SEE WHAT OTHER PILGRIMS ARE SAYING ABOUT THEIR JOURNEY!
Mary Grace D.
[July 2023] My family and I feel so blessed that we went with the Franciscan Pilgrimage. Although there were 40+ in the group, Fr. Ben made it a personal experience to everyone. My husband, my son (23y/o) and I are on different levels in spirituality. So, we agreed prior to the trip to go at our own pace. At the beginning my son seemed to be lost. Before I knew it, he was following behind Fr. Ben and listening closely. He describes Fr. Ben as an icon. My husband is still in awe and is grateful for having gospel readings in every place connected to the Bible. I am just as grateful that I was able to focus on my own.
Homilies prior to entering and inside the churches and sites makes you feel the moments of Jesus’ life. Every place is not just another historical site or another church to see but truly becomes a walk with Jesus and Mama Mary. My wedding 25 years ago was small and uneventful, so that renewal of marriage vows in Cana is a gift I will cherish forever. And reaffirmation of the baptismal vows is an added special experience. [Having] the other Franciscan Friars welcoming us in different churches makes it more special and makes us a part of the Holy Land family. It is just a very special and life changing experience. I would have not done it any other way.
[July 2023] Fr. David’s knowledge, kindness and love for the tour and the people we encountered truly envelopes the Franciscan charism. The accommodations, the food and the fellowship were first class. I am still processing my experience and have felt a myriad of emotions for the Holy places we saw, the peoples we came across and the complexity of the Holy Land.
What I really appreciated was connecting my faith and the biblical stories that I have read and heard so often into real, tangible places….it helps me embody my Catholic faith in a new deeper way than I could not have imagined. Fr. David’s interactions with the many vendors selling their goods and the people at each site was a real testament to the Franciscan way of life.
Our time with Omar in Jordan and his wealth of knowledge and passion for his work made our [experience] in Jordan rich in history and connected us to the Old Testament in a very deep way.
The added blessing of our group, individuals from all walks of life and local, only added to the experience. The questions that arose and Fr. David’s patient, thoughtful answers and the ability to attend Holy Mass at all the locations has allowed me to close my eyes and reflect back to the time and place….that moves me deeply. Having returned and praying the Rosary, each mystery is experienced with such a deeper sense of knowledge, and experience that is so moving that the mysteries feel alive as I am saying them.
The complexity of the areas we visited has caused me to think much deeper and I thank God that the Franciscans secured and maintained those sites so that people like me can go and experience them.
June, 2023 – Seeing is believing. The pilgrimage gave me a great insight into the life of Jesus Christ; where he was born, where he performed his first miracle, where he preached the Gospel, and most importantly where he died, was buried, and rose again. Now I don’t have to imagine what Nazareth, Cana, Sea of Galilee, Mt Tabor, Garden of Gethsemane, and Calvary look like when I read the Bible. The pilgrimage has offered me a first-person view of each location and how they are interconnected. It also offered me and my family the opportunity to renew our wedding vows and baptismal promises at appropriate Biblical sites. Most importantly, the pilgrimage has drawn us closer to each other, and to Christ our Brother.
June, 2023 – I am thankful for the opportunity to go on a pilgrimage with my family. Visiting the Church of the Holy Sepulchre again after 11 years in thanksgiving for the gift of our daughter, Caroline, and to pray for her to be close to Jesus is something that I treasure. I was also deeply touched during the renewal of wedding vows with my husband at the Church in Cana where Jesus performed his first miracle. May Jesus continue to lead and guide our lives to fulfill His mission for us. Amen.
June, 2023 – The pilgrimage helped strengthen my spiritual life as I visited the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and touched the rock where Jesus was crucified on.
June 16th, 2023 – This trip was truly a dream come true! I am so glad that I did it, and that I chose to go with the Franciscans of the Holy Land. Our guide, Father Dave, is so nice and is an absolute expert on all things Israel. Not only did he understand the subject matter from a theological, historical, and archeological perspective, but he also understood it from a societal and political perspective. We were brought to every significant site in the Bible, both big and small, and had great adventures. We were given the opportunity to renew our Baptismal vows in the Jordan River, renew our wedding vows at Cana, sail on the Sea of Galilee, and we carried the cross along the Via Dolorosa, among other adventures. We had a second group leader from the U.S. who made sure everyone was taken care of and we got everything we needed. Also, the hotel choices were excellent, and the food was delicious!! I highly recommend taking a tour with the Franciscan Brothers, and I am looking forward to my next tour with them!
June 5, 2023 – We just returned from a phenomenal Pilgrimage to the Holy Land led by Fr. David Wathen. As the primary caretakers of the Holy Land sites, the Franciscans are uniquely qualified to lead tours. Fr. Wathen has years of experience in various positions throughout the Holy Land, even recently writing a book. Amusingly, everywhere we went, it seemed someone knew him. Two of my sons (13 and 19) accompanied my wife and I. All four of us thoroughly enjoyed this spiritual journey. Visiting the sites [that] we read about and where Jesus actually walked is an unparalleled experience. The travel arrangements were also excellent. The itinerary was well-planned. The hotels were all 4+ stars or better. The food was delicious and plentiful. And our driver, Levon, was experienced, safe, and proficient. If you ever have the chance to visit the Holy Land, don’t pass it up. I honestly can’t think of anyway our Pilgrimage could have been better.
This past November , we were blessed to have joined a pilgrimage to the Holy Land under the guidance of Fr. David Wathen with the Franciscans of the Holy Land. The experience was one of the high points of my life. Fr. David’s encyclopedic knowledge on the Sacred buildings in the Holy Land, his thorough explanation of the history and the territorial evolution of the area, his familiarity of Old Testament and historical data on every detail and his ability to connect the biblical passages to our lives made the gospels feel more real and more beautiful. He allowed special moments for us to linger and meditate, stimulating moments of contemplation and prayer.
All logistics with transportation went smoothly with Father Wathen, bus drivers, market vendors, souvenir shop owners and Holy site custodians all greeted Fr. Wathen warmly and with respect no matter their religious background. We felt safe and secure with Fr. David even when we visited Holy sites in current occupied territories and in the Palestine area. Fr. David also brought to light the presence and hardship of a Catholic minority in need of our support in those areas. I can’t recommend [Fr. David] any higher. He was a blessing during every day of our trip.
As an IATA travel agent, I specialized in organizing pilgrimages and cultural tours to the Holy land and other special destinations. Fr. David was always very helpful in all situations , very patient and connected well with each pilgrim. He has a deep understanding of the Bible and an extensive knowledge of this land. He has been guiding pilgrims before 1993 and many of my pilgrimages……With full confidence I recommend Fr. David Wathen [Franciscan Holy Land Friars] for your upcoming pilgrimage.
Marjorie and Ghislain G.
My wife Marjorie and I came to the Holy Land with the Knights of Malta. I am a knight and we had this trip planned for a couple of years only to have it postponed on account of the pandemic. We came not knowing what to expect, but with hearts and minds open to what God had in store for us. This pilgrimage led by Father David exceeded our expectations by a long shot. Father David was knowledgeable beyond belief. He made the holy sites come alive. At times we felt that we were walking with Jesus. The spirit was with us and Father David helped prepare our hearts and minds along this journey. It is a special blessing to have had the opportunity to have embarked on this pilgrimage. It was an even greater grace to have been led Father David. For those who are invited to take this journey. Please say yes.
Deacon Jim Prosser
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.