Home Christian Content Queensland pilgrims share ‘once in a lifetime’ journey to heart of Christianity

Queensland pilgrims share ‘once in a lifetime’ journey to heart of Christianity

Queensland pilgrims share ‘once in a lifetime’ journey to heart of Christianity


TWO dozen Queensland pilgrims walked the Holy Land in the footsteps of Jesus after their journey to World Youth Day Lisbon. 

The group organised by Townsville diocese journeyed to the holy sites after their pilgrimage to World Youth Day Lisbon.

Pilgrim Deirdre Martell, who has been a teacher for 43 years, said it was incredible to be at the sites of the Gospel stories, “to live it and see it firsthand”.

She said it “blew my mind” to walk the Via Dolorosa (“way of suffering”), the path Jesus travelled to His crucifixion.

Mrs Martell had also recently suffered a knee injury and was having difficulty with mobility.

This added an extra layer of spiritual depth to the journey, she said.

It also brought out a sense of gratitude for the “beautiful group of people” she was traveling with, who had helped her up countless flights of stairs and around Jerusalem.

Holy site: Dormition Abbey – Hagia Maria.

She said it had been an amazing experience.

Townsville diocese vocations director, communications officer and Caritas Australia diocesan director Neil Helmore said the pilgrimage was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” to “really break open these stories that I have heard growing up”.

“It was a true blessing to journey with my wife Kylie and gain a deeper understanding of the Holy Land and the struggles the people of Israel and Palestine deal with on a daily basis,” he said.

“I had no idea that many of these holy sites cause so much tension around access and use between Christians and Muslims.”

He said there had been many highlights, “from an unexpected invitation to participate with the Franciscans in their daily candle procession to the manger at the Church of the Nativity to renewing our wedding vows at the Wedding Chapel in Cana and our Baptism in the Jordan River”.

Melissa Puxty, assistant principal religious education at Good Shepherd Catholic College, Mount Isa, jumped at the opportunity to go on the pilgrimage.

“Being on the land that is so deeply connected to our faith for thousands of years, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own faith and feel closer to God,” she said.

“It felt as though God surrounded us with every step we took while we were there.”

Holy city: Jerusalem.

She said there were so many highlights like renewing her baptismal vows in the River Jordan, where Jesus was baptised.

“As a woman, I felt empowered going to the visitation site where Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth,” she said.

“God had worked through these to women to bring Jesus into the world. 

“Being at the site, it’s beautiful to remember the support, strength and hope that women offer each other, and their important role in this story.”

She said the chance to see the places of the Biblical story would help her when she returned to the classroom, especially having a greater understanding of the historical, geographical and cultural contexts.

Gerri Simpson, assistant principal religious education at Mother of Good Counsel Primary School Cairns North, said the pilgrimage was everything she expected and more.

“I loved the experience,” she said.

She said one highlight was visiting Bethlehem. 

“We visited the spectacular church of the Nativity, the oldest complete church in the Christian world (6th century), and the birthplace of Jesus,” she said.

“We bowed low and entered the grotto through the door of Humility, as we descended on the Holy Manger, we had the opportunity to touch a silver star on the floor which marks the actual spot where Jesus was born. 

“The star’s inscription reads in Latin ‘Hic de Virgine Maria Jesus Christus Natus Est’ (Here of the Virgin Mary Jesus Christ was born). 

“The church was packed and therefore you only have a short amount of time in the cave, it felt a little rushed but then we were lucky enough to be invited to stay for a prayer service due to another group not turning up. 

“Although this prayer service was not on the itinerary it was the absolute highlight for me.”

She said she would take back a renewed excitement to share the experience in her religion classes.



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