A pilgrimage is not just a trip, but a spiritual journey meant to enrich and nurture your faith. A Franciscan Holy Land Pilgrimage guides pilgrims spiritually in many ways:
- Daily Mass in the churches of the Holy Land
- With a Franciscan priest as your guide, Reconciliation is available to pilgrims daily.
- There are many opportunities for prayer, such as praying the rosary, with your group. There is also plenty of time for individual prayer and meditation.
- At each holy site, your Franciscan guide will talk about the spiritual significance of each place, sharing knowledge of history, architecture, and theology. In addition, he’ll guide you in reflection upon the scriptures relevant to each site as you stand in the very places mentioned in those pages.
Meet Your Spiritual Directors
As a member of the Holy Land province of Franciscans, I have had the blessing of serving in the lands of the Bible. For most of the nine years of ministry in the Holy Land, I served as a spiritual leader of pilgrimages. It was a valuable learning experience which has served me well in my current ministry as director of the pilgrimage office.
I spent three of my nine years serving in Bethlehem, which helped me to better understand the challenges the Palestinian Christians faced in living their faith in an environment which is predominantly Muslim. With another three years of service in Jerusalem, I saw how the challenges for the local Christians were different as they were a tiny minority in a city which was predominantly Jewish. The last three years of service were in the resort town of Tiberias in Galilee which gave me the opportunity to learn more about the concerns of the Jews of the land. These broad based experiences have served me well in trying to paint an intelligible and balanced picture for the pilgrims when I accompany them through this land we call holy.
In 2007 I was appointed by my provincial to serve as the director of our pilgrimage office here in Washington. I was genuinely grateful for this opportunity to both organize pilgrimages and to accompany the pilgrims through the lands of the Bible. Previously, I simply accompanied the pilgrims as their guide and sometimes as guide and chaplain. Now I have been given the opportunity to develop ways in which to become personally involved in encouraging potential pilgrims to join us for a pilgrimage. It was an appointment I welcomed with enthusiasm.
If you have ever considered making a pilgrimage to the lands of the Bible, I invite you now to “Come see where the Master lives.”
I am currently serving the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, DC, where I help promote the mission of the Holy Land Franciscans. I am editor of The Holy Land Review, a quarterly magazine which features information, history and inspiration about the places where Jesus and his apostles walked.
My Franciscan ministry has been primarily in communications. I have been a writer and media producer for many years, creating audio and video programs for broadcast, parish use and the Web. I’ve also served in the inner city as a pastor. You can find me doing Sunday reflections on the U.S. Bishops’ website, www.usccb.org, and on our Franciscan Monastery Facebook page.
From my experience as a pilgrim to the Holy Land, and one who’s spent a good deal of time there learning about the holy places and the work of the friars, I invite you to share my love of Scripture and of the places where Jesus walked—join me on a Franciscan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land!
Rev. Charlie Smiech, OFM was ordained in 1981, having more than 25 years experience in retreat ministry. He is well versed in Catholic tradition and Franciscan spirituality, offering deep spiritual guidance to assist groups and individuals mature in their faith. Fr. Charlie is “contemplative by nature”, however, his message is full of life and joy.
Fr. Smiech received his Masters of Divinity from Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York. He continued his studies in spirituality and preaching at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Ontario, and Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Illinois. In 2006, Fr. Charlie studied at the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas and St. Bonaventure University, New York. Over the years he has served as spiritual director and guardian at St. Francis Retreat House, Easton, PA. Beginning in 2012 Fr. Smiech served the Order as formation director in Chicago, Illinois. Presently, he is serving at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America, in Washington D.C. as an International Retreat Director and Chaplain to Holy Land Pilgrimages. In addition Fr. Smiech serves both religious men and women as well as priests, as confessor and spiritual director.
As a Franciscan Friar, Fr. Charlie has had the privilege over the years to preach and teach religious congregations, parish missions, retreatants, and Inter-faith conferences in Canada, Germany, India, Italy, Jamaica, Mexico, and Pakistan and throughout the Untied States of America.
Fr. Benjamin Owusu, OFM, is a Franciscan Friar from Ghana, in West Africa and has being living in the Holy Land since 1995. He was ordained a priest on June 29, 2002 in Jerusalem, where he was also trained. As a member of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land, Fr. Ben started his service in the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem and has served in many other shrines before dedicating himself to the service of pilgrims.
Fr. Ben has served in the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, the Visitation Church in Ein Kerem and the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter on the Sea of Galilee. He also served at St. Anthony Parish in Jaffa, Tel Aviv, where he ministered to migrant workers from the Philippines, India, Africa and other parts of the developing world. While in the parish he used to accompany the faithful to the various shrines so they could experience the Gospel in the land of Our Lord.
The monthly visits to the holy sites with the guest workers inspired him to accept the proposal to be at the service of the Italian pilgrims, then English, then French and now Spanish. After almost ten years of service to the many pilgrims, Fr. Ben has learned to understand and to appreciate the fact that our service to God’s people is not limited to the parish alone…and so he refers to his fellow friars in the ministry as “The one-week parish priests.” This service to pilgrims had been a faith-sharing experience and it has helped him to grow spiritually.