The seminarians prayed together as they sailed on the Sea of Galilee.
Once during his time in formation, each seminarian at Immaculate Conception Seminary (ICS) is blessed to participate in a decades-old ICS tradition of journeying to the Holy Land.
On December 27, a group of 28 priests and seminarians embarked on this 12-day pilgrimage to Israel. Occurring every three years and made possible through the generosity of Seminary benefactors, the trip was led by four Seminary professors: Fathers Chris Ciccarino, Pablo Gadenz, and James Platania, all of whom teach courses in Biblical Studies, and Father Fred Miller, who teaches courses in Systematic Theology and is the spiritual director of St. Andrew's College Seminary.
Seminarians Greg Zannetti and Carlo Santa Teresa pose in front of the Jordan River.
After the flight to Tel Aviv, the pilgrimage began by visiting sites along the coast of the Mediterranean, such as Caesarea Maritima and Mount Carmel. Several days were spent in the region of Galilee in the northern part of Israel, visiting places such as Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Magdala, and the Mount of Transfiguration. Daily Mass was celebrated at various sites, and at each of the sites visited, the seminarians took turns reading the biblical passages associated with that location, after which the professors would give an explanation and exhortation.
Seminarian Andrew Prickel recalls the experience of reading from Scripture at the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter, where Jesus had visited His disciples after His resurrection. He reflects: "(Through) Scripture (we) were reminded that following the Passion of Jesus, Peter returned to his trade of fishing because that is what he knew previously. Jesus came back to tell him that He still wanted him to spread the mission of the Church and be His shepherd, even though he had failed Him in his greatest hour of need during the Passion. I received great consolation in my vocation; it showed that even in my weakness and faults, where there is a true call, the Lord will help me through and not give up on me."
Father Pablo Gadenz teaches at the Church of the Primacy by the Sea of Galilee, a small church built right by the water.
A highlight during the first part of the trip was the boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, where the group read Scripture, sang hymns, and prayed together as they recalled how Jesus had called His first disciples from among fishermen there.
The second part of the trip was centered on Jerusalem in the southern part of the country. On the way there, the group renewed their baptismal promises at the Jordan River. In nearby Bethlehem, the group spent a day visiting the place of Jesus' birth as well as the shepherds' fields. Several days were spent in Jerusalem praying at the sites associated with Jesus' Passion, death, and resurrection. During that time, they prayed the Stations of the Cross through the Old City of Jerusalem, ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site of both Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. "Both at the site of the Crucifixion and the Way of the Cross, we were reminded of God's unfathomable love for each and every one of us," says seminarian Greg Zannetti. "Truly the greatest love story ever was accomplished here. We pray that all of us may be able to give ourselves completely to Our Lord Jesus Christ as He did for us in His Passion."
Other sites visited included Qumran, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered; the Western or Wailing Wall at the ruins of the Temple in Jerusalem; and the Holocaust museum in the modern part of Jerusalem. The group finally returned home on January 8.
At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the seminarians venerated the stone that sat at the foot of Jesus' cross.
"For the seminarians, the prayerful and educational experience of walking where Jesus walked is an important part of their overall training to be priests," says Father Gadenz. "The Holy Land has often been called 'The Fifth Gospel' because, like the four Gospels in the New Testament, it helps us discover the life of Jesus. Indeed, the Bible comes alive when one can experience the land in which the events took place. Many of the seminarians comment that they will never read the Bible the same way again and that the experience will assist them in their future ministry as priests as they preach on the Gospels at Sunday Mass."
Categories: Faith and Service