Steubenville Holy Land Pilgrimage – June 2012

12 June 2012 to 21 June 2012

Pilgrim’s Personal Photo Albums and Comments:

Tom Chilton’s Flickr album HERE

Wife and I went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Steve and Janet Ray.  There are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe how fantastic this experience is.  Walking in the footsteps of Jesus along the Via Dolorosa, celebrating Mass in tomb in which our Lord and Savior was buried and in which the Resurrection took place, renewing baptismal vows in the holy water of the Jordan River, drinking water from Jacob’s Well (where Christ met the Samaritan woman), praying at the Western Wall, touching the rock at Gethsemane where He prayed, standing at the site of The Sermon on the Mount – it is one peak experience after another.  

Steve Ray’s biblical knowledge and Catholic point of view put all the sites we are visiting into context.  Amer, the local guide, is a Christian who goes into the historical and cultural context of what we’re experiencing.  Steve Ray makes a special effort to do business with the local Christian communities in the Holy Land, so we ended up eating in some fantastic Christian-owned restaurants, stayed in Christian hotels, shopped in Christian shops.  Steve and Amer are not only extremely knowledgeable and passionate about what they are doing, but they have the contacts and connections with the local people that allow their groups access that other groups don’t have.  

This pilgrimage was a metanoia experience – a truly life changing conversion.  It really makes your faith come alive to have seen and touched so many of the places in the Gospels (and the Old Testament too!).  If I could, I would give Footprints of God Pilgrimages seven times 70 stars.

Tom Chilton

Daily Youtube Videos from Steve

Day 1 – Arrival

The plane came in a bit late but everyone was full of excitement and joy to be in the Holy Land. We went to Mount Carmel where the Carmelites began to have Mass near the Cave of Elijah overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Then to our hotel on the Sea of Galilee for dinner and an early evening to bed.

Day 2 – Transfiguration, Cana, Nazareth

Another great day with the Franciscan Pilgrimages group of excited and inquisitive pilgrims. Fr. Bradly LePage is doing a fine job as spiritual director and the group is melding together nicely. Great day with Mass at the top of the Mount of Transfiguration, renewal of wedding vows in Cana and visiting the grotto in Nazareth where Gabriel announced the good news to Mary. Lots packed into an exciting and spiritually rich day.

Day 3 – Beatitudes, Banias, Primacy of Peter, Multiplication – Two Parts

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Part 2

Day 4 – Galilee Boat Ride, Capernaum, Nablus & Jacobs Well, Drive to Jerusalem – Two Parts

Thrilling day with ecstatic pilgrims, devout Mass at Capernaum, boat ride on Galilee, eating St. Peter’s Fish, Steve’s Conversion Story on the bus.

Drive thru Jenin and Samaria. Stopped in Nablus ( Sycar) to drink water with Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at Jacob’s Well. Then to the Church of Visitation for Steve’s talk on Mary the Ark of the New Covenant.

Finally to Notre Dame to settle in, have a nice dinner, confession and a free evening in Jerusalem.
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Part 2

Day 5 – Bethlehem – Two Parts

Hot! It was over 100 degrees all day but it did nothing to quench the enthusiasm of this Francisco University Pilgrimage. Lots of water, air conditioned bus and restaurants, and excitement conquered as our pilgrims explored Bethlehem up and down ending with a great Palestinian meal with dancing.
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Day 6 – Via Dolorosa, Mass at the Tomb, Western Wall, Bethesda – Two Parts

Up at 4:15 for early, in disturbed prayer along Via Dolorosa arriving to touch and venerate the top of Calvary where the old rigger cross once stood.
Then Mass INSIDE the Tomb with lots of emotion and prayer.
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Day 7 – Gethsemane, Jericho, Jesus’ Baptismal Site, Dead Sea, Camel Rides – Two Parts

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Day 8 – Cave of Jesus’ Prayer, Mary’s Assumption, Three Sacraments Initiated, Peter Denies – Two Parts

Great day in Jerusalem with a wonderful group from Franciscan Pilgrimages – a ministry of Franciscan University of Steubenville. Today we explored the Mount of Olives and Mount Zion.

Then we came back to Notre Dame for Mass and blessing of the religious items purchased on the trip. Lots of tears as pilgrims gave recollections of what the pilgrimage meant to them. Janet and I blushed through much of the kind words. We were very moved by the stories of renewal, revival and conversion.

Today was a blessing for sure. Enjoy the Mount of Olives, Mount Zion, the panoramic view of Jerusalem, the blessings, comments and farewells.
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This pilgrimage departs on June 12, 2012. Prior to the departure we sent out these letters to help prepare our pilgrims.    
Pre Pilgrimage Letter 1: Introduction and what you should receive in the mail.    
Pre Pilgrimage Letter 2: How to pack and prepare for the trip.    
Pre Pilgrimage Letter 3: What to expect when you arrive, people you’ll meet.    

 There will be pictures and videos posted here after the pilgrims return.

To see daily updates during the trip visit