Fr. Stephen Smith and Dcn. Steve Petrill and many parishioners were on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, Assisi, Rome, and The Vatican from December 5-17, 2019.

December 17, 2019

Dear friends:

I write this to you on the plane home from our wonderful pilgrimage. We are due to arrive back in Columbus around 11:30 this evening.

Our last day in Rome was one we will never forget. We started out the day with Holy Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Fr. Smith received the honor of saying mass for us at the altar and tomb of St. John Paul II.

Following Mass, we took some time to tour the Basilica before heading out to have breakfast. It was nice to have a good amount of time in the morning free so we could get things organized and begin packing.

We had an appointment to tour the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. We spent about 3 hours working through the wonderful works of art held within the Vatican City-State.

Following this, we had one more stop to make before heading back to the hotel: St. Paul Outside the Walls.

This is one of the four major basilicas in Rome. We spent about 45-minutes touring the beautiful Basilica before heading back.

For dinner this night, we ordered several take away pizzas and enjoyed them together on the rooftop terrace with some local wines.

We are grateful for your prayers during this pilgrimage. We are all spiritually renewed!

May God continue to bless each of you and all members of St. Joan of Arc!

Until next time,

Fr. Smith, Dcn. Steve and the pilgrims

December 14, 2019

Greetings all!
We have arrived in Rome for the final leg of our pilgrimage. We checked into the beautiful Hotel Archangelo near the Borgio Pio just around the corner from St. Peter’s square.
After arrival and check in, we walked to a nearby pizzeria for a much anticipated lunch. Following lunch we walked to the metro station to begin our journey into the city. We stopped at many beautiful sites such as St. Ignatius and the site where St. Maximilian Kolbe offered his first Mass.
We then traveled to the Trevi Fountain where the pilgrims were able to throw their coins in and look at the magnificent sculptures.
Following our time at the Trevi, we headed to the famous Pantheon, a now Catholic Church commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). It was completed by Emperor Hadrian near the year 126 AD.
The Pantheon still stands and is in use today.
Following our sightseeing near the Pantheon, the pilgrims headed to the beautiful church of  San Luigi dei Francesi (St. Louis of France). This beautiful church built in the mid 1500s, contains many of the beautiful Caravaggio paintings, such as my personal favorite – the calling of St. Matthew.
Following this, we traveled to the most famous Piazza in the world: The Piazza Navona. Here we saw the beautiful Four Rivers fountain and St. Anne’s in Agony church.

After a long day of walking and traveling, we then made our way to dinner where we had a wonderful lasagna and tried local wines.

Following dinner, several of the pilgrims then made our way to St. Peter’s Square to see the beautiful nativity and gorgeous Vatican Christmas Tree. Our last day in Rome, we will tour the museums and have mass at St. Peter’s.
We then walked back to the hotel, exhausted but fulfilled to rest for the next day. Tomorrow, we will have Sunday Mass at Santo Spirito in Sassia within the Vatican Walls and tour two of the four major basilicas – St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran.
God bless,
Fr. Smith, Deacon Steve and the pilgrims

December 11, 2019

“Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised.” Matthew 28:5-6

This Scripture verse really sums up our last day in the Holy Land.

We began by traveling into the Old City by way of the Jaffa Gate into the Christian Quarter. Walking through the city was quite amazing – we were able to experience a little of the local life as we journeyed to our first stop: the Holy Sepulchre.

This church encompasses the rock of Calvary and the tomb were Jesus was laid. We spent several hours in this magnificent church, beginning with Holy Mass in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, a mere steps from the tomb of Jesus.

This moment was quite emotional for us.

Following mass, we joined the line which would allow us entry into Our Lord’s tomb. The wait was about an hour, but it was worth it! We were able to go in four at a time. First to the outer tomb where the family would have gathered and then to the inner tomb where Jesus would have laid. There is a small slab of stone which marks the spot.

We then traveled to the chapel of St. Helena within the Holy Sepulchre – here we were reminded of all that St. Helena did to preserve the artifacts of Christianity during the time of her son’s, Emperor Constantine, rule. It was because of her faith, devotion and prayers that Constantine legalized Christianity in the Roman Empire and later made it the state religion.

We then ascended the stairs to the rock of Calvary, where we were able to kneel under the Greek Orthodox altar and place our hands were Jesus was crucified. As you can imagine, the solemnity of this moment was second to none. Here, we lit candles for those who asked us to pray for them on this pilgrimage. The people of St. Joan of Arc was one of our intentions.

There we gathered for private prayer before descending the steps to the place where Jesus was anointed after being taken off the cross.

Following our visit to the Holy Sepulchre, we walked throughout the city into the Jewish Quarter for some last minute shopping and lunch. The meals in the Holy Land have been absolutely spectacular!

