For many school teachers the holidays are a chance to unwind and relax but for Charbel Doumit it is a time to embark on a trip that he is sure will “change his life”.
The Mathematics and Assistant Religious Education Coordinator at Patrician Brothers’ College Fairfield is one of 30 teachers from Sydney Catholic Schools setting off this weekend on a two-week pilgrimage to Jordan and the Holy Land.
The journey is being led by Sydney Auxiliary Bishop Richard Umbers and Father Lewi Barakat, assistant Priest at All Saints Catholic Church, Liverpool. The tour-party will also include Dominican Sisters and Trinity Catholic College Auburn teachers Sister Mary Helen OP and Sister Cecilia Joseph OP.
Highlights of the trip include visits to Nazareth, Mt Carmel, Sea of Galilee, Jerusalem, the Dead Sea as well as a stop at Bethlehem University to engage with local students as well as a deeply moving mission encounter at the makeshift Syrian and Iraqi Refugee centre in Amman which has welcomed more than 100 Chaldean Christian refugees from Mosul.
For Charbel, the opportunity to walk in the steps of Christ will be an invaluable experience not only for him personally but for the young students he teaches.
He said the highlight will be climbing the Mount of Olives and visiting the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of the Agony.
“I get goose-bumps just thinking about sitting where Jesus sweated blood and prayed knowing what was ahead of him,” he said.
“I have so much passion for the scriptures, the experience will first and foremost bring them to life.
“To walk in the footsteps of Christ, seeing it myself will add another dimension to the way I spread the word both in my personal life and in the way I teach.
“This is a trip of a lifetime and one that will change my life and provide so many memories that I know will stay with me forever.
“My faith is the bedrock of my life. It’s my identity and the source of joy and hope in my life. I am very blessed to be going on a trip like this and sharing the experience with other teachers. “
Now in its seventh year, Sydney Catholic Schools says the pilgrimage is an investment in the faith formation of its staff and aims to immerse staff in the Holy Land for a life-changing experience.
They started in 2012 and occur three to four times annually open to anyone who works in the SCS system whether or not they work full-time or in a teaching capacity.
Staff wishing to attend should apply through Sydney Catholic Schools. The trip is heavily subsidised with staff members paying $2000 towards the cost of the 14-day trip.