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How to select a Catholic pilgrimage

Maria Montemayor

Monday, January 30, 2023

Photo by Maria Montemayor
A pilgrimage is a spiritual journey to a sacred destination. While seeing beautiful and holy sites can be a perk of going on pilgrimages, people primarily embark on Catholic pilgrimages to encounter God in a profound and personal way. The goal is to come back transformed and, through your prayers, to transform the lives of the loved ones you prayed for. 
During a Catholic pilgrimage, pilgrims pray, attend Mass together, and share meals together. Pilgrimages are not leisure trips. Many pilgrimages require you to wake up early in the morning (before 6:00 am) to reach sites, and you must stay with your group for the majority of the time. If you hate waking up early, being confined to a group, and walking for long periods of time, then a pilgrimage might not seem ideal for you. On the other hand, going on a pilgrimage can help you grow in those areas so that you start to view inconveniences as redemptive sacrifices. You can go on a pilgrimage alone, although you will often encounter fellow pilgrims on your journey. Also, it’s more safe to go on a pilgrimage with at least one other person.
There are so many pilgrimages available. How do you discern which one is right for you?
Examine the options (places, prices, and age range)
Which places—countries or religious sites—have you always wanted to visit? What is your budget? Does the pilgrimage you want to go on have an age cut-off (for example, World Youth Day is recommended for those from 18 to 35 years old)?    
Apart from World Youth Day, there are also walking pilgrimages (local and international), International Heritage Tour pilgrimages, and Medjugorje pilgrimages. Local pilgrimages are the least expensive. International pilgrimages can range from $1,000 to $6,000 CAD, not including snacks, certain meals (like lunch), and souvenirs. If finances are a concern, you will likely be able to fundraise for a pilgrimage you select.
Reach out to pilgrimage coordinators
If there are several pilgrimages that fit your interest, budget, and availability, then the next step is to reach out to pilgrimage coordinators. Pilgrimage coordinators provide the itinerary and ensure the safety of their pilgrims. Speaking to them in person or over the phone would be best, so that they can answer your questions right away. Otherwise, you can send them an email inquiring about more details, including how many spots are available in their group. 
Go on pilgrimages that are available to you 
Even if you are interested in several pilgrimages and do lots of research and preparation, it’s still possible for your plans to not work out. Perhaps the group fills up before you can register for it, the pilgrimage coordinator doesn’t respond to your email(s), or you fall ill right before the flight. In my case, I very much desired to attend World Youth Day 2016 in Poland. I reached out to different groups, but all of the groups were filled up. 
Less than a year later, I was invited to chaperone students from St. Mary Catholic School in Hamilton on a D.R.E.A.M.S. service trip in March 2017 to the Dominican Republic. In 2018, I was invited to go on St. Barnabas Parish’s Walking Pilgrimage. Finally, in 2019, the Lord led me to World Youth Day in Panama with St. Theresa’s Parish. 
If your heart is set on experiencing a pilgrimage, God will make opportunities available to you. You can trust that His timing will be perfect, whether you end up going on a pilgrimage a few months from now or a few years from now. 

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