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And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Fr Pat’s 50th Anniversary of Ordination Celebration

Holy Land Parish Pilgrimage 2014

27 April – 15 May 2014

“32 in a happy, holy, singing and praying bus to the Holy Land”

Our pilgrimage to Jordan, Israel and Palestine was a dream realised. It was organized by Scenic Travel from Singapore in conjunction with our parish leaders of St Christopher’s parish, Syndal. We walked in the footsteps of Jesus, had fantastic guides, drivers and enjoyed the love, care and fun that we had with each other.

In front of the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus was tempted after 40 days of prayer and fasting

In front of the Mount of Temptation, where Jesus was tempted after 40 days of prayer and fasting

“Yella, yella”, “shake a leg” were constant cries to get out of the bus and experience the places where Jesus lived, poured himself out for us and walked up and down tracks and steps. We realized the distances Jesus and the early disciples walked to preach and heal the crowds in every town and village. We went by bus.

Mass every day, in the very places where Jesus was, brought the place and the Gospels alive for us. The word “Here” in the Mass texts and in plaques made Jesus’ mystery and ministry very real for us. To return to four-star accommodation was a welcome end to each busy day.

Riding a camel in the desert

Riding a camel in the desert

The pilgrimage was well planned, giving us a mix of history and culture, archeology and scripture, leading us to the ever-present awareness of Jesus. We had to pinch ourselves that we were really here. Our two Catholic guides, one from Jordan and one in Palestine and our two Jewish guides enabled us to see so much that will take time to process.

Posing with Israeli military recruits at Masada

Posing with Israeli military recruits at Masada

They were passionate about their countries so we saw both sides of the tension from the border crossings to the Golan Heights. We prayed constantly for peace and for Pope Francis’ visit on May 24th. Pope Paul VI upon his election as pope went to Jordan, Israel and Palestine in 1964. Hence the 50th anniversary visit of Pope Francis at a critical time.

In the River Jordan

In the River Jordan

Arriving by plane to Amman, capital of Jordan, home to thousands of Palestinian refugees overlooked by a temple to Hercules, our guide was Hisham, a Jordanian Catholic. This was a constant feature: the changing of guides and drivers when in Jewish or Palestinian /Jordan parts of the country. We continued the Jordanian part of the pilgrimage to Madaba where there was a Byzantine mosaic map of the Holy Land from the 6th century in the Orthodox Church of St George.

The next day was spent in the UNESCO World Heritage site of Petra, an ancient Nabatean city carved out of the rock, and a key post of the silk road linking China, India and trade cities of the Mediterranean. After walking about 4 kilometers through a gorge, we suddenly saw it. Others of our group came on a carriage for three, driven at breakneck speed. There were many buildings carved out of the mountain, including Churches and a monastery up on the mountain, reached by 400 or 800 steps. An old man and his grand-daughter sang a hymn in one of the empty churches.

Bedouin musician in Petra

Bedouin musician in Petra

We had a meal in a bedouin desert camp called Wadi Rum where Lawrence of Arabia was filmed. The narrow guage railway built by the Kaiser for the Ottoman Empire was nearby. We got to the camp on the back of jeeps and had an experience of desert sands and a taste of Bedouin hospitality. Then on to Mt Nebo where Moses saw the Promised land. We remembered the words of Martin Luther King, “I have been to the mountain and seen the other side, but I won’t get there…” This place made a deep impression on a number of us.

At Herod's palace in Masada where Jews made their last stand against the Romans during their rebellion

At Herod’s palace in Masada where Jews made their last stand against the Romans during their rebellion

Down to Aqaba where we went by camel to meet Abraham, to hear the recounting of his journey from Ur and be treated to nomadic hospitality, and then crossing into Israel at Eilat with a Jewish guide and bus driver. From here we visited Masada, Herod the Great’s fortress by cable car, the scene also of the last stand of 960 men, women and children Zealots who killed themselves rather than fall into the hands of the 10,000 Roman army in 73 AD who after three years’ construction were approaching them on a colossal ramp. We proceeded to Jericho and the Mount of Temptation and were met by a biblical scene of two flocks of sheep led by their shepherds through the town.

We checked in at the Jacir Palace in Bethlehem, Palestine, changed guides had Mass in St Catherine’s church, visited the Church of the Nativity built by the Crusaders over the earlier church that Helena, Constantine’s mother, built over many sacred sites after the Edict of 313. The Persians destroyed these Byzantine churches in 600, the Crusaders rebuilt the places in the 11th century. The Franciscans have had the custody of the sites for 800 years, have rebuilt churches under the guidance of a brilliant Italian architect, Berlucci, and are now engaged in constant maintenance. We met a Fr Abrahim who runs an orphanage, a seminary and a parish. He talked to us about the situation of Palestinian Catholics who receive $50,000 annually from the Good Friday Appeal for the Holy places. He asked three things of us to promote prayer for peace, pilgrimage and projects that could help them.

