Putting the Inspirational in Catholic high school educational tours

by Scott Scherer

Back when I was in high school, which wasn’t exactly forever ago, the only kids who traveled abroad were the language club students. It made sense. They went to France, Germany, or Spain to put all those hours of language study to practical use and to experience the country’s culture.

Fast forward a few decades (or so), and the picture changes dramatically. As the globalTeens Jumping in Pisa community has awakened and the international community has become more intimate, more and more kids are taking summer and spring break trips overseas to explore and expand their schoolhouse education outside of its brick and mortar walls.

For Catholic High School students, it’s a little different. The Catholic faith perspective imbues so much of what is learned inside the school’s walls. When we talk to group leaders and high school students who have traveled abroad, they describe experiencing a sort of disconnect on those educational tours to Europe and the Holy Land. Something is missing. And that something is their faith.

If the Catholic faith informs what is learned within the walls, shouldn’t it also be a part of the kids’ education in school programs outside of those walls, too?

We have been operating pilgrimages for youth groups for years. Recently we’ve seen an increase in the number of requests from Catholic high schools that want their school trips to include sensitivity to their Catholic world. We get that.

Our years of experience have informed our approach to making Catholic youth travel to Europe and the Holy Land not only educational, cultural, and fun, but inspirational, as well. And that makes all the difference.

Scott Scherer is president of Catholic Travel Centre, which provides customized pilgrimages for more than 400 Catholic organizations across the United States. 

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Creating Community in Pilgrimage

by Scott Scherer

One of the aspects of pilgrimage I love the most is creating opportunities for our groups to interact, support, and build relationships with the people in the Christian communities we visit. Whether it’s attending Mass at a local church and bringing gifts to support the church’s school, or offering a day of the trip to volunteer on a local church project, these activities enable our pilgrims to experience their faith and the local people and culture in a very intimate way.

Catholic Travel Centre pilgrimage group led by Fr. Sheridan visits Bethlehem University.

On a recent March trip to the Holy Land, one of our groups, led by Fr. Patrick Sheridan, O.S.B., and organized by John D’Isacco and Mary Hornickel, was welcomed to Bethlehem University.

During their visit, the pilgrims met with four ambassador students and, among other insights, gained an understanding of the excellent relationship between Christian and Muslim students at the school. You can read more about the experience in this brief article.

When our pilgrim groups take the time to meet and interact with the local people, both sides receive so much. Our pilgrims get a window into the everyday life of the local folks. And the local Christians – who are a shrinking minority in the Holy Land — feel supported by pilgrims from a foreign land who took time out to come and visit with them.

Perhaps you’d like to arrange such a visit on your group’s next pilgrimage to the Holy Land?

Scott Scherer is president of Catholic Travel Centre, which provides customized pilgrimages for more than 400 Catholic organizations across the United States. 

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Talking Holy Land pilgrimage with Israel’s Minister of Tourism

Mr. Eliezer Hod, Director of the Western Region USA Office of the Israel Ministry of Tourism, called me up with an offer too good to refuse.

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Catholic Travel Centre President Scott Scherer with Dr. Uzi Landau, Minister of Tourism from the State of Israel.

Dr. Uzi Landau, Minister of Tourism from the State of Israel, was in town and wanted to meet with leaders from a “very select” handful of religious tour companies at a private dinner at Morel’s Restaurant at the Grove in Los Angeles. My reply was a no-brainer.

Conversation around the table was animated and open with Dr. Landau, a distinguished and polished man with a warm personality, and who conveys well the hospitality of his Ministry.

He was curious what the State Ministry of Tourism could do to convince more Catholics to come on pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  I gladly offered some confidential counsel, which was well received.  I also extended well earned congratulations to Mr. Hod, Dr. Landau, and their Ministry: the year 2013 set an all-time record for the number of foreign visitors coming to Israel.

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Celebrating Service at the Cardinal’s Awards Dinner

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Cardinal Roger Mahony and Catholic Travel Centre President Scott Scherer catch up during the pre-dinner cocktail hour at the Cardinal’s Awards Dinner.

Our Catholic Travel Centre team was pleased to join more than 1,000 Catholics March 1, at the Cardinal’s Awards Dinner, a black-tie gala that is the largest annual fundraising event in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. The beneficiary of this year’s event was St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, Calif.

Included among the five honorees, who are  chosen from five pastoral regions, was Bishop Joseph Sartoris. Bishop Joe is a longtime friend of CTC, having led numerous pilgrimages to the Holy Land, Italy, and Turkey. He is admired by so many for his generous service and his untiring efforts to bring about healing and reconciliation, as well as for his deeply spiritual life. Our congratulations is extended once again to Bishop Joe for being honored with this award.

For all of us at Catholic Travel Centre, the awards dinner was also an opportunity to visit with so many of our pilgrims — the people whom we’ve served over the years — and to hear their stories about how their pilgrimages touched and changed their lives. It was a heartwarming experience all around, to be sure.

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God’s Will in Pope Francis

Believing in the will of God means believing in God’s divine plan for humanity and His desire to see the plan fulfilled.

We often look for God’s will in our lives, especially when we are in a difficult situation or need to make an important decision. Obeying what we know and doing what He asks us to do right now in the present moment is the only way to know for sure what He is asking us to do. And once we do, we wait for God to reveal what is next.

With each step we take with God, we are strengthened to take the next. This is how we will of Godlearn to walk with God in decisions big and small.

Sister Candida Bellotti, a religious sister who celebrated her 107th birthday at daily Mass with Pope Francis February 20, believes Pope Francis is God’s will.

“If God wanted us to have Pope Francis, it’s because it was already in his eternal mind,” said Sister Candida Bellotti in statements to Catholic News Agency. “He is the right person for our time, and we need to respect him because it is God’s will.”

Sister Bellotti also offered insightful words about the happiness born out of gratitude:  “What we really need in life is to give thanks to God for what he gives us. Because that is the only thing that will make man happy.”

For more inspiring words from this Sister whose life has been dedicated to serving the sick, read the full article on the Catholic News Agency website.

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