Holy Land Reflections: Thoughts from a high school campus minister
Chris Winiarski, Director of Campus Ministry, Mission and Formation for La Salle High School, was one of 48 pilgrims on a summer trip to the Holy Land coordinated by School of Faith. A ministry that connects teachers and principals from Catholic schools with the literal roots of the faith, School of Faith combines pilgrimages with personal formation. Staff from La Salle joined personnel from St Ignatius of Loyola, St. James, St Jude, Our Lady of the Visitation, Immaculate Heart of Mary, and St. Margaret of York elementary schools for the journey. His reflections on the trip:
By Chris Winiarski
One experience that remains in the forefront of my memory occurred at our visit to Nazareth, the hometown of Jesus. We had left the Basilica of the Annunciation after spending time in prayer in St. Joseph’s Church and praying the Angelus with people from all over the world. While walking through the crowded streets filled with people, cars, and vendors, we encountered a man on the sidewalk who was lame from an apparent leg wound.
As I approached this gentleman I noticed inside me the real apprehension and tendency to look away and simply ignore him, for his stench, wounds, and condition made me feel uncomfortable. Every fiber of my being told me to ignore and keep walking, and so I did. After a few steps, something within me caused me to turn around return back, to offer the man a smile, some loose change and a simple prayer. As I made my way back to the group, I couldn’t help but ask myself why didn’t I simply recognize the man right away and offer the support without the hesitation. Why did I pass him up in the first place? As I continued to reflect I arrived at many excuses and rational explanations, but none of them seemed to matter then or now. I wonder if I my charitable action was borne out of the need to feel self-righteous, to feel good about myself? I continue to question how I will treat those whom I encounter daily here at home, at work, on the streets, at Church, who like the man with the injured leg in Nazareth, have some personal aliment or who make me feel uncomfortable?
This pilgrimage caused me to further encounter the Mystery of God in our world, a world filled with much joy and pain. A world very much in need of God’s healing and life-giving presence. Ever since returning home, I have thought of and prayed for the man on the side of the road in Nazareth. As a human being made in the image and likeness of God, he has challenged me to understand that all of us are people of God. All of us have DNA that is of Divine origin. We pilgrims were blessed with both the newfound realization that we are all pilgrims on a journey, and with an awesome responsibility to seek divine union with our God who is present within ourselves, our family, co-workers, and neighbors, and in all of creation. In the words of Psalm 84, “Blessed is the one whose strength is in Thee, whose heart is set on Pilgrimage.”
Photos provided by a pilgrim from La Salle High School.