Year of Faith Pilgrimage – They are back!

The Year of Faith Pilgrimage organized by the Pilgrim Center of Hope consisted of 45 pilgrims from San Antonio, Brooklyn NY, Midland TX, Newburg OR, Trophy Club TX, Edinburg TX, New Braunfels TX and Pleasanton TX.  Fr. Ed Hauf, O.M.I. was the Spiritual Director.

Pilgrimage began in Assisi. Three nights within the ancient city walls of Assisi and within a few steps from the Basilica of St. Francis where the Tomb of St. Francis is located.  Other sites visited here were:  Basilica of St. Clare (we saw her incorrupt body and relics), the Hermitage of St. Francis on Mt Subasio where Francis would spend days in prayer and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels built over the little Portuincola (where Francis received Clare into the community and the first community rules were established).

Then to San Giovanni Rotondo for three nights – the home and of St. Padre Pio, a Capuchin Friar who died in 1968.  We prayed at his tomb – viewed his incorrupt body and visited his monastery.  One day was spent nearby at Monte San Angelo where St. Michael the Archangel appeared in the 4th century.  Today, a Basilica is built over that apparition site.

Then on to Rome for five nights.  On the way to Rome, we stopped at Montecassino, an ancient Benedictine Monastery where the tombs of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica are located.

Rome –  One of our spiritual home towns as Christians;  Jerusalem is the other, where the Church was born.  The Pilgrims encountered Pope Francis at a General Audience with thousands of other Pilgrims!  A great joy to see the faith alive with the thousands gathered to join our Holy Father in prayer.   Sites visited:  Four Major Basilicas – St. Peter, St. Mary Major, St. Paul Outside the Walls;  the Colosseum, the Catacombs and the Vatican Museum.

Daily Mass  was the highlight of the pilgrimage.  Mass at the Altar used by St. Padre Pio, Mass at the Altar of John Paul II in St. Peter’s , Mass in St. Mary Major in the Chapel where the Tomb of Pope Pius X (who instituted the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary) is located and Mass in the Catacombs!

This Pilgrimage was a blessed and grace-filled journey of faith.  The Pilgrims commented on they grew in their faith

Vatican City, Italy

Vatican City, Italy

and hope in Christ, in their knowledge of Church teaching and the history of the Church.  A Healing service was held during the pilgrimage;  the pilgrims experienced healing.

The Ministry of Pilgrimages is an important component of the Pilgrim Center of Hope.  If you are interested in joining us on a future pilgrimage, contact us.  Or if you would be interested in contacting us to organize a pilgrimage for you, for your parish or organization,  let us know.

Building up the Body of Christ through the Ministry of Pilgrimage”



 Walk with Our Lord, Our Shepherd, Our Community

You are invited by Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, M.Sp.S., to join him and the San Antonio community in this special pilgrimage to Mission Concepción during the Lenten Season in this Year of Faith. Bring your family, children, friends, neighbors and fellow parishioners – all are welcome!

Saturday, March 2
9:30am – 1:00pm

For details, preparation information, prayer and maps, go to

Out Of Shared Pain Arises Hope for Peace – A Holy Land pilgrim shares story of Israeli and Palestinian

By Deacon Gene Townshend

It was an extraordinary sight.

My wife and I were on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, joined by 30 others from the San Antonio area. While in Jerusalem, our group was invited to hear two people speak. When they appeared in the conference room in the Knight’s Palace, the hotel in which we were staying, Rami Elhanan, an Israeli Jewish man, appears and embraces an attractive woman. Her head is covered in traditional Muslim fashion. Rami is a veteran of the Israeli Army, having fought bravely in the Six Day War of 1967.

CRS 2012 SpeakersThe woman’s name is Moira Jilani. Rami calls her ‘my sister’ because they are united in a common cause for peace. Moira lives within the Palestinian enclave near Bethlehem. Formerly, she lived in Texas. Moira had fallen in love with her husband, a Palestinian, while they both attended college in South Texas. After marriage, she followed her heart and husband to the Palestinian area near Bethlehem, and ultimately embraced the Muslim faith.

Pain and conflict bound both Rami and Moira into a common destiny.

Rami lost his teenage daughter, the joy of his life, to a Palestinian suicide bomber. He said the pain was beyond understanding. Rami descended into a cycle of hatred, despair, and loss of hope. Then, little by little, he realized that these poisonous thoughts were ruining his life. He searched for  answers.

Moira also lost a loved one—her husband—to needless violence. He was returning one day from Jerusalem to the Palestinian side near Bethlehem. Some Israeli soldiers were tightening down security at the various check points. A scuffle broke out, and during the confusion, Moira’s husband accidentally hit the gas pedal of his car instead of remaining stopped. His car accidentally hit a few Israeli soldiers.

