Catholic teens raise funds for summer pilgrimage to Rome

Dec. 8, 2012 at 6:08 a.m.

Reyna Herrera

Reyna Herrera

Parents and confirmation students met during an area taco joint's after hours to discuss their summer travel plans.

The hands on a red Coca-Cola clock ticked as the mothers and grandmothers chatted back and forth on a cloudy November afternoon about what their children would soon encounter.

Dora Silva, a confirmation teacher at Our Lady of Victory Cathedral in Victoria, led the gaggle of Catholic mothers through what was left to be raised in fundraising for the trip across the ocean - to the land of pizza and purses, Italy.

The group will be on a Holy Spirit pilgrimage, where they will visit cathedrals and other historic biblical sites all while learning more about Catholicism.

The trip is a few months away, and the group of area Catholic teens still need 15 more spots to be filled.

Because all of the students are under 21 years of age, Our Lady of Victory and other area Catholic dioceses would not be providing any of the students with funding for the trip.

"It's because of the worry surrounding international travel," said OLV representative Betty Mitchell. "The bishops have made it a policy to not provide funding for international travels for underage members of the church."

Silva and her crew of sprouting young Catholics booked their pilgrimage through Little Flower Tours and Travel, a travel agency based out of New York.

The prices for the 12-day pilgrimage to Italy range from $700 to $3,599, with round-trip airfare, hotel stay, meals, a guide and daily Mass tours included.

"These are kids that Mom and Dad cannot simply write a check for," Mitchell said.

The idea to take on the challenge of raising funds for the pilgrimage came during one of Silva's confirmation classes.

Victoria East High School junior Shelsey Gonzales, 16, said she's about $1,300 shy of hitting the total amount needed for the travel package.

At first, parents voiced concerns over dangers abroad, but those worries were quelled with the promise of constant adult supervision.

Shelsey said she had recently watched "Taken," an action-thriller about a retired CIA agent who travels across Europe to rescue his teenage daughter from sex traffickers.

"But I know that we'll be safe on our trip because we'll be with our chaperones the whole time," Shelsey said.

Tour guides and escorts will also accompany the group through their holy journey in Italy.

"We don't go any place that isn't safe to begin with," said Little Flower Owner Susan De Bartoli. "These children are not going to be alone."

Through confirmation preparation classes, candidates select a mascot saint for the coming-of-age, benchmark Catholic ritual.

Shelsey found herself wanting to meet Pope Benedict XVI in person.

"Ever since then, it's captured my attention," Shelsey said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

The students learned that many of the saints lived through Italy's ancient times and grew interested in visiting the historic sites tied to their stories.

"This is just a group of kids that want to expand their faith," Mitchell said.

Anxious to fill the spots with community members they may know, the traveling Catholics seek 15 additional applicants for their spiritual journey to Italy.

"They don't have to be Catholic," Mitchell said. "But they'll have to understand it's not a sightseeing trip; they'll be going to Mass and saying the rosary every day they're there."



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