Pilgrimage to the Holy Land: A Remarkable Experience

Faith Libbe, OFS, Regional Representative for the Orlando Chapter of the FFHL, recently coordinated and led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with 43 individuals from the Orlando area. This was Ms. Libbe’s 12th journey to the Holy Land, and the 7th pilgrimage which she has coordinated and led. Below, Ms. Libbe shares some highlights from this most recent trip.

In Her own words…

A pilgrimage to the Holy Land is a remarkable experience. We were blessed to have Fr. Peter [President of the FFHL] as our guide, and visiting some of the FFHL programs with him was truly one of the highlights of the trip.

At the Bethlehem Boys Home, I was struck by the joy we could see within each of the boys. One boy in particular caught my eye right away. He was the smallest one and such a cutie, but Sr. Marie told me he was quite a handful, which quickly became very obvious! Boys will be boys, and – regardless of the loving guidance of Fr. Marwan and the staff – these boys were no different!

I so loved meeting the university students the Orlando chapter is sponsoring, and seeing Carine Koussa again. This was the third time I had met her. We have established a friendship over the years and I have been blessed to see Carine blossom more and more. The first time she was a bit shy. When I invited her to share her story with our pilgrimage group, she told me, “I will do what I do…I sing,” and she sang “Amazing Grace” to our pilgrims! She is a most gifted singer, and her song can be heard at the beginning of the video that we showed at our Orlando dinner that year. The second time, I was blessed to be invited out to eat with Carine’s entire family – her Mom, Dad and sister. They took me to a restaurant in Jerusalem, not far from where they live. This – the third time I’ve seen her – when asked to speak to our pilgrims, it was absolutely obvious that Carine has become a very well-spoken young lady.

In addition to those special times, though, I think being on the Sea of Galilee is always a highlight for pilgrims, especially those who are blessed to witness a sunrise or sunset. Needless to say, this touches the pilgrims deeply. It is easy for them to envision Jesus walking along the shore and feel His presence this very day.

Fr. Peter gave pilgrims an opportunity when visiting Capernaum to walk down to the Sea of Galilee and along its shoreline. This is where Jesus called His disciples, so Fr. Peter refers to the area as the “Calling Fields.” He asked pilgrims to be silent, reflecting on how the Lord was calling them, and what He might be asking them to do. It was such a beautiful sight to see the pilgrims sitting along the Sea of Galilee in deep thought, prayer, and reflection.

Of course, pilgrims were moved throughout the entire pilgrimage. Another highlight was having Holy Mass in the Tomb of Christ, and carrying a Cross along the Via Dolorosa. It was a very moving experience that touched my heart to the core.

Another highlight was gathering at the site of Jesus’ birth. No matter how many times I go, it is always so very moving. When we got down to the grotto, Fr. Peter began singing a beloved Christmas carol – I believe it was “Silent Night” – and it was so beautiful. It was truly awe-inspiring to realize exactly where I was standing…amazing!

As a Secular Franciscan, it is an honor and a joy to contribute to the Franciscan mission by coordinating pilgrimages to the Holy Land. I feel blessed to be able to bring folks to walk in the footsteps of Christ, and also to present pilgrims with the opportunity to learn about the plight of Christians in the Holy Land first hand.

Would you like to journey to the Holy Land?

The experiences Ms. Libbe describes are only a small sampling of the awe-inspiring sights, sounds, and spiritual moments which await the Holy Land pilgrim. If you’d like to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Fr. Peter Vasko, President of the FFHL, follow this link to learn more about our upcoming pilgrimages.