When he got out of the car, he was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and in the confusion that ensued, was shot more than once. He died shortly thereafter. The details of why this happened are murky. However, Moira points out that in spite of her repeated requests, the results of the investigation were never given to her.  Moira further notes that the best she can determine, the Israeli soldiers, hit by her husband’s car, were not seriously injured. She is seeking justice through the courts.

Moira was suddenly a widow. Her three daughters had no father, because he was killed by the Israeli soldiers.

Rami had lost his daughter, the light and joy of his life, to a suicide bomber. Pain and misery and providence finally brought them both into an organization called the Parents Circle Group.

It took a long time, but both Moira and Rami discovered a common bond of friendship that finally brought them both to a point of forgiveness. They even dare to hope for peace between the Jews and Palestinians. They now both visit groups on both sides of the wall that separates the West Bank from the people living in Israel. They tell their stories to anyone who will listen. They are hopeful that peace and justice will one day be the norm for the area. They hope that the wall will come down. They both believe that the hatred between the various groups in the area has existed long enough.

Our speakers with CRS staff from Jerusalem (left; Hanan) and San Antonio (right; )

Our speakers with CRS staff from Jerusalem (left; Hanan) and San Antonio (right; Ana Alicia)

We met with Rami and Moira as a coordinated effort with the Catholic Relief Services (CRS). CRS states on its web site:  “Catholic Relief Services has worked with local partners in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza for nearly half a century. Our projects aim to support peace with justice for all people in this troubled region, while responding to the humanitarian and sustainable development needs of Palestinians.

“The current crisis in the West Bank and Gaza is one of the worst humanitarian situations in the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It threatens not only the well-being of Palestinian civilians and the very poor, but also endangers prospects for a sustainable peace between Palestinians and Israelis.

“Four decades of occupation, expanding settlements, military operations, the Separation Wall, restrictions on the movement of people and goods, and general insecurity have devastated Palestinian society. Poverty rates are nearly 65 percent and food insecurity has risen 13 percent since 2006.”

Ana Alicia Chavez, a CRS representative from the San Antonio area, accompanied our tour, and helped coordinate meetings with CRS groups in the Holy Land.

The people living in the area have experienced war and turbulence for thousands of years. The Israelis are concerned for their safety and security, because they are surrounded by enemies on all sides. Because of Israel’s concerns for security, when visiting Bethlehem, the place of our Lord’s birth, one finds a high wall separating this area from the rest of Israel.

Americans are fairly ignorant about the Palestinian people and their situation. Moira pointed out that many people think Muslims all are terrorists, sitting around, making plans to launch suicide bombing attacks. She notes this just is not true. “People want to stereotype Muslims as all the same,” she said. Moira notes that in the Bethlehem area of the West Bank, Palestinian Muslims are not the only ones living there. Palestinian Christians also live in the area.

Palestinian Christians are subject to the same security arrangements as the Muslims. As a result of Israel’s security concerns, Palestinians traveling to Jerusalem find it difficult. Many have lost their jobs due to the difficulty of meeting all of the requirements for travel in the area. People also find it difficult to visit family members and friends on the other side of the wall.

CRS arranged two additional visits with Palestinian people and organizations. We visited a Women’s Solidarity Project site, also near Bethlehem. There, about 40 women gather and make various items for sale. Profits from these sales help them augment their income. Most of them make these items from home, allowing them to meet their other family responsibilities.

Another CRS-arranged visit included meeting with students at the Palestine Ahliya University. There, men and women students are preparing community action projects. Our group met with some of the students and shared topics of interest with them. I asked our group of three young Muslim women about their dating norms. Their heads were all appropriately covered in the Muslim tradition. The young woman who served as translator finished asking my question. The young women’s faces blushed. One woman said, “No dating. Marriage yes, but no dating.” I followed up, “How do you get to meet someone to marry?” The translator answered, saying that men and women meet at school, in the work place, and in other situations. This is the context in how men and women form their relationships—but, not by dating.

As we were planning to drive from Bethlehem to Jerusalem, we stopped by the wall separating the two sides. It is quite a sight. It reminded me of the Berlin Wall that I had seen while serving in the Air Force in Germany during the late 1980’s. The wall separating Bethlehem and Jerusalem is quite tall, and its walls are several inches thick.

I am not an activist. I don’t normally take a public stance. But, I took a black marker and wrote in an open space on the wall, “I will pray every day for peace and justice for the Palestine people.”

I also pray daily for the safety and security of the Israeli people.

Gene Townshend is a permanent deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, serving at St. Pius X Catholic parish in San Antonio, Texas. He and his wife made their pilgrimage to the Holy Land with The Pilgrim Center of Hope in January/February of 2012.

