Cenkantal
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Cenkantal

The Transforming Spirit at Work in Holy Pilgrimage

Rev. Fr. Y. F. Bosco

Once Archbishop Most. Rev. Casmir Gnanadhickam encouraged me to attend the worldwide retreat at the Vatican. I went there for the five days of retreat along with Fr. L. Balasamy and two more priests. After the retreat we joined together and went to the Holy Land. It was a great experience for us as priests of God, but I had a question lurking in my thought, will our people be ever able to come and visit this Holy Land. I reflected over it and decided that when I get back after some experience in the parish, I will take the people to Holy Land. And that’s how it all started.

In the year 2000, I started taking people to the Holy Land. In the beginning there were only 40 people and as days went on it increased to 90 and once it was even 182. So far, I have made 20 pilgrimage trips and have taken 2000 people to the Holy Land since 2000 till 2019 before the pandemic. My earnest longing was that the experience that I received when I went in 1990, people should also get. I took steps to make it happen. In 1995- 1996, I took an initiative, but I was cheated by the agent. I was a little afraid then. Again in 2000, I started with another agent for some three years and they were better. Then I switched over to another agent, the third agent who is much better and is the best. It is Oasis tours and travels run by Mr. Joseph, Mrs. Mini and their team.

The Experiences of the Trip

The experiences that I received are plenty. To share with you a few, in each place we conduct the Holy Mass which consists of sharing our experiences of faith. At the end of the pilgrimage, we have a thanksgiving mass, and we ask the people to share their experience. And they said, “my faith has increased a lot. I have deepened my faith. I am more and more grateful to the Catholic Church”; and many people were very happy to the extent that we could see their eyes filled with tears of joy and happiness. They all felt that it is a great chance to come and visit the Holy Land and experience the places where Jesus was born, preached, died, buried and was risen. It was a great experience to each and everyone of them when they hear the Word of God, especially the Gospels, they are able to visualize the Holy Land understanding the geography it holds.

It becomes clearer for them to understand the Word of God, especially the Gospels. And when it is explained by the priests, they feel happier with the content of the Gospel. And many of them said, from today onwards I will take the Bible, read, reflect and meditate over it, mainly the Gospels, as they have seen the life of Jesus, wherever He went, preached and performed miracles during their Holy trip.

It is a pilgrimage of divine experience. We were able to feel God’s presence during our visit. People shared their divine experience with the other and that has given them a surplus joy in their families. It is a faith formation program away from our locality. Many a people were very happy telling me that their faith in God has increased and deepened now and God can do wonders for them and so they trust in the Lord more now. Till date, I have taken 40 priests without any fee, so that they may get good experience and preach well. Also in future, I will be taking a few more.

Many people were happy to invite others to go to Holy Land. I don’t give any advertisement in the papers or in the television, the people who came with me, they go and tell others and thus every year in the month of May many people come and join us. This is a Holy Pilgrimage for 10 days. Earlier government gave a subsidy of twenty thousand and now it has announced to give thirty-seven thousand. We will get this subsidy and give to our people.

The trip deepens our knowledge of the Bible, creates an interest to read and reflect and to live a happy good Christian life by understanding the Gospel values of Love, justice, mercy and forgiveness. By going and seeing the places, people are more and more attached to the Gospels, attached to the values of Christ and decide to live according to Gospel values. The Holy Pilgrimage does not stop with the trip but is carried out throughout the life. People collect wine from Canaan, stones from Calvary, mud and much more as a remembrance to increase their faith life through their Holy trip. Even after the combined trip, they join together through social media platforms and are linked closer to the Christian values instilled through their Holy Land visit. I give each one a souvenir of the trip enclosed with photos, descriptions, explanations, hymns and members accompanied as a gift to be cherished in their whole lifetime.

In this way, when I completed taking one thousand people to the Holy Land, the Government of Israel in touch with the Tourism department of the country honoured me with a honorary title as “Good will Ambassador of Israel and India” and telecasted the ceremony in Israel television. Though it is a simple title, but it encourages me to take more people to the Holy Land. So, it is alao a great faith experience for me personally. I still have plans to go another five times and celebrate silver jubilee of taking the people to the Holy Land. If God wills, everything will go on well for the coming years.

About the Author:

Rev. Fr. Y. F. Bosco is priest of the Arch-Diocese of Madras-Mylopore. He hails from Pannur in Thiruvalur District. He was Ordained on 07.05.1985 and he worked in several parishes like Meenampakkam, Manali New Town, Pudupet, Nazareth Nagar and Taramani. He was also Director at Pastoral Centre. At present he is Parish Priest of R. A. Puram, Chennai. He was honoured with the title of “Good will ambassador of India and Israel.”

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