Longtime Group Coordinator Diane led a customized pilgrimage tour to France, Spain, and Portugal. She drew inspiration from our Marian Shrines & the Way of St. James tour and designed an itinerary that brought her group to a variety of holy sites throughout the region. Read on for her tips on what to expect when planning and traveling on a Christian pilgrimage tour.
- Spread the word about your upcoming pilgrimage tour by including an ad in the weekly church bulletin. Forming a small pilgrimage committee that includes parishioners and clergymen, especially if they’re joining you on tour, makes it easy for interested travelers to know who to talk to if they’d like more information.
- Involve all parishioners—even the ones who can’t join you on tour—by having them write their own prayer petitions on pieces of paper. “We delivered these pieces of paper to the grotto at Lourdes and they were later burned,” said Diane. “This is a great way to make everyone in the church community feel included in your travel experience.”
- Make sure perspective travelers are comfortable with the amount of walking on tour, especially along the Way of St. James. In order to visit this famous pilgrimage route, travelers will need to be able to walk the entire 3.8-mile section of the path.
- If any clergymen are joining you on tour, have them fill out the paperwork from their home diocese that allows them to concelebrate masses abroad. “Scheduling daily masses was important for my travelers,” said Diane. “Work with your Tour Consultant and Tour Director to figure out the Mass schedules in each city on tour so the groups can attend local church services and plan private services.”
Discover how a pre-tour party can help create a sense of community within your group.
- Let your group members know they can use their free time for both secular and spiritual activities. Be sure to spread the word to your group about when you’re attending processions or masses during free time, but make sure everyone knows they can choose which activities they want to take part in.
- Take advantage of the time you have together on the bus. “The priest who joined us on tour said a short prayer over the microphone and played a CD that featured a woman who sang the rosary,” said Diane. “My travelers liked having this prayerful, soothing start to the day.”
- If you planned to attend church services ahead of time or received permission for the clergymen to host a concelebration, make sure the clergymen bring a small backpack with them each day to hold their robes, hosts, and travel sets.
- Hold a farewell Mass the last night of tour. “We bought vestments in Lourdes and used this time to give them to the Father who joined us on tour,” said Diane. “I also bought shells along the Way of St. James and had them blessed by the priest at Mass. I surprised each of my group members with one during this final on-tour get-together.”
Learn about the Way of Saint James and what to expect before embarking on this pilgrimage route.
- Hold a mass or fellowship with your group members a month or so after you return home. This is a great opportunity to catch up and share information about your upcoming trips with those who joined you on your pilgrimage tour. It also gives you a chance to spread the word to other parishioners who may be interested in joining you on a future tour.
- Reach out to local newspapers and diocesan publications to see if they’re interested in featuring an article about your tour. “It helped to tell the editor at the paper that the Bishop recommended I contact them,” said Diane. “Be sure to pass along any photos from tour to include alongside the article.”
- Talk with your Tour Consultant to pass along any tips you learned through leading a pilgrimage tour. They’ll be able to use this information to help other Group Coordinators who are looking into similar trips.
Check out our other tips on how to stay in touch with your group post-tour.
What’s your favorite way to share the tips you learn on tour with fellow Groups Coordinators? Let us know in the comments!