Two exciting travel opportunities are being planned for next year that will provide participants with spiritual and educational nourishment – one to the Holy Land, where pilgrims will retrace the footsteps of Jesus, and the other a journey to historical and sacred Franciscan sites in Italy. These trips are welcome news since pilgrimages and programs of this type have been suspended for the past 18 months due to pandemic-related travel bans and restrictions.
The trip to Italy planned for young adults in late spring 2022 is being organized by the Province’s Franciscan Missionary Union. Scheduled for May 31 to June 10, the pilgrimage will offer participants the chance to visit Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, and Bagnoregio, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure – as well as Greccio, LaVerna, and Rome.
The cost per person for this Young Adult Assisi Pilgrimage is $3,500 and $3,700 for double and single occupancy, respectively. All participants between the ages of 18 and 40 are eligible for a $1,000 grant toward the cost of their tickets, according to Paul O’Keeffe, OFM, the Province’s secretary for missionary evangelization and the organizer of the pilgrimage. The deadline to register is Nov. 1
Paul, who served as a lay missioner in Ghana and Kenya before joining the Franciscans – and who professed his solemn vows in 2010 – said that anyone with questions and interest in registering for the pilgrimage to Assisi should contact him via email.
Confronting the unexpected is one of the most electrifying and spiritual aspects of a pilgrimage, according to Paul. In an article he authored titled “Making the Most of a Pilgrimage,” Paul said that “around every street corner and through every door dwell something that might inspire, enlighten or change you.”
Additional pilgrimages sponsored by the HNP Franciscan Missionary Union are being planned for next year.
Following the Footsteps of Jesus
For Edgardo Jara, OFM, a pilgrimage is not a tourist trip, but rather an intercultural and spiritual journey to nurture an encounter with Jesus Christ.
“When people join a pilgrimage, they visit destinations that strengthen their faith, enliven their spirit, and renew their soul. They learn more about our Christian heritage by walking where Jesus once walked, visiting shrines where amazing leaps of faith were lived, and experiencing the depth and richness of our Christian traditions in a way that can only be experienced by visiting holy places,” said Lalo, who is planning to lead a bilingual pilgrimage to Egypt and the Holy Land in late summer 2022.
Lalo said that next year’s Holy Land pilgrimage, which will be the third he has planned in that region, will be a journey that integrates prayer, reflection, and relaxation – enabling participants to feel a spiritual awakening that touches their hearts, and experience Bible stories coming to life as they walk the paths of Moses and Christ.
“For Latinx Christians, going to the Holy Land is the dream of a lifetime. They save their money to visit these holy places – sometimes it’s a gift from their sons and daughters. You have to see their faces, their smiles – the joy and work of the Spirit. I have seen God’s hands at work during these journeys,” said Lalo, who is stationed at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Triangle, Virginia, and who will serve as spiritual director of the Sept. 6 to 18 pilgrimage.
All are welcome to participate in this 13-day journey, which Lalo is organizing with Nativity Pilgrimage and the Hispanic director of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The cost is $4,518 per person. The pilgrimage, which will depart from Washington, D.C., includes a comprehensive itinerary, with visits to Bethlehem, Jerusalem, the Sea of Galilee, Cairo, and other historic sites. Lalo said that the pilgrimage already has reservations of 25 Hispanic participants from the archdioceses of Baltimore and Washington, and the Diocese of Arlington – as well as individuals from California, Texas, and Illinois.