Holy Land Pilgrimage -- Day Six

Today we started at the Mount of Olives where Jeff taught about the Triumphal Entry before we walked down to the The Dominus Flevit Chapel, a name meaning "Jesus Wept", the traditional site where Jesus contemplated the city of Jerusalem and its destruction. From there we walked down to the Church of All Nations for mass after walking through the Garden of Gethsemane. Then we crossed the Kidron Valley, to Mt. Zion to visit the Upper Room. We toured modern Israel, visiting the Israel Museum, which houses a fascinating model of 1st Century Jerusalem, and Shrine of the Book, home of the Dead Sea Scrolls. After dinner, JoAnn Magnuson gave a presentation on the history of modern Israel.

Here are some photos! First three are Garden of Gethsemane

The Group in the Upper Room.

JoAnn Magnuson with the Elero's

Roadside shopping!

Parishoners from St. Bridget's in San Antonio at the Shrine of the Book. The following 2 pictures are from the Temple Model at the Israeli Museum.

Holy Land Pilgrimage -- Day Five

Today we visited Masada, the wilderness palace fortress built by Herod the Great.   We ascended by cable car to tour the site. It was difficult to view the area due to a foggy dust blowing in from the Sahara Desert. We then stopped near the place where the Jordan empties into the Dead Sea, where Jeff taught about Elijah and John the Baptist. Msgr. Pricco led the group in a renewal of baptismal vows. Later, many adventurous people took a brief swim (float) in the Dead Sea. Then we stopped at Qumran to see the cave where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered. Mass was held in the evening at Notre Dame church near the hotel.

Pilgrims at Masada

Renewal of Baptism near Jordan River

Bridget at the Dead Sea

Eugene Ochaki in the Dead Sea

Fr. Rick & Msgr Pricco (Indiana Jones Priests)

Mary Ellen Potter in the Dead Sea

Phadual with Dead Sea mask

Thomas and his father Vern

Holy Land Pilgrimage -- Day Four

Today we left the Galilee through the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea. First we stopped at Mt. Tabor for mass at the Basilica of the Transfiguration. Then we stopped at Bet Alfa to view a mosaic floor of a synagogue from the 4th century CE before arriving at Bet She'an, a Greco-Roman city that has been partially restored to show the streets and shops as they originally were before the earthquake of 78 CE. We ascended by the Jericho road toward Jerusalem. We stopped at the Promenade overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem and our guide shared the traditional blessing of wine with all of us as the horns blew to announce the start of the Jewish sabbath.

Mass on the Mt. of Trasfiguration

Deacon Ed and son Frank Lazarek on Mt. Tabor

Maldanado's at Bet Alfa

Emilio at Bet Alfa

The following 3 photos are from the Greco-Roman ruins of Bet Shean

The following 2 photos are from the Promenade overlooking Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus

Holy Land Pilgrimage -- Day Three

After breakfast, we boarded a boat and crossed the Sea of Galilee while Jeff gave a teaching on "getting out of the boat". We landed at Capernaum for mass Mass at the church which stands over St. Peter's house. Next we traveled north to view Tel Dan and to Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus gave the keys to Peter and made him prime minister of the church. This area is a lovely natural site where the Jordan River begins. Then we spent some time in prayer and meditation on The Mount of the Beatitudes overlooking the Sea of Galilee.   After dinner, many took the opportunity to go to confession with our three priests.

Boat ride on the Sea of Galilee

Mary, Mary and Lenore on the boat

Jeff and Emily with Conway's, Elero's and Doseff's

The Carl's

Bob Siefker lectors at mass in Capernaum

Fr. Dominic, Msgr. Pricco and Fr. Rick: mass at Capernaum

Fr. Dominic at synagogue in Capernaum

Ahidee Peralta at synagogue in Capernaum

Group at Capernaum

Avon soaking up some sun!

The Kirkman's, Sandy and Carol at Caesarea Philippi

Holy Land Pilgrimage -- Day Two

Betty and Bonnie say hi to everyone at home!

This morning we drove to Cana, where Jesus performed His first recorded miracle at the wedding feast. Here many married couples had the opportunity to renew their wedding vows, led by Fr. Dominic Breise. Then we went to mass at The Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Next we visited Kfar Kedem, a model of life in the time of Jesus. We rode donkeys, made goat cheese and watched how bread was made in Jesus' time. Returning to the Sea of Galilee, we visited the Ancient Boat dated to the time of Jesus. At night we ate a special St. Peter fish dinner at the kibbutz Ein Gev.

