Holy Land January 2016

Tour Day 11, Jan 17

Elah Valley, Emmaus, Jaffa ~  After we checked out of the hotel, we began our last day in Israel. We traveled through Old Testament lands to the Elah Valley where David slew Goliath (Samuel 17.) Mass was at a site associated with ancient Emmaus, the Roman city of Emmaus Nicopolis, where we remember how Jesus’ revealed Himself to those who walked on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35.) Our last visit was to the ancient port of Jaffa (Joppa.) This is the city of Jonah’s defection (Jonah 1:3) & Peter’s vision (Acts 10:5-9) at the home of Simon the Tanner- one of the oldest cities in the world. It is a city of partings & departure & is where we said our good-byes before heading to the airport to drop off those heading home. Back to the hotel for the group heading for Jordan tomorrow.

Tour Day 10, Jan 16

Today we drove down toward the Dead Sea for Mass at Qasar El Yehud, renewing our baptismal vows at the wilderness part of the Jordan River where John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Mark 1:9-11.) Next we stopped at En Gedi, a natural spring where David hid from Saul (1 Samuel 26). Jeff used the natural surroundings to illustrate his talk. Next we headed to Masada, the wilderness palace fortress built by Herod the Great. The final suicidal stand of the Jews against the Romans took place here in 73 AD. We took the gondola to the top where we toured this amazing site & heard the even more incredible story. We ended the afternoon at a Dead Sea beach to take a float in this unique body of water. The mineral rich waters are so buoyant that it seems more like bobbing than floating! Tonight was our farewell dinner and each bus presented a song or skit to prove they were the best bus. Blue bus won! 





Tour Day 8, Jan 14

St Anne’s Basilica & the Pools of Bethesda, Via Dolorosa, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jewish Quarter, Western Wall, Ein Kerem ~ This morning we started with a teaching by Jeff near the Pools of Bethesda and then to nearby Church of St. Anne where the acoustics make songs echo beautifully. Then we entered the Old City through the Lion’s or St. Stephen’s Gate to walk through the 14 stations of the Via Dolorosa, Christ’s route to the Cross, meditating at each & ending at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where we had mass. After lunch we headed for nearby Ein Kerem, where John the Baptist was born, to visit the Church of the Visitation (Luke 1:46-55.)  This lovely hilltop church displays the Magnificat in many languages of the world.

Tour Day 7, Jan 13

Temple Mt Area, Southern Steps of Temple Mount, City of David, Pool of Siloam, Mt Zion, Caiaphas’ house ~  We began today at the Temple Mount area, where we saw the evidence of the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in 70 AD. We gathered at the Southern Steps of the Temple Mount to hear Jeff speak about the topic of mercy. Leaving the Old City through the Dung Gate, we walked to the slope just below where the City of David is located, the oldest part of Jerusalem. Recent excavations have revealed the Pool of Siloam (John 9:1-12) in the area of the Springs of Gihon & Hezekiah’s Tunnel, part of the original water source for ancient Jerusalem. We walked down through the dry areas of the tunnels, coming out at the Pool of Siloam. After lunch we had Mass at the church that recalls Peter’s denial on the night Jesus was betrayed, St. Peter in Gallicantu (Matthew 26:69-75). The church is built over the High Priest Caiaphas’ home (Matthew 26:57), where Jesus was held that same night. Tonight Emily Cavins presented an orientation to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, including the history & layout of this important structure.

Tour Day 6, Jan 12

Mount of Olives, Church of the Ascension, Dominus Flevit Chapel, Gethsemane, Mt Zion, Upper Room, Israel Museum, Shrine of the Book, Model of 1st Century Jerusalem ~  A group of early birds once again walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre before breakfast. Then all together we viewed Jerusalem from the Dominus Flevit Chapel, a name referencing “Jesus Wept” (John 11:35) built on the Mount of Olives. Jeff spoke on the topic of suffering and then we walked down along the Palm Sunday way, to the base of the Mount and entered the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36) & the Church of the Agony (also known as the Church of All Nations), where we attended mass at the rock where Jesus prayed before He was taken. After lunch we drove to Mt. Zion to visit the Upper Room and then finished the afternoon at the Israel Museum and 1st Century Model of Jerusalem. 

