Pilgrimages from Nazareth Parish in Melbourne to Nazareth and Jerusalem in Israel

Pilgrimages from Nazareth Parish in Melbourne to Nazareth and Jerusalem in Israel        2009-2013

‘Do not forget us’. This is the cry from the heart of Nariman when she came to visit us in May this year. The Christians in the Middle East are under great stress. In response to the frequent call by recent Popes to the whole Catholic Church, our parish in Melbourne has developed a fine relationship with the Parish of Nazareth in Israel. Four children with their parents and four teachers from our schools have gone to Nazareth and Jerusalem on pilgrimage, led by the Parish Priest, Fr John Dupuche. Children, their parents and teachers from Nazareth have also come here.

Here is a summary of some of the visits during 2012-2013, including the preparatory visits made from 2009-2011. Their blogs, listed, provide the detailed story.

Preparatory work  
2009 Dec. Private pilgrimage
  Mark and Johanna Shannon and their children Stephanie, Theresa and Jack take our greetings and gifts.
2011 Visit from parishioners of Nazareth to St Joseph’s school
Mr Farouk Laham and his wife Loris, who are the parents of Gosayna, the wife of Habib Karam who is a pastoral associate at the Catholic Parish in Nazareth, Israel, visit St Joseph’s school.
2011 Pilgrimage of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre to the Holy Land
Peter Walsh, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and his wife Deirdre meet with Habib Karam
2012 Jan Exploratory journey to Nazareth
  Sharon Selleck and Jess Brumby, teachers from Stella Maris visit Terra Santa school and are hosted by Mrs Samar Abu Nassar and her family.
2012 April Exploratory journey to Nazareth
Fr John Dupuche, Parish Priest of Nazareth in Melbourne, meets with Fr Amjad, Parish Priest of Nazareth in Israel, and Habib Karam, Mrs Lubna Andrea, Principal of Terra Santa Elementary School, and Samar Abu Nassar and their families.
2012 July Visit from Nazareth to Melbourne
  Samar Abu Nassar and Rozan Isbanyoli, teachers from Terra Santa, come to Stella Maris for two weeks. They are hosted by Sharon Selleck and Jess Brumby.
Visits between
Nazareth, Israel, and
Parish of Nazareth,
Ricketts Point,
2012, September, Pilgrimage to Nazareth and Jerusalem
Children and parents from our Parish
Rhys Bennet and his mother Monique
Tom Skehan and his mother Janine Simpson/Skehan
Jack Nugent and his mother Charmaine
Nick Lambert and his mother Wendy
Their hosts in Nazareth
Kamil Lulu and his wife Samira
Amer Hakim and his wife Nariman (teacher) and their son Rawad
Imad Karam and his wife
Amir & Rana Qupty
& their children
George 14, Clara 12, Maria 10, Yousef 6
Teachers from our Parish
Rob Horwood
Josie Ritchie (Fischer)
Liz Martell
Seana Hunt
Their hosts in Nazareth
Mr Zaher Kardosh and his wife Sahair (and daughter Areej, (17 years), sons Assad (15) and Amjad (10)
Mr Ilya Abu Nassar and his Samar and their children Carina and Yasmina. Mrs Abu Nasser, mother of Ilya was also our hostess.
Mr Ilya Abu Nassar and his Samar and their children Carina and Yasmina. Mrs Abu Nasser, mother of Ilya was also our hostess.
Mr Ilya Abu Nassar and his Samar and their children Carina and Yasmina. Mrs Abu Nasser, mother of Ilya was also our hostess.
Visit from Nazareth to our schools and parish in Melbourne
Mr Kamil Lulu and his wife Samira and their son Hanna
Mrs Nariman Hakim (teacher) and her son Rawad
Mr Imad Karam and his wife Amira and their daughter
Mrs Rana Qupty (teacher) and her daughter Clara
Their hosts in Melbourne
the Bennet’s
the Skehan’s
the Nugent’s
the Lambert’s
2013, September Pilgrimage to Nazareth and Jerusalem
Children and parents from our Parish
Liam Collins and his mother
Pia Di Paolo/Collins
Alexandra (Ally) Kerr and her mother Sara
Anneka Davys and her father Paul
Jack Laragy and his mother Anne Maree Pollard/Laragy
Their hosts in Nazareth
Mr Fuad Abu Nassar and his wife Jaclyn and their son Lewis (6th grade) and their daughter 13 (aged years)
Mr Anees Kaloush and his wife Amal and their daughter Grace (5th grade) and their son (aged 20) and daughter (aged 23)
Mr Rabea Ka’war and his wife Tagreed and their daughter Amal (5th grade) and sons Fadi (aged 15) and Jamal (aged 16)
Mr Rony Balan and his wife Rana and their son Fadi (6th grade) and son, Fahim (aged 15).
Teachers from our Parish
Vince Spano
Gene Trutsch
Vicki Curtain
Their hosts in Nazareth
Hosted by
John Ksheboun and his family
Hosted by John Ksheboun and his family
Hosted by
Mr Elie Abu Nassar and his wife Samar and their two girls, Carina and Yasmina
Visit from Nazareth to our schools and parish in Melbourne
Scheduled for July
Pilgrimage to Nazareth and Jerusalem
Scheduled for September

