How my journey to Motherhood began with Mary



When we need comfort or guidance, many of us turn to our mother or the mother-figure in our lives. Gloria, one of our ‘pilgrim family members,’ began her own journey toward motherhood while on a Marian pilgrimage with us, strengthening not only her relationship with the Mother of Jesus, but also her young family’s love of Mary.

Here is a taste of Gloria’s story:

It wasn’t confirmed yet by a doctor, but I knew that I was pregnant when I went on pilgrimage. It wasn’t until I returned that I got the confirmation, but the whole time, I was excited to know that I was carrying a baby with me. Even though she couldn’t see the things that I could see, I felt that she could feel the feelings that I was having.

What solidified her name is the fact that I went on the Marian pilgrimage – and everything about Mary that I loved. I thought, “What better way to thank my Mother Mary than to name (my daughter) after Her?” That’s how I chose to name Ava, Ava Marie, because Ave Maria means, “Hail Mary,” and I wanted to give Her the glory of me having this baby.

The pilgrimage experience that stood out for me was being in Lourdes; taking in the Shrine, but actually getting in the baths [of the miraculous spring water]. It was extremely cold, but it was an experience that I’ll never forget! It was very exciting to go through the baths with Ava in my womb.

The pilgrimage has had a tremendous impact. Before I went, my faith was strong, but I felt that after the pilgrimage, I really knew Mary. Just being in those locations really impacted me a lot.

I actually did St. Louis de Montfort’s Consecration to Jesus through Mary. I had gotten a little booklet about it at one of the Catholic Women’s Conferences and saved it, thinking, “Oh, I’ll read it later… I’ll read it later.” When I returned, I said, “Where is that book?! I want to look for that book so that I can consecrate myself to Mary.” I couldn’t find it, and I forgot about it. Then, after Ava was born, I found the book! I thought, “I’m going to do it now,” and I did it. If it wasn’t for that pilgrimage, I don’t know if I would have done that, but I felt like I really wanted to be very close to Mary.

I have my mother on earth, but I feel like now, I can just talk to Mary as if she’s with me. I say, “Oh Mom, this and that…” “I’m going through this…” or, “How was it when Jesus was acting this way?” or, “Did Jesus ever…?” I pray a lot more fervently. My husband joins me, and my daughter; she has a rosary, and of course, she doesn’t know what we’re talking about, but when we’re praying it, she’s walking around with her little rosary… It makes it a lot more meaningful.

Do you feel Jesus drawing you closer to his Mother, Mary? “What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 487)

Here are some ways you can answer that calling:


Touch and Believe!



Today, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle, known as “doubting Thomas,” the one who demanded that he touch Jesus’ wounds before he believed in the Resurrection of Christ. Our Lord mercifully appeared to Thomas and allowed him to do so. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed.” God made us beings who are both spiritual and physical. Our sense of touch makes things ‘more real’, and Jesus compassionately allowed Thomas to touch his wounds.

What about us – today? Well, we would like to share with you the story of Jimmy, a recent new member of our Pilgrim Family, who together with his wife, Carmen, recently journeyed with us to the Holy Land:

Arriving in Nazareth, what struck us about this town is that there is an upper Nazareth and a lower Nazareth because of the steep hills. You can see why, when Jesus told the Nazoreans in Luke 4: 29-30 that he had fulfilled Scripture, and they became angry and tried to throw him over the cliff, how easy that would be to do. This is what is so incredible about going to the Holy Land, because the Bible becomes so much more alive.

The Rosary will never be the same for me after this trip. We actually visited 19 of the 20 sites where [the Rosary mysteries] actually occurred, with the only one that we did not visit was the Coronation of Mary as Queen of Heaven and Earth. I hope that you and I will also see that one as well one day, when we are in our glorified bodies.

In Jerusalem, we stayed at The Notre Dame Hotel, a Pontifical Institute which is owned by the Vatican. We were blessed to have a gorgeous chapel within the Hotel. Carmen and I were able to go to Eucharistic Adoration, and what a great way to prepare oneself for the sites we were about to see. Looking at the old city within the walls reminded me of all the history that has taken place in this city.

We were blessed to have Mass not only in the Holy Sepulcher Church, but at the very tomb of Jesus. During the Mass, Carmen and I were able to go into the tomb for a couple of minutes. Can you imagine that?

As we left Jerusalem, I again was so thankful for the Pilgrim Center of Hope for making this not a site seeing trip but an actual pilgrimage that increased my faith in such a tangible way. Jesus was real and I was able to walk in his footsteps! Reading the Bible, praying the Rosary, listening to the Scriptures in Mass have become alive.

