Steve and Janet,
I have wanted, for quite a while now, to thank you both for the wonderful pilgrimage experience in Ireland. Aside from the always amazing sites, spiritual direction and fellowship, this time was very special because of the incredible opportunity that you all allowed for the “baby Deacons”, Tom and Floyd. Thank you so much for those special moments!
It was also wonderful to see “old” friends whom we have met on previous pilgrimages, to meet new ones and to travel with wonderful friends. Traveling with you all is like family, thank you for making it possible for so many to experience these life altering moments. You are evangelization at it’s best! Thank you for all of your efforts, sacrifices and love for your faith as well as the enthusiasm to share it with everyone.
We are very grateful to have joined you on 4 pilgrimages and apparently, our enthusiasm is showing…2 couples from our Parish will be joining you this week in the Holy Land! I can only imagine how you all feel when you see the amazement in other’s eyes when they realize “where they are”! Again, thank you for making this possible for them and so many others. Have a wonderful, safe journey, you all are in our hearts and our prayers. Please give sweet Janet a hug for me!
Steve & Janet,
This “Thank You” is very belated because we are still processing all we learned on this fantastic trip! It no way reflects any negative feelings, because all we felt about the trip is very positive. You both gave us a lot of information and experiences that keeps popping up in our dreams and thoughts throughout the day. Can’t say there has been a major conversion experience, but there is definitely a deeper love and appreciation of our Faith.
We also want to thank you for your attention to detail and wonderful accommodations. Both hotels were superb and the food was delicious at all of our stops. Having both you and Amer giving insights into the culture, history and religious backgrounds enriched our understanding of the various sites.
Even though the assistive listening system was not compatible with my Cochlear Implant equipment, you and Amer graciously filled me in on lost information and answered my questions. Appreciated Janet keeping an eye on all of us to be certain no one was left behind.
Thank you, thank you and thank you! May God bless you both in your Ministry in bringing Jesus’ Good News to others! Hope to see you on a future Pilgrimage!
Standing in Mass today to celebrate the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I could hear Juliette’s beautiful voice singing Ave Maria and for a split second, it brought me back to that moment here in the front of the Church of the Visitation. I just love Mass so much more because of this pilgrimage experience. I thanked Mary today for bringing me to Jesus who led me to this amazing life-changing pilgrimage. It is times like these, since I have been back, that fill my heart with so much joy and passion for our Heavenly Father. Mary has been doing some miraculous things since I have been home and I know it’s because of each one of our prayers, each Rosary we prayed, and each song that we sang for her. Thank you for making this journey with me and allowing me to share my thoughts!
You, Janet, Amer, and David are in my prayers especially today on Holy Thursday. My husband and I went to the Tenebrae this morning and the following Psalm made me think of “y’all”.
“God of hosts bring us back let your face shine on us & we shall be saved”
My heart swells & my eyes well up when a prayer or a reading brings me back to the Holy Land. The pilgrimage was life changing & an eye-opening experience. We are still sharing our trip with others & telling them to go with you!
Steve, greetings from the Sunny South,
I wanted you to know how thankful my wife and I are that we went with you on our Holy Land Pilgrimage (also the Footsteps of St Paul Mediterranean Cruise). Our pastor and a group from our parish went to the Holy Land with another group in April [name of pilgrimage leader withheld]. Their experience was totally different from ours. Long waits (2 hours in The Holy Sepulchre), bad food, and no Mass in the tomb.
Have you considered doing a pilgrimage to Oberammergau Passion Play? [Yes, two groups in 2010].
Thanks again!! Blessings, Peter
This was my first pilgrimage, and it won’t be my last. It was SOOOO wonderful! You and Janet provided an extremely well-organized trip; we didn’t have to do any planning, just participate to the fullest. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and enthusiasm for our Catholic Faith with us. God bless you a hundredfold.
While Karen and I (we’re the 2 Mainiacs) were leaving the Cenacle on our free afternoon, we met a Polish couple from the Detroit area who knew you. They are from the Cyrus and Methodius parish and said to extend their greetings to you.
Steve and Janet,
It’s difficult to funnel all my thoughts down to a few words. But all week I’ve been basking in the afterglow of the trip and listing all my favorite sites and dressing them up with comments drawn from Scripture, geography, archaeology, devotional reflections, history, etc. Ratzinger’s thoughts in Jesus of Nazareth are being coordinated with my list of sites.
