|Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center.|
National Catholic Register
April 9-15, 2006
PAGE ONE STORY
Middle East Correspondent
JERUSALEM — His body will be
in church this Holy Week, but his mind will be
thousands of miles — and two millennia — away.
Caridi took a Holy Land Retreat for Priests this year
that brought the life, death and resurrection of Christ vividly
to his mind.
“This was my first time in the
Holy Land, and the experience deepened my ability to understand
Jesus my Lord,” Father Caridi said during a guided tour
of some of Jerusalem’s most cherished churches. “When a man
and a woman fall in love, they want to know
each other better. The same is true with a priest
and the Lord Jesus.”
The twice-yearly retreats are organized by the
Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center and Rome’s Regina
Apostolorum University, both run by the Legionaries of Christ. They
took place under the auspices of the Vatican Congregation for
Clergy and the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
program, which was conducted in English, Italian and Spanish, combined
study of the Scriptures with visits to the places mentioned
in the Bible — Jerusalem, Galilee, Nazareth and Bethlehem. The
priests, who hailed from two dozen countries, also engaged in
ecumenical dialogues, pastoral workshops and meetings with Holy Land Christians.
participants were also personally greeted by the two highest ranking
Church officials in the Holy Land: Archbishop Michel Sabbah, the
Latin patriarch of Jerusalem, and Archbishop Pietro Sambi, the former
apostolic nuncio to Israel who is now nuncio to the
“The goal of the retreat was to
provide spiritual renewal, to refresh the vocation and the enthusiasm
for the priestly ministry,” said Legionary Father John Solana, director
of the Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center. “Every human being
must be renewed, and priests are no different.
“On the one
hand, priests minister to many people, sometimes several thousand people,
and the stress is very high,” he added.
Alfonso Corona, the retreat’s Rome-based secretary and organizer, said, “Priests
benefit from a time of peace and serenity with a
priestly community that shares their goals. We started out as
a diverse group of priests of different ages and nationalities
— Americans, Canadians, Brazilians, Indonesians, Koreans — but by the
end of the retreat we became a single family.”
have the opportunity to attend retreats in many parts of
the world, “there is nothing like the Holy Land,” Father
Solana said. “This is the place where Christ instituted the
priesthood, the place where Christianity was born.”
Father Daniel Vacca, from
the Diocese of Wichita, Kan., said that this, his first
visit to the Holy Land, brought the Scriptures to life.
“From now on, I’ll be able to actually visualize the
Bible,” he said. “I especially appreciated our time in the
Galilee, where Jesus went from town to town. It was
moving to go out on the Sea of Galilee, where
Our Lord walked on water and calmed the storm.”
to the Sea of Galilee was also a high point
for Father Albert Hauser, the pastor of three country churches
in Morristown, N.Y.
“When we took the boat across it
was so easy to imagine that I was right there
with Jesus,” he said. “His presence was overwhelming. We had
just read the Gospel from Matthew (28:20), which says, ‘I
will be with you always,’ and that is how I
Father Hauser said the Holy Land retreat held special meaning
“I came here not only because it was an
opportunity to do the pilgrimage but because the retreat was
designed for spiritual renewal,” he said. “I very much felt
the importance of asking God for his grace to reignite
the energy and enthusiasm I had when I was newly
ordained 25 years ago.”
The group’s visit to Nazareth was a
turning point for Holy Cross Father Pascal Garcon, who heads
a boarding school in Brittany, France.
“There is a grotto in
Nazareth, in the Annunciation Church, that is so simple and
for me the simplicity is a sign of God’s actions.
I just sat and prayed. It was good for me
to stop and pray and read again from the Gospels,”
Father Garcon related.
If anyone needed time for quiet contemplation and
prayer, it was Father Francis Xavier Savarimarithu, the parish priest
of Tamil Nadu, a southern section of India devastated by
the 2004 tsunami. Father Savarimarithu, a member of the Missionaries
of St. Francis De Sales, lost congregants in the killer
flood, and one of the church’s four substations was destroyed.
“In our community, 150 families lost all of their possession
in the tsunami, and one of the substations located on
the shore was washed away. Three parishioners were killed,” Father
Savarimarithu said. “It showed me that you cannot go against
nature, and that life is not guaranteed.”
Father Caridi said he
will never forget his visit to the Church of the
Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem “where Jesus died and rose.”
he said, “reminded me that there is a fraternal bond
of support among priests and that we are united in
writes from Jerusalem.
Land Retreat for Priests
The next retreats are scheduled July
15 - Aug. 3 and Jan. 21 - Feb. 9,
On the Internet: Go to NotreDameCenter.org
on “Priestly Renewal Course.”
This article was originally published in the
National Catholic Register. Reprinted with permission.