Very Reverend Fr. Peter Eke is an incardinated priest of the Diocese of Gaylord, Michigan. He is the Pastor of Our Lady of the Lake Parish in Prudenville, St. James Parish in Houghton Lake, and St. Hubert Parish in Higgins, Michigan. He is also the Judicial Vicar of the Catholic Diocese of Gaylord.
Fr. Eke is a US citizen and a Nigerian citizen. He is the fifth of the eight children of the late Virgilius Eke and Cecilia Eke, Imo State, Nigeria. Fr. Eke was born on December 4, 1966.
Fr. Peter did his seminary formation at the Seat of Wisdom Major Seminary, Owerri, in the Archdiocese of Owerri, Nigeria. The seminary is an affiliate of the Pontifical Urban University, Rome. Fr. Peter received Bachelor of Philosophy with Magna Cum Laude in 1993. The same year he proceeded for his studies in Theology in the same Seminary, where he obtained a degree of Bachelor Divinity with Magna Cum Laude in 1997.
He was called to the Catholic priesthood in the year of the Lord, July 19th 1997. Following his ordinary to the Catholic priesthood, he was assigned as the Secretary General of the Congregation of the Sons of Mary, Mother of Mercy, Umuahia, Nigeria.
After a year of service as Secretary General, he was sent to Rome, Italy, for studies in Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome. He received his licentiate in Canon Law (J.C.L) with Magna Cum Lauda in 2001 and doctorate in Canon Law (J.C.D) with Magna Cum Lauda from the aforementioned University in 2003.
Upon coming to the Diocese of Gaylord in 2004, Fr. Peter served in various parishes and positions in the Office of the Tribunal in the Diocese: Associate Pastor at St Francis Catholic Church in Traverse City, a sacramental minister at Holy Rosary, Cedar (2004-2006); Associate Pastor of the three parishes of St. Anne’s Harrisville, St. Raphael, Mikado, and Sacred Heart, Oscoda (2006-2008); the Temporal Administrator of St. Mary of the Woods in Kalkaska and St. Aloysius in Fife Lake (2009); Associate Pastor of Saint Mary Cathedral in Gaylord, Saint Thomas of Aquinas in Elmire, and Saint Mary in Grayling,(2009-2010) and as Pastor of Saint Paul Parish in Onaway and Administrator of Saint Monica Church in Afton (2010-2018). Since 2004, Fr. Eke has worked in the Tribunal Office in the Diocese as a Judge, Defender of the Bond, Promoter of Justice, Adjutant Judicial Vicar, and currently as the Judicial Vicar.
Fr. Eke loves to read, ride bikes, and play soccer. He traveled on a pilgrimage to Italy to venerate St. Rita of Cascia, and is very much looking forward to this pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
Fr. James M. Bearss is a native of Michigan and an ordained Roman Catholic priest. After graduation from Pontifical College Josephinum seminary, he was ordained on June 14, 1997 by Bishop Patrick Cooney. Growing up in Boyne City, Father Bearss has lived within the Diocese of Gaylord his entire life. The fifth oldest in a family of fifteen, James Matthew Bearss was born to Norman and Alice Bearss in 1967. Father Bearss graduated from Boyne Falls Public School in 1986 and began attending North Central Michigan College. After earning his associates degree from NCMC, Father Bearss transferred to Central Michigan University before finishing his education at St. Meinrad College in St. Meinrad, Indiana. He then earned his Master of Divinity from the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.
Father Bearss has served the Diocese of Gaylord in many capacities, including as the Chaplain at Manistee Catholic Central School for 12 years and Associate Pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Manistee. He was assigned Pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Shrine and became Pastor of both Guardian Angels and St. Joseph’s of Manistee, forming the cluster of the Catholic Community of Manistee. Father Bearss spent six years as Pastor at St. Mary Cathedral in Gaylord and served all four parishes in the Northern Lights Catholic Community. He is currently serving as Pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Traverse City. Father’s interests range from church history to photography, and he is an enthusiastic and passionate priest who espouses the words of our Holy Father Pope Francis, that priests should be “shepherds living with the smell of the sheep.”
Fr. James has had the opportunity of serving as chaplain on two other pilgrimages; one to the green emerald isle of Ireland and the other to the Holy Land itself. He found his exploration into the Holy Land a gratifying and spiritual experience, and one that he desires to repeat. It is his hope that those who have already been to the Holy Land or who are walking for the first time on the very ground where Jesus Christ did over two thousand years ago will be elated with their experience of this spiritually rich and significant region of our world.
Day 1. Monday, October 21: USA – Tel Aviv
Depart today towards the Holy Land.
