Holy Land pilgrimage leaves Sisters in awe

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.

To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.

To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.” 

~ Mark Nepo

Holy Land pilgrims

Eight Good Shepherd Sisters from the Province of Mid-North America traveled to the Holy Land in December 2019. Several of the Sisters reflected on their journey for this blog. Sister Jean Marie Fernandez reflected on the pilgrimage with these words:

“I was delighted to be with some 40 pilgrims from all walks of life. There were Sisters of St. Joseph from the United States and Puerto Rico, a married couple, a woman from New Mexico and her daughter, two priests, and of course our own Good Shepherd Sisters. After visiting Jaffa in the southern and oldest part of Tel Aviv we took the bus ride to Jerusalem, the City of Peace. As we touched the hill, I saw for the first time in my life, the ancient city of Jerusalem and the Dome of the rock. It was an amazing experience. I felt an inward peace, and everything within me stopped for a moment. I couldn’t believe I was on holy ground and that Heaven and Earth met.

Then I heard the pilgrims sing with full voice “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your voice and sing, Hosanna to our King.” It was quite overwhelming for me. This memory will remain forever in my heart.  Spirituality has come alive. I have arrived in this sacred city shared by three religions – Judaism, Islam and Christianity. The rest of my pilgrimage is history, more was revealed in all the sacred sites with prayers, liturgies, conversations and meals celebrated and enjoyed by everyone.”

Group diversity

Sister Jean Marie said, “What I appreciated most about this pilgrimage was the diversity of our group as well as those I met along the way. I saw people of various ethnicities with different values, politics, and religious commitments. Despite the differences, they were people just like me. They, too, were on an inward journey to seek and deepen their search for meaning.

I saw faces bowed in prayer, hands clasped together, some reading their own Bible, and others just gazing in awe. It was quite a sight! We were in this together, our hearts in the right place. At the end of each day, in the stillness of the night, as the sun was setting, I would write in my journal that “Gratitude is the memory of the heart” (Saint Mary Euphrasia). Praying my experiences and processing all that happened during the day was a transformative experience. 

I could do this because I created a space in my heart for the “new” to emerge. Today, my reflective journal sits next to my bed. Every now and then I turn the pages and am inspired to re-live the experiences of a pilgrim. “

Sister Anna Tram Nugyen said, “The best part of the pilgrimage for me was seeing Jesus’ tomb. Seeing it stirred something deep inside of me that I won’t forget. It was a spiritual moment for me like no other experience I have had.”

Grace-filled time

Holy Land
l-r: Sisters Anna Tram Nguyen, Jean Marie Fernandez, Donna Miles, Gayle Lwanga Crumbley, Anne Kelley, Carmen Flores, Monica Duong, and Regina Do with the Jordan River behind them.

Sister Monica Duong reflected:

“I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord. Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.” Psalms 122

This is what my heart was saying on the first day arriving in Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, and as we went to Jerusalem that evening.

It was a grace-filled time to visit the birthplace of Jesus during Christmas season. My heart filled with joy and gratitude to Jesus for coming down to earth to be among us. The experience of walking the paths that Jesus walked years ago from childhood to his death on the cross deepens my faith in Him.

No words can explain the experience I feel in my heart. But to continue to grow in his love, his compassion, and trust in his merciful love for me is the treasure of my heart. I am thankful to have had this special opportunity.”

Sister Donna Miles said, “The pilgrimage was a life-changing trip for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to have gone,” said Sister Donna Miles.

On New Year’s Day 2019 another group of Sisters went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. You can read about their experience in the March 2019 issue of Items of Interest found at https://bit.ly/37VRvxF

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette McDermott

Jeanette is the Communications Coordinator for Sisters of the Good Shepherd Province of Mid-North America. She is a career photojournalist who has served in various capacities of print, broadcast, and corporate communications. Jeanette is devoted to creation and is particularly focused on saving pollinators and other wildlife species and their habitat. She is an ethical vegan and created the website veganstoryteller.com