On Sunday morning, we arrived by bus at the Church of Dominus Flevit on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem.
We admired the beautiful panorama and had a group photograph taken. We continued then by foot downhill to the Church of All Nations, situated at the Garden of Gethsemene.
Holy Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly, Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly; Fr Francis Mitchell, Archdiocese of Tuam and Fr Ferghal Mc Grady, Diocese of Down and Connor.
Our Musical Director, Dame Mairéad Walls arranged for the signing of beautiful hymns, including Our Lady Queen of Heaven, the sound of which was enhanced greatly by the wonderful acoustic reverberations of the Church interior.
We then walked uphill to the nearby Cenacle ‘Upper Room’, the location where the Last Supper was celebrated by Jesus for his Disciples, the evening before His Crucifixion.
We were very fortunate to be welcomed by the Franciscan Friar Jakab Varnai, Custodian of the Church, who allowed us direct entry to the complex, on which is situated adjacent to the Upper Room, the Church of Dormition and Tomb of King David.
Leaving the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, we took a bus to Bethlehem to visit The Creche of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul, a refuge for abandoned children in the town where the Christ Jesus was born.
The Creche is less than a 15 minute walk to the Church of the Nativity.
Here we were warmly welcomed back by Sister Denise Abu Haider, Superior in Charge; Mr Iskandar Andon, the Social Worker and Mr George Tawil, the Administrator who coordinates and acknowledges all donations received.
Leading our pilgrimage group was Dame Veronica Holohan, DCHS who has an established relationship with the Creche, having collected substantial sums of financial donation through her volunteer knitting group in Dublin.
Iskandar, the Social Worker, briefed us on the current situation and allowed us the Blessed opportunity to greet the most recently arrived new born infant, who was abandoned 4 weeks ago.
As we toured the Creche we frequently met with Sr Denise, walking hand in hand with groups of toddlers with excited eyes and anticipated hope.
After a group photograph, we departed the Creche, reminded how fortunate we are each day not to be have been abandoned without the daily love, touch and companionship of one’s mother.
Departing the Creche is always emotional, but it helped that we were going straight to the special needs school Hogar Ninos Dios that welcomes disabled children in the Bethlehem area.
This home like The Creche, is located just a 10 minute walk downhill from The Church of the Nativity.
Waiting to greet us was the Mother Superior, Sister Ronces, from the Sisters of the Word Incarnate, of Argentinan descent.
Sister Ronces invited us to meet with the residents and staff, with whom we bonded immediately or should I say they bonded with us instantly, high five ✋ smiles, hugs freely exchanged.
Sister Ronces briefed us on their desperate situation and need for financial support.
The Staff, Children and Sisters literally pray each day for essential items:, food, personal hygiene materials, clothing, birthday presents, bills that need paying,
It was one of the highlights of our pilgrimage, to observe with humility and be grateful for what we have and what we can contribute towards.