Tour Day 5, Jan 11

Bethlehem, Shepherds' Fields ~  A small group of early risers walked to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the hotel to see it quite and peacful. Then the whole group headed to visit Bethlehem & meet our local Christian guides. Mass was held at the Church of St Catherine’s beside the Church of the Nativity. After touring the church we did some shopping at a Christian owned olive wood shop, ate lunch at a fun location called the Groot that overlooks the Shepherds' Fields. Excavations in the area of the fields have revealed churches & evidence of 1st century occupation of caves in the Shepherd's Village. Jeff taught about Mary, Mother of Mercy. 

Tour Day 4, Jan 10

Mt Tabor, Bet Shean, Judean Wilderness, Qumran, Jerusalem ~ After an early start, we ascended Mt Tabor for mass in the lovely Basilica of the Transfiguration, the site of Christ’s Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 9:2-13; Luke 9:28-36.). Then we departed the Galilee through the Jordan Valley. We toured Bet She’an, a Roman city that has been restored enough to see the excavations of the streets & shops as they originally were.  It lies beside the Old Testament tel (Joshua 17; Judges 1; I Samuel 31:10-12) from the days when Saul was king. We stopped at Qumran, to see where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, before we turn west toward Jerusalem. Our first view of the Golden City was from a promenade where we will shared the traditional Jewish Shechuyanu blessing with bread and wine and the view of a beautiful sunset.

Tour Day 3, Jan 9

Boat Ride of Sea of Galilee, St. Peter Primacy, Capernaum, Caesarea Philippi, Tel Dan, Mt Hermon, Golan Heights, Ancient Boat ~   We started the morning with a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee. The rain stopped and the sun is out! Next we stopped at St. Peter Primacy and took a moment to pray a blessing on our 5 wonderful priests. Then we toured Capernaum and also had mass at the Church of St. Peter built over his house and then had a time for praying for the sick. After a talk by Jeff in the ancient synagogue, we drove north to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter first identified Jesus as the Messiah & Jesus announced Peter's role in the church (Matthew 16:17-19.) We took a quick look at the ancient gates of the city at Tel Dan and returned to the Sea of Galilee to the visit a small gift shop and museum that hold the Ancient Boat, one that was discovered in the early 80's from the time of Christ.  We topped off the evening with a fish dinner!



Tour Day 2, Jan 8

Nazareth, Cana, Kfar Kedem ~  Today we toured the area west of the Sea of Galilee. We started with a visit Cana, where Jesus performed His first recorded miracle at the wedding feast (John 2:1-11,) turning water into wine.  Couples renewed wedding vows in the church. When we got to Nazareth, we were greeted by a record rain of 5 inches! We had Mass at the Church of the Annunciation built over the Grotto of the Annunciation, thought to be Mary’s girlhood home. We visited Joseph’s workshop beneath St Joseph’s Church. For lunch we stopped at Kfar Kedem where we experience life firsthand in the time of Jesus. Because of the rain we headed back to the hotel to dry off! Today is the eve of the sabbath.

Tour Day 1, Jan 7

Caesarea, Mount Carmel, Mt. of Beatitudes, Magdala, Sea of Galilee ~ This morning we experienced our first Israeli buffet breakfast. It is a feast of cheeses, yogurts, fish, eggs, raw vegetables, fresh fruit, cereals, wonderful breads & unique Israeli dishes. We may find that lunch is not much of a need after an Israeli breakfast! We drove north from Tel Aviv along the coastal plain of theMediterranean Sea. We began our tour of Israel in Caesarea Maritima where Cornelius, the centurion, was baptized as the first Gentile convert (Acts 10).  It is also where Paul was imprisoned before traveling to Rome to appear before Caesar (Acts 23-26.) In Caesarea, Jeff gave a teaching in the Theater.  Each group, divided by motor coaches, toured the archeological site with their Israeli guide. Next we drove up the coast to Mount Carmel. The Carmelite monastery is built on the traditional site where the prophet Elijah slew the false prophets of Ba’al (1 Kings 18.)  Then we traveled on to the region of the Galilee and stopped for prayer time at the Mt. of Beatitudes. Then we headed for Mass at the newly opened site of Magdala, home of Mary Magdalene, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. After dinner we took advantage of the nice weather and had a bonfire by the shore where we also had the chance to go to confession with one of our 5 priests.