After about an hour break for lunch, we set off again through the Jewish Quarter to the Western (wailing) Wall. Here, we followed the Jewish custom and approached the wall for prayers. This wall is at the base of the Temple Mount, where Jewish faithful pray for the restoration of the temple.

Some of the pilgrims left a paper prayer intention or two within the cracks of the wall. This is a custom held by Jews and Christians alike.

We then journeyed back through the city and began our walk through the Via Dolorosa (the way of the cross). It was this journey that Jesus himself made some 2,000 years ago, carrying the cross on the way to Calvary.

Many were surprised that this way was through the bustling city, amongst the merchants and shops. It was interesting to see how life just carried on in the city as pilgrims would stop and pray the stations.

We ended up at the place where Pilate condemned Jesus, where our Lord was scourged and proclaimed “King of the Jews.” In this place, we were able to walk on the same flooring that Pilate would have walked and we saw the place where the centurions would have cast lots.

Walking the city streets was exhausting for us all, so here in this place we reflected for a moment on the exhaustion Christ would have felt.

We finished the day by visiting the beautiful church of St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. This crusader church is renown for its acoustics – the pilgrims here sung a song or praise to Our Lord. This beautiful church sits just opposite the medicinal baths where Jesus cured the sick man. In the Gospels we read that Jesus told the sick man to take up his mat and walk. This healing was done on the sabbath, which was the direct cause of the Pharisees desire to put Jesus to death.

It’s amazing as we finish up our last day in the Holy Land to reflect on the ministry of Jesus in Galilee, culminating in the Passion of Our Lord on Calvary. The pilgrims have experienced a life changing event as we walked in the footsteps of the Messiah.

Tomorrow we take our leave of this beautiful place and travel to Italy, where we will experience how what happened here in the Holy Land 2,000 years ago, changed the course of history forever.

Please pray for safe travels.

God Bless,

Fr. Smith, Deacon Steve and the pilgrims

December 10, 2019

“The child is born…”

Greetings all:

Our day today focused on the life of Jesus was well as the beginning of his Passion.

Our tour led us first to the church of Dominus Flevit.

According to the 19th chapter of Luke, Jesus, while riding toward the city of Jerusalem, became overwhelmed by the beauty of the Second Temple and predicting its future destruction and the diaspora of the Jewish people, weeps openly.

We then made our way toward Jerusalem, traveling the way Jesus did on his triumphal entrance into the holy city.

We came upon the Garden of Gethsemane, where we spent some time in prayer and reflection.

We entered the beautiful church opposite the garden that encompasses the rock upon which Our Lord sweat blood. It was here, in the midst of the garden, that Jesus was betrayed.

We then traveled to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, where Jesus was imprisoned before he was presented to Pontius Pilate. We were able to visit the cell where Jesus is believed to have been held.

We were overwhelmed by the beauty of this site and the importance it has in the history of Christianity.

We then traveled back up to Bethlehem where we visited the field where the shepherds heard the news of the birth of our Savior.

This beautiful field allowed us to experience, for but a moment, what the shepherds would have experienced.

We were able to visit some caves that shepherds of the time would have lived in. These are now chapels where mass can be offered.

The climax of the day was our visit to the Church of the Nativity, a Greek Orthodox Church that encompasses the place where Christ was born and laid in the manger. We had the opportunity to kiss the silver star that marks the spot!

We then had Holy Mass in the neighboring Roman Catholic Church, St. Catherine, to remember the moment.

Our day was filled with spiritual wonder and awe, and we appreciate your continued prayers for us!!

God Bless,

Fr. Smith, Deacon Steve and the pilgrims

December 9, 2019

“A day of rain…” — Jerusalem

Greetings all!

As you can see from the title, today was a day of deluge. We had rain from the moment we woke, till the moment we went to bed. That didn’t hamper us (too much)!

We started off the day early, traveling first to the city of Bethany, where Jesus raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. We toured the beautiful church and had the opportunity for Holy Mass.

Following this, we attempted to travel to Masada near the Dead Sea. Unfortunately, the rain waters from Jerusalem came down and flooded out the road. We did a scary u-turn on the mountain in our large bus and decided to travel to the Jordan River.

The pilgrims here renewed their baptismal promises and had an opportunity to meditate on the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist — this was the closest to the Jordanian boarder we were able to get.

We made our way to Qumran, where we looked upon the caves where the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls took place. Following a lengthy and informative tour, we had lunch.

We then made our way to the first of two stops in Bethlehem. Tomorrow we will have Mass there, but today, we shopped!

We were greeted in Bethlehem by overflowing streets and mudslides because of the amount of rain, but we made it!

Once we arrived, we were given a tour of the family staffed area where they make and sell true olive wood works of art. This was a good stop for our pilgrims to support the +/- 2% Christians that inhabit the West Bank.

After a lengthy time here we headed back to our hotel for a time of prayer and fraternity. Tomorrow we will celebrate Holy Mass in Bethlehem and make our entrance into the old town of Jerusalem.