We went to the Milk Grotto where tradition has it that Mary Feeding baby Jesus, spilt a drop of breast milk and it turned a rock white. While we were there we heard the Carmelite nuns praying the Office. Then we went on to the Shepherds Field approached through a nice tree shaded field to a church telling the story of the shepherds, hearing and telling the good news.

Celebrating Mass at the garden where Peter denied Jesus

Celebrating Mass at the garden where Peter denied Jesus

We drove to the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem. The churches were in use by various groups, so we said Mass in the Garden at Gethsemane. Later we returned to have a Holy Hour, joined by another Australian group of pilgrims, the muezzin sounding the Muslim call to prayer. Some places were being prepared for Pope Francis’ visit so we couldn’t go in, but we visited the church where Peter denied Jesus. As we said Mass a cock crowed. We spent three days in Jerusalem, leading the stations of the cross and taking turns to carry it – it was very moving because we had time to reflect and pray. During it a little girl ran up, touched our cross and made the sign of the cross.

Fr Pat putting his rosary on the stone where Jesus' body was laid and anointed with oil

Fr Pat putting his rosary on the stone where Jesus’ body was laid and anointed with oil

It led to the Sepulchre crowded with people. Time was limited and we moved on in faith despite the human elements. We knelt where Jesus died on the cross and put our hands to feel the rock, prayed where Jesus was hurriedly anointed on a nearby slab and placing rosaries or a cloth to touch it. We visited the Cenacle and prayed there, then moved on to the Church of the Visitation which we had to ourselves, time to pray the rosary. Our Jewish guide took us to the Holocaust Museum and to a memorial for children in complete darkness lit by five candles which were infinitely reflected by mirrors while the names of the children were spoken, and to a model of the second temple.

On Day 12 we came to Abu Gosh, Emmaus, to St Peter’ Church in Joppa where St Peter had a vision preparing him for meeting with Gentiles and the conversion of the centurion Cornelius at Caesarea, seat of the Roman governor. One stone in Caesarea bore the name Pontius Pilate. It had a hippodrome for chariot races and an amphitheatre. We ate there, and then visited the Carmelite monastery of St Elijah on Mt Carmel.

Renewing marriage vows at Cana

Renewing marriage vows at Cana

From there we went to Nazareth, the city of Jesus’ childhood and youth. Visited the church of the Annunciation, then on to Cana of Galilee where our married pilgrims renewed their wedding vows and drank the special wine of Cana. On day 15 we went to the mount of the Beatitudes, had Mass outside. God was so good to us, we only had rain at Cana when we were inside.

Celebrating Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes

Celebrating Mass at the Mount of Beatitudes

We went to Caesarea Philippi where Jesus asked “Who do you say I am” leading to Peter’s confession of faith, said Mass at the church of the Primacy of Peter where Pope Paul VI had come in 1964. We visited the Golan Heights and could hear the gunfire in nearby Syria only a kilometer away, then on to Tiberius from where we launched out on to the sea of Galilee. A most beautiful spot, no wonder Jesus loved it. We sang and danced on the boat. Our bus took us to Mt Tabor and then vans drove us to the very top along winding roads. Here was the Church of the Transfiguration designed by Berlucci in such a way that light through a rose window would light up the face of Jesus on August 6th.

Dancing in a boat on the Sea of Galilee

Dancing in a boat on the Sea of Galilee

We crossed back into Jordan to Gerasa a well-preserved Greco-Roman city where we heard bagpipes in an amphitheatre and orations by members of our group. We had a fun time at the Dead Sea, floating and covered with mud and then on to Amman for the journey home. It was a well-planned pilgrimage with real time to pray, share, be anointed, shop, take photos, eat and sleep. We have gained so much that has and will change our lives. It was a fantastic opportunity, a spiritual journey for all of us. We have taken great photos and hope to share them with you here on our parish website very soon.

- Fr Pat

More tour information


26 Responses to Home

  1. Sr Liz Tham Canossian Sister says:

    Congratulations Fr Pat on your 50 golden years of ministry as a Pallottine priest! Ad multos annos!

  2. Kenny Saunders says:

    Hi Fr Pat. I enjoyed being at St Chris this morning for Mass with The Lord, with You , and many friendly parishioners. Also stayed to pray the Rosary. I hope that the Rosary Light will be a bright inspiration for all . Some of the Churches, and even some private homes have the light burning 24/7 in their front windows. Perhaps it could be an inspiration to all who drive down Blackburn Rd.. It is nice to be remembered by friends clear across the globe !! Sincerely: Kenny Saunders-Pleasant Hill Ohio USA

  3. Charlotte Simpson says:

    Congratulation’s Pope Francis I
    March 13
    God Bless you

    • Fr Pat says:

      Charlotte, it was great to see your comment on our website. Pope Francis has certainly impressed me by his actions in regard to children with disabilities and to all the people he meets. Did you read Cassandra’s report on World Youth Day in Brazil. Three and a half million pilgrims were there and Pope Francis invited them to reach out to the poor. God bless you. Fr Pat

  4. peter says:

    Where are Sunday mass times posted on web-site?