Already, the mere visit, just being there physically, has enhanced my reading of the gospels. Yes, I’ve always enjoyed the gospels. But now, just by virtue of having been materially present in Jerusalem, Cana, Mount Tabor, the Sea of Galilee, etc., there is a deeper subjective enjoyment, a new dimension, a richness to the text that surpasses what was there before. No doubt this will only deepen with increased meditation and study. The change is similar to seeing a pencil sketch of an object and then seeing it colored in. The sketch was fine but moving beyond black and white is better. Sally and you predicted something like that. I’m here to say: “‘Tis true.”
Thanks for encouraging me to get to the top of Calvary. When we were planning it, I didn’t think we were going to try it. So I was surprised when the opportunity came up. Once up there, I sat and prayed for what seemed a half hour surrounded by only a few people and Sally. To sit, touch, pray, breathe, meditate, fellowship at the site of the Crucifixion is the experience of a lifetime especially when coupled with entering the Holy Sepulcher and touching the slab upon which Jesus’ body rested. (I love that little Coptic property in back).
I have a hard time imagining anybody doing this better than the two of you. Professionally speaking, I think you do a remarkable job managing expectations and controlling attendance and punctuality. Both of you keep focused and steady. You are surprisingly accessible and attentive to the pilgrims. Given all the details and occasional curve balls, you both come across as “called” rather than “driven”.
Steve projects a confident leadership and knows how to keep the skids greased. Janet radiates hospitality and serenity in the midst of all the challenging details. You even took advantage of irregularities like Yom Kippur, the extended drive through the West Bank, the Shroud Exhibit and the bar mitzvah’s at the Wailing Wall to amp up the experience. The biblical content was superb. The use of local restaurants and food is just so right.
Amer’s sense of history, local color, baritone voice, physicality and homespun style complements Steve’s intensity beautifully. Fr. Steve’s Mass’, homilies and good pastoral sense held us all together in a common bond of worship. Sharing the experience with so many other pilgrims is one of the finest features of the trip. I can’t count the worthwhile conversations I had with other pilgrims over the ten days we were together.
Here’s a telling fact: When I travel I am always anxious to get home and get back in the saddle. This time I wanted to stay indefinitely. That is a strong testimony.
I could go on for pages but let me close simply by saying: Thanks again. I’m not sure if I have ever gotten to the Holy Land without your longstanding invitation and repeated reminder. I owe you much. Talk to you soon.
“Traveling with Steve and Janet Ray to the Holy Land was a thoroughly delightful experience. Their knowledge of the Holy Land, the Scriptures and their love for the Roman Catholic Church was engaging and inspiring. I would happily recommend any of their pilgrimages. With their guidance, you will be blessed!”
Bishop Carl A. Kemme, Diocese of Wichita
Dear Steve and Janet, (Dec 2017)
I’ve been getting ready for our annual Christmas newsletter and reviewing the hundreds of photos from our Sept.-Oct. trip to the Holy Land. We were so blessed to go on that trip. You told us the Holy Land was like the fifth gospel. That hits home every time I pray the Rosary or hear the Gospel at Mass.
Our associate pastor who has been to the Holy Land says he would go back yesterday. I feel the same way.
Thanks again, Greg and Kathy
Dear Steve and Janet, (Dec 2017)
“Life-changing”, I don’t believe that’s an exaggeration when we speak of our pilgrimage to The Holy Land with the two of you. We will never again read the Bible, attend a Bible study, pray, do our hour of Adoration, even experience the Mass in quite the same way. The historical insight and Bible connections have brought us to a new place in our faith journey, and we thank you for that.
Thank you again SO much for the most amazing pilgrimage. It was so much more than I ever imagined – and not just because of the holiest of places, but because of all you put into it. The opportunity to be on one of your pilgrimages was a gift that only continues to unfold. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I sent you a friend request on Facebook tonight and then remembered the post-pilgrimage email you had sent, asking for links to photos posted online. I tried to do a post for each site we visited, with a few extras, so feel free to use whatever you like!
