When Tad and Deb Wilder gave their family the option of a pilgrimage to any place they chose, it was unanimous: the Holy Land.

Organized by Tekton Ministries and coordinated by the Wilders, parishioners of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in northwest Vermont, the pilgrimage was opened to others, and from April 5-15 36 pilgrims — including the Wildeers’ sons Allen, David, Dominick, Jeffrey and his wife Clara — embarked on a pilgrimage that included such places as Sea of Galilee, Cana, Basilica of the Annunciation, Jordan River, Dead Sea, Qumran, Shepherds’ Fields, Church of All Nations on Gethsemane, Via Dolorosa, Tomb of Mary, Mount of Olives, Wailing Wall and a Palm Sunday Procession from Bethphage to St. Anne Church.

Mrs. Wilder said the purpose for her family was “to grow in our Catholic faith together as a family as we walked in the footsteps of Christ while we prayed the daily Mass in the many holy places we were privileged to visit.”

She felt most powerfully blessed during adoration on Gethsemane, while praying in the Basilica of the Annunciation and during daily Masses in the places where Jesus and His family lived. “Walking with my family and the estimated 15,000 other Christians in the Palm Sunday Procession, singing joyfully the entire way, will be a memory I will treasure forever,” she said. “At a time when scandal rocks our beloved Catholic Church and the world is a mess, it was reassuring to walk in the footsteps of Christ and to feel His many graces, joy and peace.”

Father Jon Schnobrich, vocation director for the Diocese of Burlington, was the priest on the pilgrimage. “He always has good sermons, but his sermons on this pilgrimage were elevated to a whole new level,” Mr. Wilder said. “It was so clear from his words and actions how much of an impact this was to him. He was a fantastic spiritual leader on the pilgrimage.”

Nancy Z. Lamothe, and her husband, Steve, of Our Lady of Grace Church in Colchester, were among the pilgrims on the trip. She enjoyed singing with other pilgrims in the group. “This was a very musical group. Small chapels with domed ceilings magnify the sound and made us sound like a full choir,” she recalled. “We sang all along the Via Dolorosa, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom,’ and people around us would join in. When you sing you pray twice; so when you sing with so many people how much more you multiply those prayers!”

At every Mass, beginning most intensely with the Easter Triduum, she thought “I am there, I’m walking with Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the disciples,’” she said. “I’ve been there. The gospel isn’t a story, it’s more real than I can express.”

 

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