Tag Archives: Laura Sacha

Following in the footsteps of Jesus

Author and evangelist Steve Ray will lead Legatus’ Holy Land pilgrimage in October . . .


It’s safe to say that Steve Ray and his wife Janet feel right at home in the Holy Land. The renowned Catholic convert, apologist and filmmaker and his wife have been to Israel over 130 times.

Together they have led over 60 pilgrimages — about 10 per year — and they will lead Legatus’ Holy Land pilgrimage from Oct. 8-17.

The Footprints of God

Those who have been on a Ray pilgrimage say the experience is life-changing. Ray’s deep knowledge of scripture and his passion for the Holy Land are among the reasons pilgrims love to travel with him. Pilgrims also say they have developed a deeper understanding of Jesus and the world he lived in.

“Steve has a way of explaining things that anyone can understand,” said Rosie Cunningham, a member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter. The Cunningham family has gone on three pilgrimages with Ray.

“He adapts to anyone — from the most educated person to the most simple. We took six of our children and they all fell in love with him,” she said. “Today all of my children have an intimacy with Christ. We saw this on the trips. Every day they were praying on their own.”

Steve Ray

Steve Ray

Ray’s business background is another reason his pilgrimages are so successful. He began cleaning offices in high school and went on to found a janitorial company that, at its zenith, made $12 million per year and employed 600 people. The experience taught him how to take care of people and pay attention to detail.

“I was a Legatus member for 10 years,” he explained. “I know what businessmen want. We are very punctual, organized and structured.”

When Ray converted to Catholicism in 1994, his interests changed from business to the New Evangelization. After writing three books for Ignatius Press, Ray had a brainstorm in 2000.

“I woke my wife up and told her that I had a great idea: I had to make a series of videos on the history of salvation! We would film each video on location in Israel. My wife told me we didn’t even take good pictures. How could we possibly do a video series? She told me to go back to sleep,” said Ray.

Nevertheless, Ray embarked on the Footsteps of God project which has filmed seven out of the 10 episodes. The couple went to Iraq earlier this year to film the latest episode on Abraham. Leading pilgrimages was a natural outgrowth of Ray’s many years of studying and capturing the Holy Land on celluloid.

Life is a pilgrimage

holyland-1Ray has been leading groups to the Holy Land for nine years, and his program stands out from the others.

“Most groups go with a licensed Jewish guide and a Muslim driver,” he said. “I only work with Christians. We eat at Christian shops and try to stay in Christian hotels. In Jerusalem, we stay at the Notre Dame Center, which is owned by the Vatican. In this way, we support the local Christian population.”

Janet Ray assists her husband on all pilgrimages. Through the years, the couple has collected countless stories of lives changed while on pilgrimage.

“We have had many conversions — not just of lapsed Catholics, but also of Protestants,” he explained. “One couple had come on the trip hoping to convert me back to Protestantism.”

Another woman came on pilgrimage and never spoke the entire time. On the last day, she told Ray that she had been an alcoholic. Before the trip, she had planned to kill herself. Her children had convinced her to go on the pilgrimage and, through it, she had experienced real healing.

Highlights for the upcoming Legatus pilgrimage include a trip to the Garden of Gethsemane and stops at sites of the rosary.

holyland-2“You will never pray the rosary or read Scripture in the same way again,” said Laura Sacha, Legatus’ conference director, who was on the last Legatus pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009.

“We go to the wedding church in Cana,” she said. “This is very special for our married couples who can renew their wedding vows. We go to the Sea of Galilee and take a boat ride. We have a Mass at St. Peter’s house in Capernaum. We travel along the Via Dolorosa. We go to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”

Legates will also swim in the Dead Sea and sample wine at a local winery.

“We get olive wood rosaries made in the Holy Land and everyone is allowed to touch places at Calvary, Bethlehem and the Jordan River,” Ray explained. “These rosaries then become third class relics.”

Safe and secure

holyland-3Ray is always asked about the safety of pilgrims in Israel.

“It is perfectly safe,” he said. “I have taken thousands of people to the Holy Land. We have never once had a problem. Israel gets 3.5 million tourists every year. None of them have ever gotten hurt. There are a few hot spots in Gaza, but we don’t go there. By the end of every pilgrimage, people laugh about how safe it was. Don’t let the devil steal this opportunity from you.”

Louise Rainey, a member of Legatus’ Orlando Chapter, went to Israel in 2007. “There were issues in the Middle East at the time and quite a few people backed out. We decided to go anyway and were so glad we did. We never felt any threats at all.”

“I was really nervous about going,” said Maria Cunningham, 16. “But Steve Ray knew where to go and he made us all feel like he had known us forever. Being in those places was basically stepping out of my world and stepping into a new one.”