Dear Steve & Janet,
Last week at my Catholic Bible study of about 100 members I gave a reflection on John 18 and was able to share so many thoughts and stories from our wonderful pilgrimage experience. I included pictures of Gethsemane, the Basilica of the Agony, and St. Peter’s in Gallicantu where I had a special “Peter moment” of my own. Of course, I cried during the talk, but considering I cried as I wrote it, it was no surprise to me. Plus, that happens so often anymore (especially at Mass) I’ve practically come to expect it…Can’t wait to see what Holy Week has in store ;).
So many of us pilgrims here who see each other regularly say the same things about our emotions. Yet we’re doing all we can to share the Holy Land with the people we know here. In fact, at the same Bible study the previous week Nicola reflected on John 17 and spoke of her time at the Upper Room and showed some pictures of that and also the large model of the city. This Thursday JoAnn will reflect on John 19 and share about her time on the Via Dolorosa and at the Shroud of Turin exhibit.
Also, John & I have been asked to share our pilgrimage experience at a ladies’ retreat at our church next Spring. It’s already been 4 months and yet it still consumes us!
I know we thanked you in person as we parted our ways after the trip, but I’d like to thank you again as I continue to relive that experience over and over in my mind and looking at our pictures on a regular basis. Thank you too for the thumb drive with the downloads from your website.
We continue to share with others the importance of making the pilgrimage and of supporting Christianity in the Holy Land. And we’re even starting to wonder, “When can we go back?!” 🙂
With Much Love,
PS, I received a text from my niece this morning that she and her sister heard you speak yesterday in Livonia, and very much enjoyed it! 🙂
Hi Steve, (March 2018)
We have always enjoyed our trips (all 5 of them) with you and Janet. You bring your love of the Lord and His word alive for us. As you have always said, the Holy Land was a safe place. Just to let you know the wood carving we purchased arrived here 5 days after we got home. Amazing! Keep taking your pilgrims the Bethlehem Nativity Store.
Thank you for taking such good care of each and every one us. We’ll look forward to receiving the USB drive with the movie of our latest trip. Again, thank you.
God’s peace be with you and Janet and your whole family.
Terri and Greg
Traveling with Steve and Janet Ray to the Holy Land was a thoroughly delightful experience. Their knowledge of the Holy Land, the Scriptures, and their love for the Roman Catholic Church was engaging and inspiring. I would happily recommend any of their pilgrimages. With their guidance, you will be blessed!
Here we are on the last day of the most awesome pilgrimage ever. And I want to thank Steve and Janet Ray and the whole team. Every day was just blessings, blessings and more blessings.
We have always enjoyed our trips (all 5 of them) with you and Janet. You bring your love of the Lord and His word alive for us. As you have always said, the Holy Land was a safe place.
Just to let you know the wood carving we purchased arrived here 5 days after we got home. Amazing! Keep taking your pilgrims the Bethlehem Nativity Store.
Thank you for taking such good care of each and everyone us.
Dear Steve & Janet,
Last week at my Catholic Bible study of about 100 members I gave a reflection on John 18 and was able to share so many thoughts and stories from our wonderful pilgrimage experience. I included pictures of Gethsemane, the Basilica of the Agony, and St. Peter’s in Gallicantu where I had a special “Peter moment” of my own. Of course, I cried during the talk, but considering I cried as I wrote it, it was no surprise to me. Plus, that happens so often (especially at Mass) I’ve practically come to expect it… Can’t wait to see what Holy Week has in store.
So many of us pilgrims here, who see each other regularly, say the same things about our emotions. Yet we’re doing all we can to share the Holy Land with the people we know here. It’s already been 4 months and yet it still consumes us!
I know we thanked you in person as we parted our ways after the trip, but I’d like to thank you again as I continue to relive the experience over and over in my mind and look at our pictures on a regular basis. Thank you too for the whole movie of our trip on the thumb drive with the downloads of the daily pictures from your website.
We continue to share with others the importance of making the pilgrimage and of supporting Christianity in the Holy Land. And we’re even starting to wonder, “When can we go back?!”
With Much Love,
Hello Stephen and Janet,
I just had to write a short note to the most wonderful folks I have ever met. It has been over 10 years now, but I will never forget every day spent with both of you and all the great pilgrims on the first pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2005.
My brother and I applaud the blessed work the two of you do to bring thousands of pilgrims to the lands where our Lord walked. I go to your sites on the internet from time to time to keep abreast of your “work.”
May God bless both of you, Eddie