I had very high expectations for our pilgrimage in Jan., 2017, but my expectations were all exceeded! This Order of Franciscans are the Custodians of the Holy Land, which means Fr. David Wathen, who has been doing this pilgrimage ministry for over 20 years (and was personally recommended by my Bishop) is the perfect tour guide. Fr. David had Mass every day, many on the most holy sites, provided a wealth of background information (including spiritual, geographical and cultural), and had the experience and savvy to provide perfect planning, beautiful buffet meals and clean accommodations. It all came together to give us a seamless, overwhelming experience that left us overloaded every evening with new insights and dramatic observations. This trip should be on the top of everyone’s bucket list.
We recently came back from our Holy Land Pilgrimage on Jan 11th to Jan 19th, 2017 and it was one of the most memorable and enriching trips we took as a family. It felt so surreal walking on the land that our Lord walked on and see things with our very own eyes… the places that we only use to read in the Bible and hear about in stories. Father David Wathen was an amazing guide. He made all of the stories come alive with his in-depth knowledge of the sites while we were visiting the different notable spots. He was also the perfect guide because he never seemed to rush the group. We were always at a comfortable pace and one of the greatest blessings was that he somehow always knew when to go to a site because there was never a crowd. Sometimes we would be the first ones there. The morning mass we had at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, by the 13th station, our group was literally the only ones there along with a group of nuns who joined us for the mass. There was hardly any traffic either everywhere we went, which was amazing! Our tour driver, Telly, was also the best . Prior to getting to the Holy Land, I was in touch with Maureen Shepherd and Elsa White who were both very nice and most importantly very patient in answering all of our questions. Overall, our experience with the Holy Land Franciscan Pilgrimages, George’s International Tours and George Garabedian & Co. was amazing!
Going to the Holy Land was a dream. I traveled alone, but never felt lonely since I met beautiful people, and everybody in Israel speaks English, and surprise…Spanish too. Father David was a fantastic travel and spiritual guide. There were so many places that we visited. I fulfilled myself with a lot of spiritual, educational and cultural experience. Having mass every day was great. It did recharge my spirit. Jerusalem is from another world, so different and full of ancient places, and culture. Also, I felt our Lord Jesus so close. If I have to describe my traveling to Israel I would say that it was an unforgettable, unique, and indescribable experience where I got close to the Lord and Virgin Mary. I am looking forward to travel with Franciscan in the near future.
The Franciscan Pilgrimage experience provided my husband and I an authentic Holy Land memories that I can say truly reflected what a pilgirmage should center on—-an undertanding of the Israel as a special land chosen to be in God ‘s plan in man’s history and timeline , a unique spot in eternity whe His holy will reflected in his begotten Son would come and bring the everlasting message of love and redemption.
We recently returned from our Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in September. This was the most wonderful trip of our lives. We learned so much from Father Benjamin. We learned about the history of the land where our Lord lived, and our spirituality was extremely heightened. We always felt safe and we were blessed to have him as our spiritual leader and guide. We all loved him. Will definitely go back again.
I love the Franciscans…I am a parishioner of St. Barbara Old Mission…they’re so hospitable, welcoming, humble and they can bring theology to whatever level in very humble, action oriented ways…Bless you! I was in Holy Land last May 2014, and Franciscan custodians led us inside HOLY SEPULCHER with Te Deum singing and surrounding us before it closed for the arrival of Pope Francis….memories etched in my mind…one Franciscan took my prayer list to their sanctuary after I touched it to the Holy Sepulcher….thanks again, Peace and blessings!….
I have traveled on memorable pilgrimages led by Fr. David Wathen, including the Holy Land and Italy. Each journey has given me renewed inspiration and increased devotion, thanks to Fr. Wathen’s expertise and guidance. He has the gift to make these holy sites come alive for each one of the pilgrims, no matter their background or station in life. He welcomes each person to walk in Jesus’ footsteps, leading with a kind and humble Franciscan example. Fr. Wathen’s deep knowledge and love for the shrines makes for an unforgettable, rich spiritual experience.
The pilgrimage to the Holy Land was a truly amazing experience. As an ordained Catholic priest, I have studied, meditated on, and heard other’s stories about the Holy Land, and I thought that I had a pretty good grasp of what it was going to be like.My experience however, was above and beyond my expectations. You cannot truly interiorize the sights, the sounds, and the feelings of the Holy Land without actually being there. Fr. David as our pilgrimage leader also made the trip that much more enjoyable and interesting, with his vast knowledge of the history of the Holy Land sites, as well as what was currently happening there. I am continuing to reap good fruit from my Holy Land experience that is directly affecting and strengthening my priesthood. I consider myself very lucky and blessed to have been able to go.