Pope Francis will visit Israel and Jordan from May 24-26. One of the stops on his packed itinerary is Mass in the Upper Room — the location of the Last Supper and Pentecost. The last person to celebrate Mass there was St. John Paul II in 2000.

“Local Christians will get a shot of encouragement and pride by his visit,” said Ray. “Pope Francis will charm everyone and hopefully effect some changes. He will address the persecutions and limitations imposed on the local Palestinian Christians.”

Ray said security for the papal trip will cause headaches for the local populations and pilgrims, “but if they do get to see him by some chance, the pilgrims will remember it for the rest of their lives.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

To register for Legatus’ October 8-17 Holy Land Pilgrimage:

Call: (313) 565-8888 x 150

Email: conferences@legatus.org

Culture changers

Legatus’ annual conference in the nation’s capital encourages pro-lifers . . .

Despite the federal government’s growing assault on religious liberty and the political clout of Planned Parenthood, Legatus members who attended this year’s pro-life conference are confident that the right side is winning.

Kathleen Eaton, CEO of Birth Choice Health Clinics and a member of Legatus’ Orange Coast Chapter, says the event was a hands-on opportunity to learn how to build the culture of life in America more effectively.

“I think everybody in this room has taken away information dealing with pro-life issues and our call to stand up for our faith,” she said. “Our speakers gave us hope that we are winning this battle — hope and tools to ignite the movement within our own communities.”


Ken Cuccinelli

Eaton was one of 21 Legates from across the country who gathered in Washington, D.C., for Legatus’ 11th Culture of Life Conference from May 2-4. The conference kicked off with Mass, followed by an address from Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, who discussed the Supreme Court case against the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) which should be decided in June. Cuccinelli filed a suit in federal court just 35 minutes after President Obama signed the bill into law.

“We have an opportunity to protect our Church and its institutions,” he said. “It’s a necessity.”

Legates visited The Heritage Foundation where they learned about the conservative think tank’s work to develop public policies that promote free enterprise, limited government and traditional values. Other speakers included Rep. Virginia Fox (R-NC); James R. Nolan, president of Crossroads; Penny Young Nance, president of Concerned Women for America; and Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ).

Smith, who co-chairs the House pro-life caucus, talked about his conversations with Chinese pro-life activist Chen Guangcheng, who has since arrived in the United States. Smith also assured Legates that his fight for religious liberty and the lives of the most vulnerable would continue as the fall elections draw near.

Rep. Chris Smith

“America is at a crossroads,” he said. “This election is critical.”

Jeff Smith, president of Legatus’ Manhattan Chapter, said the speakers and discussions that followed were remarkable.

“There are insights here that seem to be on the cutting edge,” he said. “There are conversations here that I don’t think are going on anywhere in the country yet. There were a lot of startling facts presented, but at the same time a lot of hope.”

Legatus Board of Governors member Mike Faricy, Colorado Springs Chapter, said the conference touched on a broad array of issues. “What I learned here will be a benefit not only to my chapter, but also to my diocese,” he said. “This kind of education is invaluable.”

Taking action

Legates heard from Legate Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony List, and a panel of experts who discussed how the abortion agenda has taken over medicine in the U.S.

Former Kansas attorney general Phill Kline also spoke. In 2005, Kline began investigating child rape cases, but found more than he bargained for as he dug deeper into the records of Kansas late-term abortionist George Tiller and the local Planned Parenthood affiliate.

Phill Kline

“The evidence I found is not unique,” Kline said. “It’s just that no one is looking.” As his investigations deepened, both the judicial system and media turned on him. Planned Parenthood poured millions into defending itself, he said, because a conviction would mean the loss of $350 million in federal taxpayer funds.

Not only were Legates fed by excellent speakers, but more importantly by daily Mass, the rosary and the opportunity for Confession. Father Paul Schenk, chairman of the National Pro-Life Center, celebrated all three Masses for delegates.

“We are blessed to have excellent priests like Father Schenk working for the cause of life in our nation’s capital,” said Legatus’ executive director John Hunt. “He inspired all of us to defend women and their children actively.”

Eaton says her chapter is whipping up support for the U.S. bishops’ “Fortnight of Freedom” campaign, a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.

“We’re going to ignite our California chapters to join us to pray, fast and maybe even go out on the street corners and hold a sign,” she said. “We’re called to be the John the Baptists of our world today. We don’t have the luxury of sitting in our comfortable homes. We are called to be ambassadors, to get out there and witness to the truth.”

“The conference once again proved a valuable experience for the attendees,” said conference director Laura Sacha. “It’s always a joy to spend time with members and I continue to be inspired by their continuing commitment to Legatus.”

Patrick Novecosky is Legatus magazine’s editor.