I’ve seen other pilgrimages for less money. Why should I choose the Pilgrim Center of Hope?
Yes, there are many tours advertised for as low as $2,995 or even lower! As we always say: “Be careful! Read the fine print! What is really included in this tour?”
Pilgrimages organized by the Pilgrim Center of Hope are all customized. Each is consecrated to Jesus and Mary, asking the Lord’s blessing and Our Lady’s intercession for each pilgrim. The mission of this Ministry of Pilgrimages is to help you, the pilgrim, have the maximum experience. We realize that this may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, a major financial cost for some. We keep these factors in mind when planning each pilgrimage.
Be careful to distinguish tours from pilgrimages: A pilgrimage is a journey of faith offering daily Mass at various holy sites, time for scripture reading, reflection and prayer and incorporating many intentions such as spiritual renewal, rediscovery of the richness of the Catholic faith and its history, prayer and experiences such as meeting with the local church.
Our experience in organizing pilgrimages since 1988 is a great benefit to you.
Other tours or groups may be using tour companies that have a high volume of business. This often affects the end result. For example, many tour companies in Israel and in the U.S. receive a “cookie-cutter” package to travel in Israel. These more than often are treated as tours that include museums, quick visits to churches, and less time in the Holy Land. Some of these “low advertised prices” do not include airline taxes, tips and meals. Plus, they most likely use a non-Christian guide. Did you know that there are around 13,000 licensed guides in the Holy Land? Less than 300 are Christian! Again: take care in reading the ‘fine print’!
Is it safe to go to the Holy Land? What about the recent uprisings in surrounding countries?
Yes, it is safe to travel to the Holy Land as a pilgrim, especially in an organized pilgrimage. As pilgrims, we focus on the holy sites and stay at hotels owned by the Catholic Church. We travel as a group, assisted by a local licensed Christian guide, using a private motor coach. Our representative in Jerusalem handles all local details, is most aware of current situations, and remains in close communication with us. Note that we do not travel near Gaza. During our pre-pilgrimage meetings, we review the safety situation and answer any questions you may have. We have been leading groups to the Holy Land since 1988, and have never had safety problems.
Are Christian pilgrims in danger, or treated with hostility in the Holy Land?
On the contrary, pilgrims – and yes, American pilgrims – are welcomed with warm hospitality and open arms. The local people are happy to see pilgrims interested in their Land and by helping the local economy by patronizing their shops and restaurants.
Is the food safe to eat / water safe to drink?
Yes. The accommodations chosen throughout our pilgrimages are at first-class properties that offer quality cuisine and water. Restaurants recommended during the day (lunch) are also carefully chosen for their standards.
Important Questions to Consider when Discerning a Pilgrimage
What relationship do my pilgrimage organizers have with the Holy Land community?
Our founders, Deacon Tom and Mary Jane Fox, have been to the Holy Land and the Middle East over fifty times – exploring, leading groups, and capturing video interviews for educational purposes. Over the years, they have developed deep friendships with the local people, and are known by Latin Patriarchate bishops. Deacon Tom and Mary Jane are also Knight & Lady of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher of Jerusalem.
Will I be a number in a large group, or receive personal service from my group leaders?
Especially due to our small group size and ministerial approach, pilgrims receive the personal attention of our experienced group leaders, along with their local escorts, throughout the entire pilgrimage.
Will I ever be left alone?
We accompany pilgrims from the U.S. to Israel and on the return trip. During the pilgrimage, we are with you to cheerfully handle any issues or problems. Bear in mind that tour agencies which use non-Christian guides may not be able to enter Palestinian territories (ex. Bethlehem) with their groups. However, because we do use Christian guides, you will not be left alone either in Israel or Palestine.
How often will we celebrate the sacraments?
Our pilgrimages are accompanied by priests, usually from the Archdiocese of San Antonio. They offer daily Mass, are available for Confession, reflections, and spiritual direction.
Will my pilgrimage organizers lead me spiritually?
In addition to the priest who serves as spiritual director, our experienced group leaders are formed in evangelization and theology through the Ministry of Pilgrimages. They periodically also share reflections and lead prayers during the pilgrimage.
Who is handling the logistical details?
We work with Consolidated Tours, Inc. (CTO), a professional, ethical, and reputable Catholic and American tour operator, in making all reservations and assisting with preparation. We maintain contact with a CTO representative in the Holy Land, assuring us of personalized service.
If I’m interested in learning more about a pilgrimage, who should I contact?
Feel free to call us! Our phone number is 210-521-3377 or email us via this website. We would be happy to answer your questions and talk to you about any details.
How can I reserve my seat for a pilgrimage?
Contact us for a pilgrimage brochure which includes a registration form. A deposit of $300 per person with a completed and signed registration form mailed to Consolidated Tours, Inc. will reserve your space. Do remember that our pilgrimages are limited to 30-40 spaces. Deposits are received on a “first-come, first-served” basis. Once confirmed, Consolidated Tours will mail you a confirmation.
Is travel insurance provided?
Consolidated Tours, Inc. offers a very good travel insurance package that includes trip cancellation, baggage, and more. Once deposit is received and your reservation is confirmed; Consolidated Tours, Inc. will mail you a pamphlet with details.
Can you donate a pilgrimage for my fundraiser?
Pilgrim Center of Hope is a non-profit organization. Funds covering travel expenses are paid by pilgrims. These funds are not in any way provided by Pilgrim Center of Hope’s donor base, unless a donor specifically requests that their donation be used to provide a pilgrimage for a priest, religious, or other specific individual. Any PCH pilgrimages used as raffle prizes have been paid for by the raffling organization or other entity, and have not been donated by Pilgrim Center of Hope.
How long does it take to get a passport?
Average 4-6 weeks. However, once your decision is made to travel on pilgrimage, immediately apply for your U.S. Passport.
Will this experience be physically demanding?
Most likely more demanding than our usual daily activity. For example, there is a lot of walking, standing at various holy sites. However, at the same time, our structured daily schedule does offer periods of rest. We have traveled with persons of limited abilities and even up to their eighties in age.
What is the weather like?
It all depends on the time of the year. In the Holy Land, the winter and fall months are much cooler than San Antonio weather and may include rain. Spring months are very pleasant. Summer months are hot and dry with cool evenings.
How should I prepare for a pilgrimage?
Pray, read and walk! We usually host three Orientation Meetings to help you prepare for these journeys of faith. You will receive material that will provide guidelines on how to prepare spiritually and also by reading information on the sites to be visited. We also recommend walking to prepare your body for the days of pilgrimage.