The Pilgrimage to Nazareth and Jerusalem in 2013 – the first was in 2012 – was a great success. It was not a pilgrimage where devout pilgrims visit a sacred place but ignore the local Christians. The parishioners in Nazareth welcomed us into their homes. Their hospitality is legendary. We ate and talked with them, met their extended family. We heard of their hopes and learned of the pressures that surround them. It was an immersion into Arabic culture, since the host families are Israeli by nationality, Arabic by culture, and Christian by religion. We felt part of their lives. We felt we belonged. We had made friends.

We learned a lot from them, in particular how much they valued family life; how much they valued their faith to which they must give courageous witness every day.

Our children and their parents

Our four children, Alexandra (Ally) Kerr, Liam Collins, Jack Laragy and Anneka Davys, a boy and a girl each from Stella and St Joseph’s schools, were perfect. It was deeply moving to see the four of them kneeling in prayer within the very tomb of the Resurrection; or again to see them quietly seated in front of the grotto where the Archangel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear her Child. They did not seem to want to leave. Or again, on the Saturday evening when some thousand people walked in procession with lighted candles while Liam recited a decade of the rosary and Anneka announced the various Mysteries, both children with clear and perfectly paced voices. It was wonderful. So many memories keep flooding. When we sang Silent Night in the Shepherds’ Field, Jack commented perceptively that the reason the shepherds were overjoyed to have seen the Christ Child was because they realised that He wanted to be one of them. Or when Ally, one evening as we walked through the Old City when all the tourists had gone, said that she found it so much easier to pray in Jerusalem because so many other people had come there to pray.

The children and their parents and our teachers visited the sacred sites in Nazareth and in Galilee, Cana, Mt Tabor, Capernaum, and the Sea of Galilee etc. etc. They felt very secure at every step in the journey.

The parents, Paul Davys, Sara Kerr, Anne-Maree Pollard/Laragy and Pia Di Paolo/Collins were great company. As we visited the sacred sites – the Holy Sepulchre, the Cenacle, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives, the Pater Noster church, Bethlehem, the site of the Baptism, the Dome of the Rock, the Western Wall etc. etc. and read the Biblical texts associated with those places – their comments and observations were illuminating. We celebrated Mass together in the Crusader Chapel in the Holy Sepulchre. And in the evening, on the roof of Notre Dame Hotel – perfectly situated just across the road from the Old City – we engaged in discussions that were far reaching. They all enjoyed their time in Nazareth, in the school teaching English to the high school children, engaging them in conversation, teaching about Australia, and so on.

Our teachers

The teachers, Gene Trutsch and Vince Spano and Vicki Curtain were in their element teaching in Terra Santa school. But one thing became clear: the difference in teaching conditions. This is a result of the difficulties faced by Christians. They were still using textbooks; few computers; no white boards; children seated in desks; no lockers; few writing materials. Each of our two schools raised $1500 towards assistance with much needed renovations in Terra Santa school. Nevertheless, the experience of teaching both at primary and secondary levels was delightful. The Nazareth children were responsive and lively, interested and polite. Some teaching had to be done through translation, which meant avoiding colloquialisms, slowing the pace, using complete sentences and so on. Our teachers had prepared PowerPoints which came in handy. Our parents also taught, as did our own children. While there were vast differences in culture, it soon became apparent that kids round the world are all the same.

In Jerusalem, we were able to celebrate Mass together in the very Tomb itself, just the four of us: the Liturgy of the Word in the antechamber of the Tomb and the Liturgy of the Eucharist in the Tomb itself. It was an extraordinary privilege, very unusual. We read the account of the Passion on Calvary itself. We were able to enter into the spirit of the places we visited, pausing in prayer, going at our own pace. We said the Hail Mary where tradition says Mary was born; we recited the Our Father in the cave where Jesus taught his disciples how to pray, and where the Our Father is inscribed in hundreds of languages on the walls of the church, the most translated text in human history. We visited the magnificent Dome of the Rock. We also visited Herod’s Palaces at Masada and the Herodium; we bathed in the Dead Sea, and prayed at the Western Wall, the most sacred site in Judaism.