The photos of the next two couples who renewed their vows at Cana each have the last name of Potter, have been married 40 years and were married on the same day of June 28! Isn't that something!

John and Jude Potter

Gene and Mary Ellen Potter

Peter and Niki Wraight renewed their vows at Cana

The Larkins renewed their vows at Cana

Jean and Sonja say hi to loved ones at home!

Msgr. Pricco and Sue Hanson at Church of the Annunciation

Augusnel Osme and Emantes George at Kfar Kedem

Fr. Rick Frechette and Patty Rowland at Kfar Kedem

Dr. Alan and Mary Ellen De Bord at Kfar Kedem

Vicki Park and Ginger Gessner in Nazareth

Holy Land Pilgrimage -- Day One

After one night in Tel Aviv overlooking the Mediterranean from our hotel, we began our tour by driving north from along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to archaeological site of Caesarea Maritina, a huge port city built by Herod the Great. We walked in the ruins of Herod's shoreline palace and saw the area where Paul was imprisoned before traveling to Rome to appear before Caesar. Jeff gave an introductory talk from within the Roman theatre. Then we drove further up the coast to Mount Carmel for mass. We also visited Megiddo, the ancient chariot city of King Solomon that overlooks the valley of Armageddon. We did not see the end of the world, however! Everything is just fine! We traveled to the Sea of Galilee to our Kibbutz where we will stay for the next few nights. The weather is in the 60's.

Our group from Haiti in the Roman Theatre at Caesarea

The whole group in Caesarea Maritima

Mark and Sarah Christmyer at Caesarea Maritima

Listening to the guides in Caesarea Maritima

Lunch of falafel for Sarah Cristmyer and the Hourigans

Safe Arrival In Israel

Hello Dear Loved Ones--

Our pilgrims have arrived safely to the Holy Land! After a deplaning and boarding the three busses we took a quick tour of Old Jaffa, where Peter received the vision which meant the acceptance of the Gentiles into the Church. After a nice dinner at our hotel, we had mass celebrated by Fr. Dominic with Fr. Rick and Msgr. Pricco. Everyone is healthy, happy and a little tired. Love to all!

Jeff and Emily with group from San Antonio

Arrival in Tel Aviv!

Shiela and Kristin in Old Joppa

Sunset in Old Joppa

The Pilgrimage Begins!

In a few days 125 pilgrims from around the country (and Haiti, too!) will fly to Tel Aviv to begin their pilgrimage of the Holy Land. Most of us our going coach class, but this determined traveler will get there via US military transport! Jude and her husband John will meet us there! Go Jude!

Here is a photo of JoAnn Magnuson, who will meet our pilgrims traveling through Frankfurt. JoAnn has traveled to Israel over 60 times!

Israel Update 1/5/09

Happy New Year to All. We are soon to depart for Israel on a tour with 128 pilgrims! We are very excited about bringing so many to experience the holy sites in Israel. Though the media paints the picture of the area as a frightening war zone, the places where we will tour are safe places which hundreds of tourist are visiting at this moment. Gaza is not close to the areas where Holy Land tours operate, so it is safe to tour in Israel.

Our tour departs on January 18 and soon thereafter we will start posting updates and photos from Israel so family and friends can follow our journey.

We pray for all those who are suffering due to the military strikes in Gaza. Hamas has been shooting rockets into southern Israel from Gaza since 2000. Israel has finally decided to put an end to this, and has gone in to Gaza to destroy the launching sites. Unfortunately, civilians can be hurt in this type of defensive because Hamas hides among the civilian population. As Christians, let us continue to pray for all those involved for peace, safety and conversion.

Alaska Scripture Cruise 2009: 7/29 - 8/5


Dear Friends:

It has been a long time since we originally announced The Great Adventure Alaskan Scripture Cruise in July 2009, but we are happy to report that everything now set to go! Dr. Tim Gray and his family will be joining our family for this Seminar at Sea. All the necessary information is on our website www.cavinstours.com. Please visit it today to make your reservation!

Of all the vacations that our family has taken, it is unanimous that cruises are our favorite. Alaska is a breath-taking vacation spot with pleasant weather and amazing wildlife. Everyone will enjoy the scenery and with the many excursion options, each port of call will have something for everyone be it shopping, leisurely scenic walks or vigorous trips into the wild. Cruising is a great way for families to spend a vacation (because mom doesn't have to cook or clean!) and the children will have plenty to do on board.