“We too can have tangible contact with Jesus and put our hand, so to speak, upon the signs of his Passion, the signs of his love. It is in the sacraments that he draws particularly near to us and gives himself to us. […] Learn to ‘see’ and to ‘meet’ Jesus in the Eucharist, where he is present and close to us, and even becomes food for our journey. In the sacrament of Penance the Lord reveals his mercy and always grants us his forgiveness. Recognize and serve Jesus in the poor, the sick, and in our brothers and sisters who are in difficulty and in need of help.” – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Would you like to touch the holy places? Come join us on pilgrimage! See upcoming journeys on our website.

On the Way to Priesthood: My Conversion as A Pilgrim


What is a conversion experience? While Deacon James Wilcox was a seminarian, he journeyed with Pilgrim Center of Hope to the Holy Land. We would like to share the reflection of now-Father James Wilcox, Diocese of Fort Worth, on how this pilgrimage was a conversion experience:

Going to the Holy Land, going on this pilgrimage, really gave the almost “final glazing” (if you will) of formation for me, because it put so many pieces together. It was letting Deacon Tom and Mary Jane [Fox, Group Leaders], who love the Holy Land so deeply, show us the place they love. It was like going to their own homeland; them opening their house to us.

What touched me was the ability to understand Jesus Christ, both his divinity and his humanity, in a deeper way. For example, in the Garden of Gethsemane, when I was there praying, I could have a better understanding of Jesus Christ on that night before his crucifixion; his humanity, his prayer to God in that way. Then, on his divinity side, being able to serve as a deacon of the Mass at the Tomb of Jesus Christ offered such beautiful graces, such an opportunity to be where Our Lord rose from the dead, where he conquered death and sin for us. At Mass, being able to celebrate that gift that he’s left for us, really offered a glimpse into his divinity. I would say those are the things that helped me to grow in love.

The most direct method of going forward, and I’ve already seen it today, is really being able to use experiences, using knowledge, using the encounter with Christ that I had on the pilgrimage, in preaching. Really, that’s the first call: always to preach the Good News. To be able to do that from having walked in the footsteps of Jesus Christ is tremendous.

We need small conversion experiences in growing deeper in understanding who Christ is, so we come to know how he lived, why God came down to earth for us, and how we can live with him today in that way, but then, more importantly, in the Heavenly Banquet, as well.

The Pilgrim Center helped me on this pilgrimage understand universality in a very special way. When we see Christians in Palestine who are praying the same way we’re praying, when we attend Mass – the Mass that we pray, but it’s in Arabic; we understand that yes, we as pilgrims are a Body of Christ in and of ourselves, but we are Body of Christ with people on the other side of the world. We really do have a universality to the Church, and not only to the Church, but to our call to each other.

A pilgrimage is more than a vacation, and I think the Pilgrim Center of Hope really understands that a pilgrimage is an opportunity for prayer all along the way. That each of these locations, and moving toward each location, is the opportunity to grow in love of Jesus Christ through a conversion experience. So, the Pilgrim Center of Hope, helping people to be able to do that on large scales, on small scales, are really living out one of the Gospel messages, which is to bring people closer to an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

Conversion is an experience that we can, and must, experience each day! Each of us is called to encounter Jesus every day, to deepen our relationship with him, and decide to live his calling for our lives. This experience changes our whole outlook on life, faith, and our relationship with others.

Join us on pilgrimage! Seats are still available for August 7-17, 2017 journey of faith. Learn more here, or call 210-521-3377.

How God Healed Me


Our world needs healing and hope today. We would like to share with you a testimony about receiving these gifts, from a pilgrim who journeyed with our Ministry of Pilgrimages to the Holy Land:


I went to the Holy Land with a very heavy heart. The loss of my last parent hit me very hard. I took care of my parents for 9 years in my home. My life was put on hold and I devoted myself to them; cooking, cleaning, taking them to medical appointments, talking to doctors, keeping a log of all their medications, doctors, and short memos of all doctor appointments and procedures; I made sure that all their medications were taken on time and mostly got only 2 hours of sleep. These nine years were the best in my life to know that I did all I could, after all, they took care of me growing up. I can only hope that I made them comfortable.

My healing occurred in the Garden of Gethsemane.
I suffered from continuous severe pain in one leg for many years; that is totally gone now.