Learn more about The Pilgrim Center of Hope’s unique Ministry of Pilgrimages.

Bishop Oscar Cantu with fellow Holy Land pilgrims

A Journey to the Holy Land

Thirty two pilgrims from San Antonio have recently returned from a 12 day journey to the Holy Land.  It was a wonderful, powerful pilgrimage!  Can you imagine touching the places of the Bible and kissing the places of our Lord’s birthplace, where He died on Calvary and the Tomb where He resurrected?  Imagine carrying a large wooden cross on the Way of the Cross leading to Calvary?  Consuming the Eucharist, the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus at daily Mass?  These among many, many other experiences were a part of the recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land.  We also prayed the Rosary by Mary’s House in Nazareth and walked along the Sea of Galilee in prayer and in silence with the Lord were additional powerful experiences!

Not only did we kiss and touch the holy places pertaining to our Lord’s life; we embraced the “living stones”, the Christians of the Holy Land, they are the ones that keep the holy sites, (many of which are active parishes) alive with the Spirit of Christ!  These “living stones” are also called the Mother Church, they are descendants of the early Church…the very first Christians!  And many of the holy sites are active Catholic parishes.  The pilgrims met the “living stones” by visiting with them, patronizing their restaurants, shops and worshiping with them on a Sunday Morning at a Mass in Arabic.  This experience reminded us of the universality of our Church.  We are all one in the family of Christ.

This pilgrimage was our 41st time to the Holy Land!  And each visit is a ‘fresh’ one, a renewing one for us.   Some ask us, “Don’t you ever get tired of going to the Holy Land?”  Of course not!  Because Christ is present in the Land he sanctified with His very life through His Church and by encountering Him in the Word!  The Holy Land is often called the “Fifth Gospel” for this very reason…the land, the people, the history teach us, and lead us closer to the Trinity!  So you can imagine how a pilgrimage can change lives!

Consider a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the Pilgrim Center of Hope.  Pray and ask the Lord for His guidance!  Then, call us: (210) 521-3377.

Happy Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary! Come & Journey with Mary!

Our Ministry of Pilgrimages has customized a 12 day journey with Mary, our Blessed Mother.  Departing San Antonio on October 31st, we will visit Fatima, Lourdes & Shrines of Paris including Lisieux.  Join Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox, pilgrimage coordinators and group leaders, with Spiritual Director of the Pilgrimage Father Dennis Arechiga, the pastor of St. Matthew Catholic Church in San Antonio.

"Angel of Peace" statue with children of Fatima

Pilgrimage offers 3 nights in Fatima, 4 nights in Paris and 2 nights in Lourdes.  In Paris, we will spend time at the Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacred Heart Basilica, Miraculous Medal Shrine and an entire day in Lisieux! We will fly between these three cities, so we can have plenty of time at these special places.  Price of $4,250.00 per person includes airfare from San Antonio, daily breakfast and dinner, daily Mass, all taxes and gratuities, a pilgrim packet and prayer book, preparation meetings and so much more!

Come to an Orientation Meeting on Sunday, August 21st at the Pilgrim Center of Hope beginning at 2:00pm!  If you are interested in joining us now (remmber only a few spaces remain)…contact us at 210-521-3377 or email us (click here).

May our Lady guide you in discerning your decision!

Only 10 spaces remain on this pilgrimage.

Holy Land & Rome Pilgrimage

The experience in the Holy Land was a powerful and grace-filled journey. Generally, the summer is one of the busiest times for pilgrims and tourists, but because of the unrest in the Middle East many people cancelled their reservations to travel; sad for them. Good for us.  The Holy Land was very safe and we were able to visit all that was scheduled on the pilgrimage.

We had many of the holy places to ourselves so we had time for reflection and meditation; Bishop Cantu gave us some wonderful insights. Even the weather was better than usual for this time of year; not quite as hot with a nice breeze.  So many memories will last a life time such as spending time in quiet prayer at many holy sites, a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, sounds of Church bells ringing, attending a local Mass in Arabic, the hospitality of the people of the Holy Land and being renewed in our spiritual life.

The Holy Land pilgrims joined 63 pilgrims from San Antonio, various U.S. cities and Mexico in Rome for four nights.  Rome was a beautiful experience even if it was crowded. It was a great honor to be present at the Mass with Pope Benedict XVI and to witness the pallium ceremony during which our Archbishop Gustavo Garcia- Siller received his pallium from Benedict XVI.  Daily Mass at various Basilicas, prayer at the Tombs of St. Peter and St. Paul, seeing the Sistine Chapel,the local cuisine and making new friends were a part of the Rome journey.

