April 28, 2006

Faithful Lines / Shirley Vogler Meister

Faith-based travel abroad is a growing trend

Earlier this year, the CBS “Early Show” featured a report acknowledging “how the national media is beginning to take note of the major rise of faith-based travel.” Even the daily newspaper USA Today published a front-page story about this. I did not see these reports myself, but learned about them from Kevin Wright, a seasoned professional travel manager with whom I have chatted off and on via e-mail to better understand this subject.

Wright works for Globus and Cosmos in Littleton, Colo., a company that has 75 years of experience. It is one of the world’s largest firms specializing in this type of travel. In fact, Wright is in Europe as I prepare this column.

Before leaving, he shared how more than 600,000 Americans travel annually for religious reasons or on pilgrimages. He also noted that 50,000 of the more than 400,000 churches in the United States have travel programs.

Wright, a member of St. Mary Parish in Littleton, also said, in the past five years that such travel has increased 20 percent, with 10 percent of Americans going abroad. Interestingly, a huge percentage of these travelers are Catholics and other Christians.

What has influenced this type of travel? Wright claimed that people seek more hands-on or personal experiences of their faith, that travel and transportation have become much more efficient and easier in the last two decades, and that more people, in general, are making their faith a priority. He also noted that 10 percent of Americans annually travel overseas, and that a parish of 1,000 members can easily attract enough people to plan and conduct annual pilgrimages.

The most popular Catholic destinations include: Italy (Rome, the Vatican, Assisi, Padre Pio’s home, San Giovanni Rotondo); Poland (sites related to the late Pope John Paul II, Shrine of Divine Mercy, Auschwitz); France (Lourdes, Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris, St. Therese in Lisieux); Portugal (Fatima); Ireland (Knock Shrine, St. Patrick’s burial site); Mexico (Our Lady of Guadalupe Shrine); and the missions in California.

However, Globus has more than 300 destination possibilities to more than 65 countries, including 12 faith-based trips for Catholics to Europe, the biblical lands and North America. Readers can obtain more information by calling toll free 877-797-8793 or by visiting www.globusjourneys.com/faith.

Wright is also the author of three travel books through Liquori Publications (www.liquori.org.), which also carries similar books by other Catholic authors.

Wright said that although the national secular media is noticing the growing popularity of faith-based travel, Catholic/Christian publications have not yet picked up on this. I find that strange.

However, I am aware of parishes in the Archdiocese of Indianapolis that sponsor faith-inspired mini-tours or more extensive trips.

Perhaps I’ll be able to join one sometime.

(Shirley Vogler Meister, a member of Christ the King Parish in Indianapolis, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)


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