We continue to pray for you — please remember us in your prayers!

Fr. Smith, Deacon Steve and the pilgrims

December 8, 2019

Dear friends,

Today was our last day traveling through Galilee.

We began first by traveling to Cana where the wedding miracle took place. It is here we see the powerful intercession of the Blessed Mother for those who come to her.

We had a chance to do some wine tastings and many of us bought a bottle to bring home.

Our married couples had the opportunity to renew their wedding vows, which was an amazing experience!

Following Cana, we traveled to Nazareth, the home town of the Holy Family. We toured the church that surrounds the house of the Blessed Virgin. After spending some time and contemplation in the lower church, we joined for a while those who were celebrating Holy Mass in the upper church. Mass was in Arabic, but we could follow the flow.

We toured the Nazarene marketplace as we journeyed to visit the Greek Orthodox Church where the stream by which the Blessed Mother would have gathered water begins.

After this, we made our way to another nice restaurant for an early lunch. We had a wonderful array of chicken, fish and rice and the much anticipated Arabic Coffee.

Following lunch, we made the trek to Mount Tabor where Jesus was Transfigured before Peter, James and John. We could only go half way up on the large bus, so we split into 3 groups and took the 2-mile steep and curvy road up to the beautiful church. Here we had Holy Mass.

We then made our way back to the busses and took off for Jericho – the oldest city continuously inhabited in the world. Jericho is at the foot of the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus allowed himself to be tempted for 40 days. Jericho, in the Bible,  is where Jesus met Zaccheaus and called him down from the sycamore tree and healed the blind beggar.

We stopped in Jericho for a bit of shopping and to taste the famous dates.

We then made our ascent to Jerusalem. Praying the Psalms of ascent as we traveled (Psalms 120-134). This was a very spiritual experience: the left the bus in silence as we contemplated the upcoming passion of Our Lord.

Finally, we arrived at our home for the next several days, the beautiful Ambassador Hotel. We enjoyed a nice dinner and some fraternity before heading to bed. Thanks for walking and praying this journey with us!

God Bless,

Fr. Smith, Deacon Steve and the pilgrims

December 7, 2019

“You are Peter…”

My dear friends, today we continue on the second day of our pilgrimage in the Holy Land.

We begin with a large breakfast in our hotel, waking up on the beautiful Sea of Galilee.

Following breakfast we journeyed a short distance to the Primacy of Peter, whereupon Jesus told the Apostle to throw his net to the other side. “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (cf Mark 1:17).

Here we had an outdoor Mass. This was especially moving as we had the Sea of Galilee as our background. Hearing the waves crash upon the shore was second to none.

Following Mass, we had an opportunity to take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. As we took in the sites from the sea, we reflected upon the importance of the water in the ministry of Jesus.

After that, we journeyed up to the Mount of Beatitudes where we hear Jesus call us to action: “blessed are you…”

We then had an opportunity to visit Capernaum, where Peter’s mother-in-law was healed by Jesus. Capernaum is significant in the ministry of Jesus as it is where Jesus would have stayed during his ministry in Galilee. In the Gospel, it is here that we meet Levi, the tax collector, as well as Peter, James, John and Andrew, who likewise leave their nets to follow the Master.

Following our visit to Capernaum, we stopped for lunch at the famous Caffe Vero, where we enjoyed “St. Peter’s fish.”

After lunch, we drove about an hour away to Caesarea Philippi, until 1967, the area of the Golan Heights was in Southern Syria.

Here we see the place where the Jordan River begins as well as the very place where Jesus proclaimed to Peter: “You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” (cf. Matthew 16:18).

The cave by where we stand in our group photo was believed by the Greeks and Romans to be the entrance to the gates of hell.

We finished the evening off with a nice drive back to the hotel, evening prayer, dinner and some fraternity. Stay tuned, tomorrow we travel to Jerusalem!

Fr. Smith, Deacon Steve and the Pilgrims

December 6, 2019

We have arrived in the Holy Land!

After a long flight and an interesting time at the airport in Tel Aviv, we finally made it to our bus and traveled to Mount Carmel where we had mass.

Following our short trip to Mount Carmel, we stopped and had a wonderful lunch prepared in a family styled restaurant.

After enjoying our much anticipated lunch, north along the Mediterranean crossing over the country valley near the Jordan.

We finally arrived at our hotel, Tabgha, on the northwestern coast of the Sea of Galilee.

Please continue to join us in prayer and know we’re praying for you!

Fr. Smith, Deacon Steve and the Pilgrims

December 5, 2019

Greetings all! We’ve arrived at John Glenn International Airport in Columbus. All of us have made it through security and are awaiting our flight to Tel Aviv with a layover in Newark!

I’ll let you know when we arrive!

God Bless,

Fr. Smith, Deacon Steve and the Pilgrims