The last evening in Rome ended with a reception and dinner honoring Archbishop Gustavo in celebration of his Pallium.  Special invited guests were Msgr. Francis Kelly (Pontifical North American College), the Honorable Dr. Miguel Humberto Díaz (Ambassador of the U.S. to the Holy See), Joan Lewis( Bureau Chief for EWTN), members of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit (Archbishop Gustavo’s religious community) and others.  While enjoying toasts to the Archbishop and a five course delicious Italian meal; Ialian Opera singers dedicated several songs to the Archbishop. A great celebration indeed!

There are so many things to see in Rome and never enough time.  A good reason to return to the eternal city!

The next morning the Holy Land pilgrims returned home, to San Antonio; while the other pilgrim group continued to Assisi for two nights.   It was good to spend this timein Assisi; the beautiful town of St Francis built on a mountain side overlooking the Umbria valley. Here we had time to pray, to walk through this medieval village in the footsteps of St. Francis and to relax by enjoying the view of the surrounding valley. Bishop Cantu and Archbishop Gustavo offered Mass at the Basilica of St. Francis and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Angels where Francis founded his Community.  The hotel’s restaurant in the ancient city overlooked the Umbria Valley; pilgrims enjoyed sharing their stories of Rome.

In addition to being a great experience, this pilgrimage was also a spiritual good for our Archdiocese as well as for the Body of Christ in general. When the people of God step out of their ordinary routine to visit holy places and to pray good things happen, sometimes even miracles.

A video by Rome Reports that includes Archbishop Gustavo and Archbishop Jose Gomez of Los Angeles receiving their pallia from Pope Benedict XVI:

Pallium Pilgrimage to Rome & Assisi

An Orientation is scheduled on SUNDAY, MARCH 6th at the Pilgrim Center of Hope at 2:00pm – 4:00pm. 

This unique pilgrimage is organized for the Archdiocese of San Antonio for those interested in attending the Pallium Ceremony and Papal Mass on the Feast of St. Peter & St. Paul on June 29th at the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome. During which time, Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller will receive his Pallium from Pope Benedict XVI.    Symbolic of the office of an Archbishop, the Pallium is a vestment proper to the Pope, who confers it on Archbishops as a sign of their union with and obedience to him. 

To provide local Catholics the opportunity to share in this significant event in the life of the local Church, this pilgrimage has been customized to include visits to the major Basilicas of Rome, the Catacombs, and the Vatican Museum; and two nights in Assisi. 

Consider joining us on this unique journey of faith with Fr. Jonathan Felux, as Pilgrimage Spiritual Director;    Deacon Pat Rodgers, Media Consultant for this special Pilgrimage – Director of the Office of Communication and Gloria (Gigi) Zapiain, Pilgrimage Group Escort- Director of the Archdiocesan Catechetical Center.

Deacon Tom & Mary Jane Fox  (Pilgrimage Coordinators)

Journal of a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land & Jordan

A daily journal of our Pilgrimage was written thanks to Angela Santana, the Pilgrim Center of Hope Ministry Coordinator.  She wrote daily expressing the pilgrimage on a daily basis with photos and videos.  Videos will be posted on this website soon.  We invite you to read it on the Catholicism Live Blog in this Website.  Photos are also included in the Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Facebook. Simply click on the facebook and blog icons on the homepage of our website. 

A Pilgrimage to the Holy Land – a journey with Christ, the Holy Family and with the Communion of Saints!  One pilgrim, Susan from Denver, described her experience through a beautiful prayer highlighting some events of the pilgrimage, including receiving the Lord’s Body & Blood during Mass in the Tomb where He resurrected. 

Contact us for a presentation of  the Holy Land in your parish or to your parish organization.

Holy Land & Jordan Pilgrimage Oct 27-Nov 10

This is a unique opportunity to seek God, to see the Scriptures come alive, and to meet the inhabitants of the Holy Land in a personal way. During our upcoming pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we will be posting stories and spiritual reflections, photos and videos on the Internet that will chronicle our journey – and bring you along with us. On this website, we offer you a daily Spiritual Pilgrimage guide that gives you a short description of each day’s activities and a daily prayer.  Or click here:

Building up the body of Christ through Pilgrimages!

Holy Land Pilgrimage Orientation

Come to an ORIENTATION on the Holy Land Pilgrimage scheduled to depart San Antonio on October 27th and return November 10th, 2010. The Pilgrimage includes 10 days in the Holy Land and 3 days in Jordan! Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox will lead the pilgrimage along with Fr. Valentine Gallegos. Pilgrimage is over half-filled! Come and learn more about the HOly Land this Sunday, July 18th at the Pilgrim Center of Hope; 1pm – 3pm.