August 1, 2014

Archdiocesan priest leads Holy Land pilgrimage during Gaza conflict

By Sean Gallagher

As fighting between Israel and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip intensified in late July, the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded all flights from the United States to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.

A pilgrimage group led by Father Jonathan Meyer and organized by Carmel, Ind.-based Tekton Ministries arrived at the airport on the second-to-last flight from the U.S. before the grounding took effect.

The violence in the region and the temporary grounding in response to it made headlines across the U.S. Father Meyer and his pilgrimage group also garnered the attention of Indianapolis media outlets.

Father Meyer and the 18 pilgrims from Jennings County and two from Chicago are now safely back in the U.S. The priest said they never felt threatened by the violence in Gaza while visiting the Holy Land.

“We knew about the conflict, but we realized that it was God calling us to go on this pilgrimage,” said Father Meyer, pastor of All Saints Parish in Dearborn County. “It was not a vacation or pleasure tour, but a pilgrimage. I believe that God calls people to these opportunities, and he is in charge of all the details.”

In fact, Father Meyer said the media attention the pilgrimage group received during their time in Israel was a bigger distraction than the conflict in Gaza.

Being on pilgrimage in the Holy Land actually helped the pilgrims get a good perspective on the violence, he added.

“We prayed for peace, and it enabled us to talk with locals about the conflict,” Father Meyer said. “We have a much deeper and broader understanding of the situation than what is presented by the media.”

This was Father Meyer’s third pilgrimage to the Holy Land. His greatest fear, he said, is related not to violence that he might experience there, but what he might fail to do when he returns to his priestly life and ministry in central and southern Indiana.

“I did not fear the airports, attacks or terrorists,” he said. “The greatest fear that I have is not bringing my experiences of Christ and theses holy places back to my parishioners on American soil. The experiences [in the Holy Land] have been rich. I pray that what I have received, I am able to share well.” †

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