In Jesus' Footsteps: A Pilgrimage

by Sister Maryellen Tierney 

Thanks to the support of our Province Leadership, I was able to join the pilgrimage led by Jesuit Fr. James Martin, S.J., author and MSNBC commentator.

My pilgrimage to the Holy Land in April began nine months prior to leaving St. Louis. Nothing could have prepared me for the emotions I felt landing in Israel. As I entered the Tel Aviv airport, I saw the sign, Welcome to Israel. It hit me: I broke down in tears and cried all the way to the baggage claim. After all those months of waiting and wondering, I was really here and would be walking in the footsteps of Jesus.

The Sea of Galilee area was our first stop. It is a special place in the life of Jesus. It is an extremely quiet and serene place where the Lord spent much of his public life. On my second day, I arose at 5:30 a.m. in order to walk down to the edge of the sea and capture the sunrise over the crystal clear blue water.

I experienced meaningful liturgies each day at significant sites along my pilgrimage. One in particular was in Cana at the Franciscan chapel, the supposed site where Jesus began his public ministry. During this prayer service, every member my group was able to renew vows as a married, single or clergy/religious individual.

I say “supposed” as all tours guides in Israel explain that over the centuries due to wars, the Crusades and earthquakes, the original sites where Jesus was born, lived, performed miracles, and more were destroyed. Churches and other significant places were built over original sites. So, while I may not have been at the “exact” spot, I was very near to it. Just knowing that I was walking where Jesus would have walked was inspiring.

I was sad to leave the peace and serenity of Galilee but also eager to move on to Jerusalem. Enroute, the bus stopped at the Jordan River where my group renewed our Baptismal promises. This renewal was so meaningful to me knowing that this same river in which Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

Upon my visit to Gethsemane, I was honored to have been asked to lead the group reflection in the garden. I had accepted the invitation to do this prior to leaving. It was an honor and a lesson in humility.

The Old City of Jerusalem was the final destination on my pilgrimage. Another moving experience was praying the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa. I literally walked the actual way Jesus walked on his way to the Cross.

Each evening, I had the opportunity for faith sharing with my traveling companions. People spoke openly and freely, often times sharing moving experiences that brought tears to many.

God called me to this pilgrimage to walk in Jesus’ footsteps. For me this pilgrimage was a life-transforming experience. I will never hear the Gospels or read scripture in the same way ,as they take on a new meaning. I continue to let the graces of my pilgrimage deepen my relationship with the Lord whom I have come to know in a new and more personal way. I return home and proclaim what Mary Magdalene did: “I have seen the Lord!”


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