Pre-Tour Meeting

Tricia Stolz shares some departure information for the January 2016 pilgrimage.

Welcome from Fr. Kasel, Spiritual Director

Jeff's informational video

Jeff's Welcome from Jeff Cavins on Vimeo.

Jeff's Wrap Up and Closing Thoughts

Travel Agent Bonnie Lane Addresses Safetly and Practical Tips

Emily Greets Pilgrims and introduces Jean McGinty, our liturgy assistant

 Cantor Julia Waletzko sings "Mary Did You Know?" for Advent


January 2016 Holy Land Pilgrimage

There are still spots available for the January 5-18, 2016 Holy Land Pilgrimage with optional post-tour to Jordan! 

To register for the pilgrimage you will need to download a registration form below and be sure to fill it out all 3 pages completely and sign it. Mail it with the deposit to the address on the form along with a photo copy of the face page of your passport. A passport must not expire before 6 months after the last date of travel. (In this case, it can't expire before August of 2016.) If you need to get a new passport, send in registration anyway and note that passport is pending.

(For printable brochure with itinerary click here)

Registration Forms:

If you want to go on the Holy Land Pilgrimage AND Jordan extension, Jan 5-21, use this form:

Jordan Extention & Holy Land Registration Form

Jordan Extention Itinerary

For Holy Land Pilgrimage, January 5-18, Click departure city below for corresponding registration form:

Minneapolis $4400

Houston $4400

Newark, Philadelphia, New York $4100

Denver $4500

Dayton, OH $4500

Chicago $4300

Any other city 


Meet the staff for 2016!

Spiritual Director, Fr. Randal Kasel. He is currently serving at two parishes, St. Peter and St. Michael in Zumbrota and Pine Island, Minnesota near Rochester. He is an experienced pilgrimage leader, full of energy and joy. He accompanied us to Israel last January and we were inspired by his enthusiasm for the faith, so when he told us he was open Jan '16 to travel with us again, we jumped at the chance to have him be spiritual director. 






Julia Waletzko, singer and cantor. Julia is an angelic singer who currently teaches at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis, MN. She accompanied our pilgrimage in 2011 and we are delighted she can travel with us again. When we get to the Holy Land, she'll tell you the story about her losing her voice and what God has done in her heart.

Staff priests:

Fr. Vincent Maroun is a Marionite priest from South Carolina who traveled with us last January. He has a compelling preaching style and the heart of a father. The Marionite Rite allows priests to marry, so his wife Andrea will be joining us too!

Fr. James ChaneyFr. James Chaney is the NDSU Newman Center Director for the Diocese of Fargo. He is an advocate for FOCUS Missionaries and flies airplanes. (He won't be piloting this trip, however!)






Special guest, Chris Stefanick of Real Life Catholic, will join us as well for his first pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Chris has served as a youth minister for fourteen years at a parish in the East Los Angeles area. He has also worked as the Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministry for the Diocese of Lacrosse and the Archdiocese of Denver. He is featured in two of Ascension Press' newest offerings for young people, Chosen and Altaration. He is married with 6 children. He plans to bring his 2 oldest sons as well.Jean McGinty, liturgy assistant, will coordinate lectors and other volunteers on the pilgrimage. Jean has traveled with us twice before and does a fantastic job. 

Pilgrimage Highlights:            

  • Daily mass at holy sites like Church of the Holy Sepulchre, St. Peter's in Capernaum & Annunciation in Nazareth
  • Praying a decade of the rosary on locations where the mysteries happened
  • Individual audio transmitters so you can hear it all
  • On site teaching by Jeff Cavins on topics like the Papacy, the Mystery of Suffering, and Discipleship
  • At least one priest per motor coach
  • Supporting Christians shops in Bethlehem
  • Free study manual and pilgrims guide to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
  • Our pilgrimages are inspirational and educational as well as opportunities for spiritual growth, making new friends and just having fun

Travel arrangements made by Golden Eagle Travel and Tours.

Bonnie Lane or Tricia Stolz at 952-474-0903,goldeneagletraveltours@msn.com