by Jesus Gonzalez
Editor's Note: Fr. Ralph Recker was a participant in the first press conference for the journalism course, and the pilgrimage to Turkey is now in progress.
Imagine this for starters: A country that has been a center point for trade, a place where East meets West, where great empires held their capitals, a place of meteoric rises and calamitous falls. All of this might sound like a cliche to say about a country, yet all of this and more can describe Turkey, which has been hailed as the other Holy Land. The early Catholic Church, Orthodox Christians, Muslims and Jews have settled here in what was once the center of the world.
This November 4-16 Father Ralph Recker, O.S.B., a monk of Mount Angel Abbey and Director of Admissions for Mount Angel Seminary, is leading a pilgrimage to Turkey, following the footsteps of Saint Paul.
This small group of 31 people that is traveling to Turkey are going all around the country seeing many different religious sites. When asked about the group and where they are from, Father Ralph said, "People from around the area that includes Eugene, Oregon, and even some people from California and even some from other faiths [will join the pilgrimage]." Father Ralph continued and said, "The trip will be very ecumenical."
The seven churches in the Book of Revelation are all located in Turkey, and the group plans to visit each one. They will be seeing Cappadocia; boulder and rock formations litter the scenic mountains, so some say it's the closest one can get to the lunar landscape. The volcanoes and erosion have helped to naturally shape the land, but so have people. The Cappadocian people carved into the mountains, making homes and complex tunnels to accommodate 25,000 people. "I can't wait to see Cappadocia," said Fr. Ralph.
Another highlight of going to such an historically important place is seeing some of the old churches decorated with beautiful icons.
When asked how he prepared for the trip, Fr. Ralph said, "You'd be amazed to see how easy it is to do research online." Father Ralph was helped in organizing this trip by Lavern Hayworth, who is a spiritual guide and has done this trip before.