Day 2. Tuesday, October 22: Tel Aviv – Sea of Galilee
Upon arrival in Tel Aviv, meet your guide and driver. Transfer to Tiberias overlooking the Sea of Galilee for a welcome dinner with your travel companions. (WD)
Day 3. Wednesday, October 23: Sea of Galilee: Excursion to Caesarea Maritima – Carmel – Nazareth – Cana
This morning, visit the magnificent remains of Herod’s Palace at Caesarea Maritima; it is here that St. Paul was imprisoned before being sent to Rome. Continue to Mt. Carmel and visit the Carmelite Monastery of St. Elias, where this holy prophet triumphed over the false prophets of Baal. Next to it, visit Stella Maris Carmelite Monastery, built in an area that for centuries was frequented by hermits, and where the Carmelite Order was founded. Then travel to Nazareth and stroll through Nazareth’s colorful bazaar as you walk Mary’s road to her home and the site of the Annunciation, as well as the Church of St. Joseph, built where the carpentry workshop of St. Joseph used to be. Next, visit Cana, where Our Lord performed His first miracle by turning water into wine; you may take this opportunity to renew your marriage vows. Return to Tiberias for dinner and overnight. (BB, D)
Day 4. Thursday, October 24: Sea of Galilee
The Sea of Galilee is rich in memories of the three years of Our Lord’s Ministry. The day opens with a visit to the Church of the Loaves and Fishes situated in the place of the miracle of the Feeding of Five Thousand. Continue to the Mount of Beatitudes, the scene of the Sermon on the Mount; nearby, visit the Chapel of the Primacy situated at the shores of the Sea of Galilee, where Our Lord appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. Afterwards, explore the ruins of Capernaum, including the ancient Jewish synagogue and St. Peter’s house. Enjoy a lunch of the traditional dish “St. Peter’s Fish” at a typical restaurant. Next stop is at the Valley of the Doves, where Our Lord used to walk from Nazareth to the Sea of Galilee. Nearby, visit the remains recently discovered of a synagogue in Magdala, where Our Lord should have preached when visiting the town. Finally, enjoy a boat ride on the Sea of Galilei, where Our Lord performed many miracles. (BB, L, D)
Day 5. Friday, October 25: Sea of Galilee – Mount Tabor – Jordan Baptismal Site – Jericho –Jerusalem
Drive to Mt. Tabor and enjoy beautiful views of the Jezreel Valley and the Plain of Esdraelon. Visit the Church of the Transfiguration, built on the site of Our Lord’s Transfiguration. Afterwards, stop at the site on the Jordan River where it is claimed that St. John baptized Our Lord. Travel to Jericho, the oldest city in the world, where Our Lord healed Bartimaeus, the blind beggar, and dined with Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector and view the Mount of Temptation where Our Lord was tempted by the devil. Dinner and overnight in Jerusalem. (BB, D)
Day 6. Saturday, October 26: Jerusalem: Excursion to Bethany, Qumran, and Dead Sea
This morning start your sightseeing traveling to Bethany the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary Magdalene. Continue for a visit to the Caves of Qumran, the site where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, and enjoy a spectacular view of the Dead Sea. Afterwards, you may take the opportunity to wade and bathe in the Dead Sea. Continuing towards Jerusalem, stop for views of the Judean Desert and St. George Monastery to remind us of the story of the Good Samaritan. (BB, D)
Day 7. Sunday, October 27: Temple Mount and excursion to Ein Karem, Shepherds’ Field & Bethlehem
This morning visit Judaism’s holiest site, the Wailing Wall, and the Temple Mount, where Our Lord used to preach, traditionally the site of Solomon’s Temple, and since 691 AD an Islamic site. Afterwards, travel into the “hill country of Judea” to the city of Ein Karem, the birthplace of St. John the Baptist. Visit the Church of St. John the Baptist and the Church of the Visitation, built over the home of Zacharias. Continue to Shepherds’ Field, also the site of Boaz’s field, to visit the cave of the shepherds where the angels appeared and announced the birth of Christ. Later, embark on a sightseeing tour of Bethlehem, the royal city of David, to pray at the Cave of the Nativity, the birthplace of our Savior. Return to Jerusalem for dinner and overnight. (BB, D)
Day 8. Monday, October 28: Jerusalem
This morning visit Mount of Olives for a beautiful panoramic view of Jerusalem. Visit the Chapel of the Ascension and the Church of Pater Noster, where Our Lord taught His disciples how to pray. Continue down on the Palm Sunday road on Mount Olivet visiting the Church of Dominus Flevit, where Our Lord wept over the city of Jerusalem. Arrive into the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane and the Church of All Nations, where Our Lord began the way of His Passion. Then, to Mount Zion to visit the Upper Room where the Last Supper took place, the Church of the Dormition where Our Lady was assumed into heaven, the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu and the Palace of Caiaphas, where Our Lord was imprisoned. (BB, D)
Day 9. Tuesday, October 29: Jerusalem – Tel Aviv
Early this morning, carry the cross and follow the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, ending with the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Then, enjoy an in-depth tour of this church, including a visit to the tomb of our forefather Adam and the tombs of Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, as well as a tour of the Holy Sepulcher chapels. Afterwards, visit the Church of St. Anne, erected over the traditional site of the birthplace of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Continue to the Pool of Bethsaida excavations, identified as the scene of the healing of the paralytic. Then, visit the Flagellation Church that enshrines the spot where Our Lord was flogged. Next is the Ecce Homo Church that represents the place where Pontius Pilate presented Our Lord to the hostile Jewish crowd. Rest of the day is at leisure. This evening, transfer to Tel Aviv and enjoy a farewell dinner with your travel companions. (BB, FD)
Day 10. Wednesday, October 30: Tel Aviv – USA
This morning, transfer to Tel Aviv airport for your flight back to the USA. (BB)
Buffet Breakfast (BB); Lunch (L); Dinner (D); Welcome Dinner (WD); Farewell Dinner (FD)
* In case of unforeseen events, this itinerary is subject to change.
For more trip information or to register, please contact Catholic Heritage Tours.