See Rome, Vatican City and be part of the papal audience with the Pope

By Malie Hudson     3/20/2018

The Diocese’s first Catholic cruise with Bishop Kevin Vann and Bishop Tim Freyer last summer was so successful that the Diocese is planning an even bigger annual bishops’ pilgrimage cruise this year. 

Last July, Bishop Vann, Bishop Freyer and a group of 207 parishioners departed Long Beach for a brief weekend cruise to Ensenada, Mexico where Mass was celebrated in a cathedral in Santuario and parishioners were given the opportunity to work directly with orphans by bringing them clothing, shoes and school supplies. On the cruise ship, confessions were offered and a Mass was celebrated. Parishioners were also treated to a pleasant surprise. 

“Bishop Vann did two piano concerts,” said Ron Adcock, owner of Travel of Orange, the official travel agency for the diocese. “A lot of people didn’t know he even played the piano and he sang some show tunes in the beginning and then he went into sacred music and talked about his upbringing as a child playing the piano and how he likes to do it to minister to people.” 

Bishop Tim Freyer will lead the Second Annual Bishops’ Pilgrimage Cruise, along with Bishop Vann. The trip kicks off with a Vatican pre-trip on land that departs LAX Airport on July 22 and arrives in Rome on July 23. The Diocesan Choir and several priests from throughout the Diocese will also participate in the pilgrimage. After arrival in Rome, pilgrims will be immersed in two days of spiritual renewal in Imperial Rome, Vatican City and the Sistine Chapel. Parishioners will also have the opportunity to be a part of the papal audience with the pope. 

“I’m looking forward to the audience with Pope Francis, it’s a great way to be able connect with the universal Church because you see people of faith from all over the world gathered together and surrounding our leader,” said Bishop Freyer. “I just had an audience with the pope last September when I was in Rome for the school of new bishops and it’s just a great experience to be able to see him in person and not just in a picture or a video.” 

Also while in Rome, pilgrims will visit the Pontifical North American College. 

“We’re planning on going on a tour and then have a concert at the college which is where some of our priests study in the seminary; they do advanced education there so that should be a neat place for people to go and see since there’s a connection to home,” said Ryan Lilyengren, director of communications for the Diocese. 

On July 26, pilgrims will set sail on the brand new two-month-old Royal Caribbean Symphony of the Seas cruise ship. 

“This is the largest passenger cruise ship in the world,” said Adcock. “The ship is really a destination in itself. It’s spectacular. You can zip line, it has an ice skating rink; it has 10 pools, 8 water slides, surf and boogie board simulators, aqua theater, a fireworks show at night. The activities are limitless.” 

One of the highlights of the pilgrimage cruise that holds a special meaning for Diocese of Orange parishioners is a port stop in Palma de Mallorca, the city within which St. Junipero Serra attended school as a teenager. Pilgrims will also visit his birthplace, Basilica de Sant Francesc and the St. Serra museum. 

“We are planning on having a talk about St. Junipero Serra and that would be in anticipation of the Mass that will be celebrated in where he is from in Spain,” said Bishop Freyer. 

Pilgrims return home from the pilgrimage on Aug. 2. For the complete itinerary and contact information, visit occatholic.com/travel. 

Since the ship will be newly introduced by the time pilgrims set sail, Adcock anticipates the cruise to be sold out soon so he encourages parishioners to book as early as possible. 

“The nice thing is that they can make a deposit for the cruise which is $250 per person. Their deposit is fully refundable by April 13, and what that does is it locks in their price, because the price will go up, and also locks in their space on the ship,” said Adcock. He added that several missed the opportunity to join the first diocesan pilgrimage cruise. “We did have a lot of people who waited until the end. A lot of them really wanted to go. They really wanted that time with their bishops. Just make a deposit and lock it in. You can always change your mind but at least you know you have your space available.” 

Bishop Freyer received positive feedback from pilgrims on the first cruise. “They enjoyed the opportunity to get to know people from throughout the diocese and to be able to be with other Catholic people,” said Bishop Freyer. “They met new friends, new relationships were formed, as well as just being able to have Mass and evening prayer each day of the cruise. They liked having that opportunity.”