Following the isolation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic, many families are planning summer getaways as restrictions loosen, vacation deals become abundant, and domestic travel is possible.
For Catholic families, a number of faith-based vacations are available in Orange County, in California, throughout the United States and abroad. From cruises to on-foot pilgrimages, a plethora of shrines, missions, and cathedrals beckon to Catholic tourists.
A number of Catholic vacation spots welcome families from throughout the U.S. Catholic-link.org offers a guide to 11 of the best U.S. destinations for Catholic families, including St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City to St. John Paul II National Shrine in Washington, D.C., and the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, also in the nation’s capital. Other sites of interest are the National Center for Padre Pio in Barto, Pennsylvania and the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Gaylord, Michigan, where you can see a cross that is 28 feet tall and weighs seven tons.
Faith-based explorations offer activities for families. At Bethlehem Farm in Talcott, West Virginia, families spend the week serving in the local community, learning about sustainable living, and in reflective prayer.
Here in California, the 21 Missions welcome families for day visits and pilgrimages. The missions form a continuous line from San Diego to Sonoma, with some missions little more than ruins and others extensively restored. The California Mission Walk is an 800-mile route that roughly follows El Camino Real, the trail that once connected the missions statewide. At 206tours.com, you can find guided pilgrimage tours to the missions.
Several missions are within a day’s drive from Orange County. As children, my two sons and daughter studied the California Missions and we visited Mission San Juan Capistrano and Mission San Luis Rey so that they could take tours and photographs to use in their reports. My mother always wanted to visit every mission, as she has a keen interest in California history.
Catholiccruisesandtours.com offers cruise packages to the Holy Land, Fatima, Lourdes, and Italy, as well as tours of the Camino de Santiago. Dynamic Catholic offers several pilgrimages, including ones to Oberammergau, Medjugorje, and Poland, among others. My parents loved seeing the historic passion play at Oberammergau, which is performed only once every 10 years; the next play is scheduled for 2022.
Globusfaith.com offers a number of religious vacations, including pilgrimages to Germany, France, Spain and Portugal, Italy, and the Holy Land.
I’ve found spiritual refreshment in many national parks, such as Yosemite, and in my favorite green, quiet, and majestic spot, Muir Woods in the Bay Area. Many naturally beautiful areas exist both locally and statewide, offering stunning hiking, fishing, and camping. Our family took a wonderful vacation years ago to Big Bear Lake, we spent one memorable Christmas at Lake Tahoe, and we routinely hike on trails throughout Orange County.
Because the Sisters of Providence grew close to my heart when I studied at now-closed Marywood High School, I’ve always wanted to visit St. Mary-of-the-Woods in Indiana, their home base. There’s a shrine to recent saint, Mother Theodore Guerin, who founded the sisters, and opportunities for guided and self-guided tours, spiritual retreats, and Taize prayer.
Wherever families choose to visit for summer vacations, there’s always a local church to explore.
The Maria Ferrucci Catholic Family Living feature is intended to inspire families to live their faith in the way Maria Ferrucci did throughout her earthly life.