    • John.Cooney@monash.edu says:

      Hi Peter,
      Sunday Mass Times are posted in our weekly Bulletin, under heading:
      “Bulletin & Other News” – in the right column.
      Kind Regards
      John Cooney

  5. This might appeal in particular to youth:


    God bless

  6. Sr. Marilyn Lim, Canossian Sister, Singapore says:

    Congratulations to Fr. Pat and the congregation of St. Christopher’s. The photos captured the joy and life of a well nurtured and spiritual community! May God continue to grow in each of you so that you will shine ever brighter with His Light and share His wisdom with our broken and disoriented world! Bravo!!!

  7. Daryl Mendes says:

    Sun morning/afternoon turned out really well with the jubilee celebrations. Really good numbers as well with past and present parishioners. It was good to see some of the teachers that I used to have when I went through St Christopher’s back in the late 80s/early 90s.

  8. I really enjoyed the Jubilee Mass and Festival yesterday. It was like a reunion. The photographic display is excellent and I have taken pleasure in congratulating the ladies responsible. St. Christopher’s is really a very special place.

  9. Edward Chhim says:

    St Christopher’s is the best. It was great being in the school and graduating on Wednesday. Thank you Mr Westwood, Mrs Axton and Fr Pat

  10. Ian Darmawan says:

    I had been a leader in Sunday School and it has been a good experience to meet the children and teach them about religion and manners. Overall, they are well behaved and friendly. I would like to acknowledge Sister Joy, principal of Sunday School, for creating this initiative since the 2000s. At Sunday School, we would have worksheets and games to expand children’s knowledge about theology and faith.

    What we leaders could do to improve Sunday School in 2011 and in the future is to teach them how to be friendly to others and being more respectful by using manners in everyday life. Our mission is to make Sunday School better by knowing Jesus better in the Scriptures. We leaders also need understand the needs of children and who they are by learning their names because Sunday School is also about growing friendships and that is what God expects us to do.

  11. Ryan CHONG says:

    SS is a place to have fun and learn at the same time! We learn about the Bible, make new friends and do little worksheets to help us remember what we learned.

  12. I love being a part of the sunday school. Every sunday before the 10:30 am mass, my little brother and I attend sunday school. There we get to learn a lot of things about the bible, mass, and so much more. We are now learning about Mary MacKillop, Australia’s first saint. I also made lots of new friends in Sunday school whom are really really nice.

  13. Ryan Fynn says:

    Sunday School is the best, we do worksheets and sometimes you have quizzes like me. I have a quiz on the 7th of November and everyone is a friend to you and you will learn a lot about Jesus and God.

  14. Jessica Fernando says:

    It is a great priviledge to be a member of the St. Christopher’s community. I am also an ex-student of St. Christopher’s School. I now study at Avila College. As part of the parish I am in the Children’s Choir and Alter Serving. I enjoy both these activities. It is a great pleasure being a part of such a wonderful community.

    • Fr Pat says:

      Jessica, I love to have you as server and in the choir. Sometimes it’s hard to be in both at the same time, but work on it. Pallotti did!

      • Lauren Quek says:

        I graduated from one to the other but there was a time that i was doing both alter serving and Contemporary Music Group/Now Trinity. I also went to Avila College. Come and join us in Trinity. Rehearsals are normally Tuesday nights at 8.00pm.

  15. Joella Fernando says:

    It is great being a parishioner of St. Christopher’s Church Syndal. Also, I am a student of St. Christopher’s Primary School. I am a member in the Church Altar serving group and the Children’s choir. I am really proud of being a part of St. Christopher’s parish.
    “Repent and believe the good news.” Mark 1:15

    • Joy Shelley says:

      Jessica, Avila! Lots of Home-Work… It must be rough and tough on your Saturdays and Sundays. Do you know why! ….because the rest are weak-days!

    • Fr Pat says:

      Joella, we have your smiling face at St Christopher’s school. We’re gonna miss you.

  16. Kelly says:

    It was quite fun this morning performing in the band for our church service. Even if I’m not a part of the church congregation, I can still feel comfortable collaborating with the music group and contribute to the Sunday service. This is also a great chance for us students to get upon the stage and improve our ability of music performance in this ensemble. We hope that more and more people would like to join this and contribute your lovely music! :D

    • Joy Shelley says:

      Bravo Kelly! Glad to hear your happy note! as if wealth for you is not in what we have but in what we enjoy…The 15 of you in the Children’s Choir and Band seemed to have brought out the best in each. Jonathan’s soprano was superb!

  17. John.Cooney@monash.edu says:

    We can set up the necessary accounts for this to occur, for sure! But please note that all content is moderated prior to it appearing.

  18. Joy Shelley says:

    Sunday School would like to tweet our Homework here!! Even though we don’t understand all that HTML…jargon below nor can we comprehend anything beyond writing and drawing on a Sunday School worksheet!!! But this will be handy for our Round Table leaders to let us have their comments fast. We need to hear lots good things about what we do fast, as fast as we are growing up each new day! So Can we?? Or is this space only for grown-ups?? We hope some people will shout out loud for us!!

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