via Dolorosa Station                                                      Swimming at Dead Sea - lowest place on Earth


          pilgrim6-Upper Room of the Last Supper and the Pentecost              pilgrim7Masada - JR

             Upper Room of the Last Supper and the Pentecost                                                     Masada - JR


          pilgrim8-Ernie and JR at Mt Nebo Memorial of Moses              pilgrim9-Sea of Galilee Pilgrims on board boat

                Ernie and JR at Mt Nebo Memorial of Moses                                     Sea of Galilee Pilgrims on board boat


                                                        pilgrim10-Garden of Gethsamani with Trees dating back to Jesus Time


                                                                                                                            Garden of Gethsemane with trees dating back

                                                                                       to Jesus' Time


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