The main healing occurred while writing a letter to God. I had just completed praying the Rosary, and disappointment began to surface; so I began to write God a letter. I let him have it:

Dear God,
Why did you have to take my last parent — Dad did not have anything wrong; however, he did begin to eat less and less. Was it his time to go home to you so soon? God, after Dad’s funeral Mass and we were walking behind the casket out of the church, I almost fainted–I was so taken with grief.
No matter how hard I tried, I could not pull myself together. It was after the reception when it was time to leave. My siblings knew I would be going home to an empty house, yet no one indicated they would come stay one night with me or even asked me to come stay with them for one night. I went home alone and sat on the recliner about 3 hours–dead silence, God…

THEN IT HAPPENED: a deep warmth came upon me – on my face and within my heart. I thought I might be having some kind of out-of-body experience, but no, it was the Holy Spirt. I then heard a voice, “ALL I WANTED WAS TO HAVE SOMEONE SPEND 1 HOUR WITH ME IN THIS VERY GARDEN.” I began to tremble and knew at that point that my hurt and pain was in no way in comparison to our Lord. My tears dried up and I thanked our Lord for giving me this message: Dad and Mom are together and in a better place, and there is much more for me here on earth.

No matter where I travel next, this will be an experience and healing that I will carry to my grave. It is our faith that will carry us through all our deepest challenges. I have talked to individuals who are experiencing challenges about this, and they have gone back to church and began reading Scripture. I privately thank God and follow-up with these individuals.

It’s been a year since Dad went home. I have been busy getting my home in order; for a year I could not get myself motivated. I am at peace, and when I go to the cemetery now, the tears are dried up. I know that I will have moments, and I will then remember the Garden of Gethsemane – and if tears come, that’s OK.

God is ready to give you the healing you need. Seek Him in prayer!

Pilgrim Center of Hope’s desire is to reclaim the true meaning of pilgrimages as journeys of faith. Far from being ‘a religious tour,’ true pilgrimages are encounters with God. We invite you to journey with us!

> Upcoming Pilgrimage – Join us in an opportunity for conversion in the Holy Land, August 7-17, 2017. Just a few spots remain! Learn More.

How the Gospel Came Alive to Me


A woman's bare feet walks on an ancient stone floor

In today’s world, we are faced with the question: “Why do you believe in God?” or even, “Why would you believe in God?”

Today, the United States’ largest religious group is known as the ‘Nones’; people who have left religion or choose not to affiliate with any religious faith. Why is our nation ‘disconnecting’ from God?

This is one of the reasons Pilgrim Center of Hope was founded: to re-connect people with God and the Church. Over the years, we have met many men and women who participate in this ministry and experience that renewed connection. One such person is Mary Jo Quinn, who journeyed on a PCH pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2009. She shared with us:

The Garden of Gethsemane was probably the most significant experience. We were given the opportunity for two-and-a-half hours of silent prayer, and that was an overwhelmingly glorious experience. I was able to relate to Jesus in his loneliness when he was there, how lonely he must have felt, and yet the presence of God there; knowing that he wasn’t totally alone. Nor was I totally alone. The olive trees were significant to me because they’re old, and I thought, ‘Some of them may have been there when Jesus was alive.’ That time was beautiful. I was able to identify my loneliness and that God is with me.

My other highlight was in the Tomb [of Jesus], in the Holy Sepulcher. I was asked to be a lector. We actually were able to get all of our pilgrims into the Tomb, into the very small area where the Tomb is. Another friend of mine and I were both able to read, and to this day, when we see one another, we reflect on what an honor that was, celebrating the Mass of the Resurrection.

The Gospel comes alive. Now, I prepare every Sunday to teach a Special Needs Faith Formation class. I do a pictorial card for them of the Gospel, and it’s just awesome… I can actually explain to them what happened and where that was, and that I actually walked where Jesus was. Bringing the Gospel alive is a wonderful aspect of the entire pilgrimage. You couldn’t ask for anything more than knowing that, all these years you’ve read the New Testament and tried to picture where it was, and now all of a sudden you didn’t have to try. To stand on the foundation of my faith was a high point for me; I was there where my faith began.

When I read Scripture now, I can have a vision of possibly where it happened; that it was a real place and not just written. I’m a lector, and I was able to relate to the New Testament better than I ever was before by having that experience of seeing the Gospel alive.

I took home with me that I walked in the footsteps of Jesus, I met him there, and I brought him home with me. It was glorious.

What helped Mary Jo to see the Gospel alive? Certainly, she was physically present in the places where Jesus lived, died, and rose again! Yes, she touched the stones and trees that silently witnessed the foundation of our faith! These are two undeniably powerful experiences that Holy Land pilgrims cherish.

No matter where you are right now, Jesus is calling you to encounter him and experience a renewal of faith! “Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the Word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervor dies out.” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel)

Each of us is called to approach and encounter Jesus today. Mary Jo allowed God to see her loneliness, and there she saw that Jesus was lonely, too. What is troubling you? Take a few minutes today to ask Jesus to be with you. And what makes you happy? Invite Jesus into your joyful experiences. Remember that he assured us, “I will be with you always” (Mt. 28:20).