One of the teachers put it this way: It was an opportunity to revisit the events of the Old and New Testaments as an adult free from the limiting influences and impressions of childhood. We could realise that the Biblical stories are not invented by Walt Disney or lots of old people. They can be touched, smelt, and breathed in the air. We walked on the stones, and followed in the footsteps of Jesus. We heard of the humanity and fallibility of Mary and Joseph and the Apostles with the result that their journey was all the more inspiring and believable. This process of revising one’s faiths and belief is invaluable. But it takes time to absorb all that has happened and to process it. If our faith is more mature then we can influence others better.

Visit from Nazareth in Israel to Nazareth Parish in Melbourne

The relationship is mutual. In August 2013 we hosted children and parents from Nazareth. They saw many things: Sovereign Hill, the Dandenongs, South Bank, a football match at the MCG, Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and so on …. They visited Nazareth College, Noble Park North, and Star of the Sea, Gardenvale. They spoke to our children in the class rooms and their own children spoke about life in Nazareth and in turn prepared presentations for their classmates back at Terra Santa school about life in Melbourne. They offered a beautiful mother of pearl cross from Abouna Amjad, the Parish Priest of Nazareth. They attended the BBQ put on by the parish pastoral council and a dinner at the Grealish’s who first started the ball rolling in this venture. And much more.

Our visit to the people of Nazareth and their return visit to our parish have been a source of great encouragement for them and has enriched us immensely. There is a sense of excitement in the parish and in the school. Some sixty people have already been directly involved in this project, as hosts, as pilgrims and as visitors.

Fr Amjad, the Parish Priest of Nazareth, told his parishioners at Sunday Mass on 29 September, 2013, while we were there, about our interchange. So our parish and schools in Melbourne are known to the parishioners of Nazareth, our namesake. They know they are not forgotten.

The benefits for teachers and students;

  • Reaffirmation of faith. A true life changing experience and a sense of peacvrfulness.
  • To be a witness to the plight of Christians in Nazareth.
  • To be an ambassador in helping Terra Santa School and the wider community financially and spiritually – they know we care.
  • Understanding the teaching curriculum and pedagogy in Israel through teaching in the classrooms.
  • Deeper undemanding of the conflict issues in Nazareth/Israel.
  • History and geography of the Hoy Sites brings our teaching to clarity and more relevance because we can visualise where events took place.
  • Reflecting on the Gospel passages within the context of their physical surroundings.
  • A deeper sense of prayer, wonder and aware of the life of Jesus.
  • Imbibing the Arab culture by staying in local families’ homes
  • An opportunity to share our blogs with others and experience the cultural differences and similarities of the school children.
  • Enriching the classroom discussions about Scripture and events of Jesus’ life.

The costs of the Parish Pilgrimage to Nazareth and Jerusalem:

  • The Parish paid half the air fares and land travel etc. of the 4 children; these costs were under the category of ‘Nazareth Scholarships’.
  • The Parish also paid half the air fares and land travel of 4 teachers; these costs were also under the category of ‘Nazareth Scholarships’;
  • The Parish paid the air fares and land arrangements of the ‘leader; of the pilgrimage, the parish priest, Fr John Dupuche.
  • Those funds come from the Stewardship Program and the special collections taken up at Christmas and Easter.
  • The Parish also assists in financing the trip of our guests from Nazareth.
  • The P&F from St Joseph’s paid half the air fares of 2 of the children.
  • The P&F of Stella Maris paid half the air fares of 2 of the children; the moneys for this purpose were raised by extra fund raising activities.
  • The parents paid for their own air fares and land travel arrangements.
  • The host families paid for all meals etc. and provided accommodation.

About interfaithashram

Rev. Dr. John Dupuche is a Roman Catholic Priest, a senior lecturer at MCD University of Divinity, and Honorary Fellow at Australian Catholic University. His doctorate is in Sanskrit in the field of Kashmir Shaivism. He is chair of the Catholic Interfaith Committee of the Archdiocese of Melbourne and has established a pastoral relationship with the parishes of Lilydale and Healesville. He is the author of 'Abhinavagupta: the Kula Ritual as elaborated in chapter 29 of the Tantraloka', 2003; 'Jesus, the Mantra of God', 2005; 'Vers un tantra chrétien' in 2009; translated as 'Towards a Christian Tantra' in 2009. He has written many articles. He travels to India each year. He lives in an interfaith ashram.
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