During the at-sea portion of the cruise we will be offering the Seminar at Sea with teaching sessions brought to you by The Great Adventure. We will have "Sailing with the Psalms" for adults by Jeff and Tim, "The Book of Matthew" for teens by Fr. Mike Schmitz and "The Great Adventure Kids" for children by Emily Cavins and Kirstin Rau. What makes this cruise extra special is the opportunity to attend Mass daily.

Many details can be found on the website such as information about the Holland America ship, an itinerary, the pricing, and a description of the speakers and seminars. We are delighted to have Kelly Wahlquist serving as hostess of the cruise, so please be in touch with her if you have questions. Her email is kmwahlquist@mac.com.

We hope you are able to join us for this vacation that will refresh you body and soul.

God Bless--

Jeff and Emily Cavins

Greetings From the Holy Land!

View from Mt. TaborHello Friends & Family!! We have arrived safely in the Holy Land and all the pilgrims are healthy. We spent three days touring the Galilee area with mass in Nazareth, Capernaum and the Mount of Transfiguration. Israel is experiencing a heat wave topping at 107 degrees, but we managed to keep cool by rafting in the Jordan river and swimming in a natural springs at the base of Mt. Gilboa. This morning we visited a site called Kefar Kedem, where we went back 2000 years and experienced life as it was during Jesus' time. Adults and children alike dressed in first century clothing and got a taste of life back then by riding donkeys, milking goats and making cheese. In the evening we arrived in Jerusalem, and are now looking forward to several more days in Jerusalem. On the itinerary for tomorrow we will have mass at the Garden of Gethsemene, visit the Mt. of Olives and conclude the day with a visit to Bethlehem.

Brochures for January 2009 Holy Land Tour Available!

I am excited and anticipating another wonderful tour to the Holy Land in January. I think of the Holy Land everyday and I know that it will impact any pilgrim in this way. It's life changing! I wish to invite all of you to join me. For the brochure, click here. For the reservation form, click here.

We are taking deposits now, so please hurry because these tours fill up quickly! If you have questions, email cavinspilgrimages@gmail.com.

Sold Out Bible Timeline Seminar in Somerville, New Jersey!!

I want to thank the Evangelization team from Immaculate Conception parish in Somerville, New Jersey, for the wonderful job they did in putting on the Great Adventure seminar on Saturday. Patti Jannuzzi, along with her team, did a fantastic job of coordinating 450 people at the sold out conference. I want to thank Ted and Margie Ellis for their warm hospitality and prayers. Msgr. Seamus Brennan is a great leader, and I'm very impressed with the evangelization team he is putting together at Immaculate Conception. Kate, thanks for your many hours of entering names in the database.

To all those who attended the Great Adventure seminar, I so enjoyed meeting you. Your enthusiasm is contagious and your desire to understand Sacred Scripture inspires me to go deeper in my own study.

To those of you that were on the waiting list and did not get in, I will be returning on March 8th to Kearney, New Jersey, to do a Bible Timeline Seminar at the Youth and Young Adult Retreat Center. For more information on that event, please contact Liliana Soto at millanli@rcan.org or 973-497-4353.

Also, because there is such great interest in developing parish based bible studies in the New Jersey area, Ascension Press will be bringing the Called To Lead conference to the Newark area July 11-12. For more information about this leadership conference go to www.calledtolead.com.

Blessings to you and your families,


The Journey Continues: A Message To All Pilgrims!

I have just received word from the travel agent Bonnie, who is accompanying the post-tour pilgrims, that they are doing well and soon to return to the States. Twelve of them ascended Mt. Sinai on camels and ten made the remaining climb to the summit on foot -- pictures should be coming.

Mt Sinai

I am now reflecting on the inspirational journey that I experienced with so many wonderful people from around the country. Many of our pilgrims expressed the joy of hearing from their loved ones via the comments from this website. It truly was an exciting addition each morning on the bus for everyone to read the web-posts I printed daily and share news from home with one another. Your prayers and participation from home were an added bonus to the pilgrims. Thank you!