> Upcoming Pilgrimages – Join us and re-connect with your faith with our Ministry of Pilgrimages! See Upcoming Dates.

What Helped Me Trust In God



Have you heard the phrase, “Let go and let God?” It is a trite expression, often difficult to follow. Many of us struggle to trust God with every aspect of our lives: our career, health, family situations, and the future in general.

Pilgrim Center of Hope was founded on this idea: That Jesus calls us to follow Him! Over the years, we have seen many people who participate in this ministry grow to a deeper awareness of what it means to follow Jesus, trusting Him with their life. One such person is Jack Moynihan, who shared some of his story with us:

I certainly went to Sunday Mass, but I didn’t have the depth of faith and devotion to Christ and his Mother that I do now. My whole attitude was that I wanted to be in control. Basically, I’ve spent my life doing just that! I would conclude what I wanted to do, and then move forward to accomplish that.

In 2013, Jack made a journey of faith with us to the Holy Land.

My most treasured recollection of my Holy Land pilgrimage was at the Mount of Beatitudes. It’s a very peaceful place, and probably not much different than it was from the time of Christ. It’s a little hill, and then you look down to the Sea of Galilee. I was fortunate enough to see it at sunrise and at sunset. It was a beautiful experience for me; spiritually enriching to be there and witness the scene that Christ would have seen at his time and what he looked out upon.

At the place of Christ’s death, we were able to place our hand at the site of the Crucifixion. We could see the stones that had been moved by the earthquake. We could see the coming together of the Truth of the Gospel with what we were observing as people, firsthand. That was extremely powerful.

The Gospels that we read every Sunday became more meaningful, because we were actually there.

The Holy Land pilgrimage started me, personally, on a deeper relationship with Christ. Now, I realize that I have to put myself at the disposal of God; I have to do what He wills me to do, and not what I will to do. It’s a complete change in emphasis. That was a gradual process, and it was assisted by each of the pilgrimages.

What was key to Jack’s conversion, so that he learned about trusting God entirely?

  • Prayer – United together, our preparation for each pilgrimage and our daily activities on pilgrimage, begin with prayer. Prayer opens us to allow God’s work within us.
  • An Act of Faith – Going on a pilgrimage is an act of faith. We are entering into a new experience in a new place, with a new group of brothers and sisters in Christ, journeying to sacred places with the faith that we will encounter God and his grace through this experience.

In 1998, Pope John Paul II promulgated a document offering this reminder about the first pilgrim: “By leaving his country, his family and his father’s house, Abraham goes with trust and hope towards the horizon that the Lord indicated, as the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us: ‘It was by faith that Abraham obeyed the call to set out for a country that was the inheritance given to him and his descendants.'”

Each day of our lives can be a pilgrimage toward eternal life. What act of faith will you make today?

Prayer: Lord Jesus, I want to trust you more. I open myself to your Holy Spirit. Help me to listen to your voice and follow you in my daily activities. Open my heart to find you in the people around me. Give me a spirit of prayer. Help me to act in faith today. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

> Upcoming Pilgrimage – Join us in an opportunity for conversion in the Holy Land, August 7-17, 2017. Just a few spots remain! Learn More.

What Lit My Heart On Fire



What is so powerful that it sets hearts aflame?

We are now in the Novena of Pentecost, the period of nine days during which the Church prays for the Holy Spirit to be stirred anew within us. This was exactly what the apostles were doing in the Upper Room of Jerusalem 2,000 years ago. Before Jesus ascended into Heaven, he had promised them:

The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—he will teach you everything and remind you of all that [I] told you. (John 14:26)

This radical renewal of faith reminds us of one of our Holy Land pilgrims, Diane Dziuk. After she returned home from our pilgrimage together, she wrote a letter to the Pilgrim Center of Hope:

There is not a day that goes by that I do not relive my sacred trip to the Holy Land.   This pilgrimage is a God-send.  As a cradle Catholic, things were good in my spiritual life, but this journey has reenergized my faith, I am hungry for the Lord, I am actively reading the Bible more, reading Catholic books, and listing more to Catholic radio and DVDs.  I owe all of this to Mary Jane, Deacon Tom, and all of you who work behind the scenes at the Pilgrim Center of Hope.

You…have impacted my life in a way that is hard to explain.  I feel an overwhelming peace that I have never felt before.  I accept that Jesus loves me and died for me.  Yes, with that comes a responsibility—to live as He wants me to live, as a role model of Christian love for my family and community; to spread the word of His love for us not only in word but in my every action.   This pilgrimage has lit my heart on fire.  I pray that that fire burns bright for the rest of my life on earth, leading me to that ultimate gift—“eternal life.”

Thank you…from the bottom of my heart.

Diane’s story can be our story, too. Each of us is called to be renewed and ‘on fire’ with the Holy Spirit! This is the awesome gift that God offers us. Our ministry is praying the Pentecost Novena on Facebook; join us. Come, Holy Spirit!

> Upcoming Pilgrimage – Experience an opportunity for conversion in the Holy Land with us, August 7-17, 2017. Just a few spots remain! Learn More.

Weekly Inspiration from St. Gianna Molla



“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”

Gianna Beretta Molla was the first married laywoman to be declared a saint. (though there are many sainted widows). She was also the first canonized woman physician — a professional woman who was also a “working mom” four decades ago, when this was unusual.

She considered her work in the field of medicine as a “mission”.  She was also very active in her Catholic community. With simplicity, she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor, and her passion for life.

Gianna and her husband, Pietro, had two children. When expecting their third child, complications arose. A few days before the child was due, she told her husband and the doctors: “If you must decide between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child—I insist on it. Save the baby.”

Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of 28 April, among unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you,” Gianna died.  She was 39 years old.  Her daughter, Gianna Emanuela, is today a physician herself, and involved in the pro-life movement. Gianna’s husband and their last child, Gianna, were present at the canonization ceremony at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 2004.

Our work can also become our “mission”; by asking the Lord to sanctify it and imploring the Holy Spirit to guide us in all decisions and actions.  This can also bring true happiness. Gianna was a Wife, Mother & Physician; let us learn from her life and, with the help of God, we, too, can bring harmony into our family life and friends.

Feast Day:  April 28

Weekly Inspiration from St. Andre Bessette



This week, we share with you some inspiration from a dear friend of Pilgrim Center of Hope, Brother Andre Bessette, a humble Holy Cross Brother:

If one were to ask any Canadian for the name of the person who built [the Oratory of St. Joseph], he would be told, ‘Brother Andre.’ Yet, this little lay brother’s name does not appear on any of the official records of the building of the Oratory. He was only a porter – a doorman – at a college owned and operated by his religious congregation. He was a little man, both in size and, if one were to judge by appearance, in importance. He was not a priest; therefore he could neither offer Mass nor preach. Because of poor education, he did not know how to read or write until he reached the age of twenty-five.

How is it, then, that this little brother is known and venerated all over the world as the little saint built built the Oratory of Saint Joseph in Montreal? Because of his prayer and humility, God used him to heal thousands of people who flocked to the Oratory.

Though Brother Andre was given the grace to heal others, he was constantly sick himself. He suffered from stomach illness all of his life. As a result, he could eat little more than a mixture of flower and watered-down milk, or sometimes break soaked in the same. To him, these sufferings were an opportunity for reaching greater sanctity. As we shall see, his final sickness provided him with many such opportunities. When asked if he was in great pain, he said, “Indeed I am, but I thank God for giving me the grace to suffer; I need it so much!”

When we are undergoing trials because of sickness, financial problems, or relational difficulties we should pray for the grace, not only for a solution, but to recognize how God might use the trial to strengthen our faith and for the benefit of another soul according to his plan.

Source: “Saint André Bessette: Montreal’s Miracle Worker” by Brother Andre Marie (

St. Andre, pray for us to have the humility to seek the will of God in all things.

Optional Memorial: January 6

Weekly Inspiration from St. Irenaeus



St. Irenaeus was a disciple of St. Polycarp, who was a disciple of St. John the Apostle.

“The writings of St. Irenaeus entitle him to a high place amongst the fathers of the Church, for they not only laid the foundations of Christian theology but, by exposing and refuting the errors of the gnostics, they delivered the Catholic faith from the real danger it ran from being leavened by the insidious doctrines of those heretics.” – Butler’s Lives of the Saints

St. Irenaeus lived at the time when many Christians were being martyred for their faith, and he is celebrated as a martyr. His faith was his life. His most famous quote is, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive; fully alive consists in beholding God.”

We are only fully alive when we are in the state of grace and intimately united to Jesus Christ in our prayer and sacrifices. We give God glory when we are faithful to what he has revealed to us through the Church and the Scriptures, which enables us to experience joy and peace, even in the most difficult circumstances.

We live in a confused world, in which many people reject the truths for which the martyrs died. We should ask for the intercession of St. Irenaeus when we are tempted to compromise the faith that has been handed down to us.

Feast Day: June 28