One highlight of the tour was seeing the eagerness of the participants to learn from our great Israeli guides Roni and Menachem about the Holy Land and also the joy the pilgrims experienced through the beautiful liturgies celebrated by Fr. Simon and Fr. Schneider. Nate Reinhart added so much by leading in music, and many of us will carry the memory of his voice when we reflect back on our time together.

A big thanks to all those who added to this pilgrimage with their gifts. I was particularly inspired by the tenacity of some of the senior citizens on the trip. Pilgrimages can often be challenging with time changes and long days but complaining was not a part of this group. Every day they set out to discover with a smile on their faces. These last two weeks truly were a pilgrimage as we experienced the joy of walking where Jesus walked and even the challenges of snow in Jerusalem! Thank you for allowing me to share this life-changing experience with all of you.

A special thanks to JoAnn Magnuson on her sixtieth pilgrimage to Israel. JoAnn is such an asset with her knowledge of the Holy Land and I know the pilgrims enjoyed her talks. JoAnn is back in the States now after battling a severe case of shingles while in Israel. Continue to keep her in her prayers for a speedy recovery. Even through her great discomfort JoAnn was an inspiration and continued to give to others as she is known to do.



Pictures from Pilgrimage Days 8 & 9

On Day 8 of their Holy Land pilgrimage, the pilgrims celebrated Mass at the Church of St. Peter in Galicantu (meaning "at the cock-crow"). It is here we recall St. Peter's three denials of Christ.

St. Peter's in Galicantu

The pilgrims were able to hear Jeff teach as they sat on the original steps that Jesus would have walked down as He made His way from the Last Supper to the Garden of Gethsemane. After the teaching, they walked the stairs in silence meditating on what Christ went through that night and the sacrifice he made because of His love for each of us.

Roman Steps on way to the Garden of Gethsemane

Jeff ran into good friend and fellow Pilgrimage Tour Leader, Steve Ray and took a moment to pose for the camera with Fr. Rich.

Meeting Steve in Galicantu

Being this is also the claimed site of the house of Caiaphas, the high priest before whom Jesus was brought after His arrest, the pilgrims had the opportunity to see where Jesus was imprisoned in the jail beneath Caiaphas' house.

Jail Beneath Caiaphas' House

From there it was on to the Upper Room, the site which commemorates where Jesus had the Last Supper.

Upper Room

Upper Room

The group then headed to the holiest Jewish site, the Western Wall. The Western Wall is the western section of the Jew's great Temple built to hold the Ark of the Covenant and the plaza in front is a permanent place of worship.

Western Wall

The area in front of the wall is divided by a screen. Men pray on the left and women on the right. Here, Nate has some time in prayer.

Nate at the Western Wall

Western Wall

The pilgrims also traveled to the southern steps of the Temple Mount, which is the flight of alternating long and short stairs that led to the main entrance of the Temple. Here they received another inspiring teaching from Jeff.

Steps of the Temple

The excavations that have taken place here in the last forty years have led to a greater understanding of the Temple Mount. Here the pilgrims were able to see a first century street, a Herodian Gate and a Mikveh, which is a public ritual bathing area.

Steps of the Temple

They also had some time to explore the Old City on their own... but, you're going to have to wait until they get home to see those pictures and hear of those adventures.

Today, the pilgrims experienced a blanket of snow covering Jerusalem and were treated to some extra teaching by JoAnn Magnuson. Although snow is not common in the Old City, it is a welcomed sight to the natives, meteorologists and especially, the children... not so sure about tourists, but what an awesome memory to have and what a beautiful sight to behold.

Snow blankets Gethsemane

Holy Land Pilgrimage: Day 9 (Sort of)

You know how they say, "A picture is worth a thousand words?" With that in mind... think of all you are taking in viewing this one picture! Actually, I wish we had more pictures to post today, but due to some unforeseen Internet difficulties at the hotel, this was the only picture that Jeff was able to send. That said, he will try again in the morning to send the remaining photos from Day 8, and I will post them as soon as possible. Rest assured, however, that all the blog post messages from the last two days will go to the pilgrims on the bus tomorrow as they are on their way to the southern steps of the Temple Mount.

The Upper Room

Although already worth a thousands words, here are a few more to help you connect with what your loved ones were experiencing on Day 8 in this picture above: The pilgrims are standing in the 'Upper Room', a room which commemorates the spot where Jesus shared the Last Supper with his disciples as well as the place where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost.

It is here we see Christ's institution of the Eucharist and the entrusting of His mission to his apostles. "Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love. In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1337).

Blessings to all of you and to your loved ones in the Holy Land and as we share in this Upper Room experience, may we each offer a prayer of Thanksgiving for our priests and bishops who continue Christ's mission today and serve the people of God.

Holy Land Pilgrimage: Day 8 (Kind of)

Christ at the Western Wall of the Temple

Greetings Family & Friends of the Holy Land Pilgrims,

I have some good news, and some bad news, then some more good news and more good news and more good news. First, the good news is that your family and friends had a marvelous day... but the bad news is you won't be able to see all the pictures until tomorrow... but the other good news is that you have just been given the opportunity to grow in the virtue of patience... and still more good news, by being patient, in just 24 hours you will get the chance to see your loved ones in many pictures enjoying every aspect of their day today. I will, however, give you a little taste of things to come: Today the pilgrims celebrated Mass at St. Peter in Gallicantu; visited the Cenacle or Upper Room where Jesus had the Last Supper; went to Judaism's holiest site, the Western Wall; toured the Temple Mount and, spent the night exploring an incredible labyrinth of tunnels. Hence, the eagerly anticipated pictures are a bit delayed... the pilgrims are ALL a little tired :)

Tomorrow the pilgrims have a break in the action as they will have a little free time to shop and explore the Old City, but if you continue to post your comments, I'll make sure they get to them the following day. Both Jeff's wife, Emily, and I have had the pleasure of meeting some of your loved ones via video conference and we can both attest that they truly are having a wonderful time and are thrilled to get your messages each day.

Thank you for your patience, and know that I will post the next pictures as soon as they are sent... providing it isn't 2:00 a.m. my time!



Holy Land Pilgrimage Jan. 08: Day 5

After a night stay at the Dead Sea, the pilgrims boarded their tour bus and headed out for another day packed with historical sites, Biblical lessons and spiritual growth.

Cavins Tour Bus

Yet, no visit to the Dead Sea is complete with out a little 'Syn-Crow-nized' swim, so Chad, Marilyn and Jordan Crow together with their teammate Patricia Laedermann (all the way from Switzerland) showed the group that although life in the Dead Sea is impossible, coming up with an entertaining routine while floating in the mineral-rich waters isn't.

The pilgrims visited Masada, Herod's fortress in the wilderness where, from 70 to 73 AD, Jewish defenders made their last stand in the Judean revolt against Rome. Then it was on to Qumran, the site of the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found.

Ladies at Qumran

The Schmitz' in Qumran

In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd boy discovered strange looking earthenware jugs containing the Dead Sea Scrolls in a cave. This would prove to be the most dramatic discovery of ancient Hebrew documents ever found.

Fr. Rich Finds a Cave

In 2008, a Minnesotan Bible Study Tour Leader discovers a familiar looking priest (Fr. Richard Kunst) from Duluth Minnesota in a gift shop. This would prove to be a most enjoyable discovery of a fellow Minnesotan thousands of miles from home.

Jeff Runs Into Fr. Kunst

JoAnn Magnuson takes time out from leading to read a little story to the ladies in Hebrew and offer advice on which books to buy.

JoAnn and Ladies in Book Store

From there the pilgrims head, via a very friendly military escort, to celebrate Mass at the site that commemorates Jesus' baptism by the John the Baptist, Qasar El Yahud.

The Ladies Pose

Fr. Rich and Nate at the Jordan

"Then Jesus came from the Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' But Jesus answered him, 'Let it be so now; for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then he consented" (Mt 3:13-15).

Jeff Teaching at the Jordan

"And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and behold, a voice from heaven saying, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased" (Mt 16-17).

Group at the Jordan River

With that in mind, the pilgrims had a chance to meditate on the first Luminous Mystery of the Rosary: The Baptism of Jesus.

1st Luminous Mystery

As the day was drawing to a close, the pilgrims once again boarded the tour buses and headed "Up to Jerusalem" singing songs of praise and learning from Jeff why we always go "Up to Jerusalem." Roni the tour guide explained that the proper way to enter Jerusalem is to get out and walk; and he gave a blessing over Jerusalem from Mt. Scopus, thanking God for bread and wine and a safe journey. Then he welcomed the pilgrims to Jerusalem, the Holy City.

Roni Give Blessing Over Jerusalem

With the sun setting on Jerusalem, Jeff offers a prayer and the pilgrims end another beautiful day in the Holy Land.