Pilgrims display banner with image of Christ during 2012 river procession in Brazil
Pilgrims display a banner with an image of Christ as they travel in a boat in 2012 while accompanying the statue of Our Lady of Conception (not seen) along the Caraparu River in Santa Izabel do Para, Brazil, Dec. 8. (CNS photo/Paulo Santos, Reuters)

Summer travel bills can quickly add up. If cost or some other factor is keeping you home this summer, put on your best pilgrim persona while exploring these sites . . .

Argentina — Students from Brophy College Preparatory are on the Jesuit school’s annual immersion experience to the pope’s native country. It looks like they’ve been there since June 9 or so. Take your time catching up on their adventures. You don’t have to return home when they do.

Ecuador — Nine students from Xavier College Preparatory depart June 29 for a two-week journey in Ecuador. The young women will serve at the Working Boys’ Center by by a Madre Miguel Conway, a childhood friend of Xavier’s principal. The center strives to eliminate poverty among working children and their families. Xavier students will assist with a community work project, in the center’s technical education shops and learn more about the families the center serves. Follow their Gators Go Global blog.

Holy Land — Page two of this June bulletin recaps a pilgrimage to the Holy Land that parishioners from St. Steven in Sun Lakes recently took. Find six related photo albums posted to its Facebook feed. Start with “To be in His presence…

World Youth Day Brazil — You can bet many will be blogging and Facebooking soon about World Youth Day from Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It looks like the Archdiocese of Detroit might be one of them as should Westminster Youth Ministry in London.
Definitely expect content from the Society of Jesuits in the U.S. Or try its Facebook page.
For reference, this is the official World Youth Day site.

Look for it on PBS or online.
Look for it on PBS or online.

Travel with Kids — If you’ve never caught the program (which happens to feature a Xavier College Preparatory alum as the mom), check your PBS listing. Or visit the family’s website. You can have your fill of travel adventures there (including posts from the family’s two young boys), or order a DVD. There are three U.S. states and 14 countries to choose from. I’ve caught some of the Ireland series on PBS and I think the Bahamas as well. It’s really fun to explore the world through the eyes of a child. And not nearly as tiring or expensive if you watch the DVD or the PBS showing.

The Catholic Travel Guide — Sorted by country and state, this site gives you plenty of Catholic places to learn about, or at least major ones in each area. It’s a simple design, but gives you an impression of the greater church. The site covers 24 U.S. states plus the District of Columbia. It highlights shrines such as the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando and other places of interest. You’ll find the basics of each travel destination, including a Google map, should you decide to ultimately visit in person.

International sites highlight at least 40 different countries. My suggestion: check out the Catholic safari in Botswana. It appears you can take a genuine safari, and at no additional cost, support local Catholic missions. Here’s the full site if interested.

Nicaragua — Follow a “Me To We” effort by checking in on the Gators Give Back blog. There are 13 students from Xavier in the mountains of  southwestern Nicaragua where they’re building a structure for an elementary school in an impoverished rural community.  The exact building assignment will be determined upon arrival. The trip is June 30-July 9.
Last year’s students helped to build a library for the school.  The students will also participate in leadership activities every night that will be implemented upon their return to Arizona.

World Youth Day Denver — This August marks the 20th anniversary that World Youth Day came to the United States. Review full texts of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s homilies and addresses (starting with the Aug. 12 address at the airport).
Or, if you’re one of the many people who apparently vacation in the Denver area each summer, consider a trip to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (where the pope celebrated Mass with the bishops), the Mile-High Stadium (where the official papal welcoming for World youth Day Festivities was or Cherry Creek State Park (where the vigil and papal Mass were held). The park provides space for camping, hiking and other outdoor activities. It’s home to an 800-acre lake and more than 40 animal species.

Look for "Catholic Destinations"
Look for “Catholic Destinations”

Catholic Destinations — Find episodes on CatholicTV. Episodes air Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. They’re also online. Consider using the Find an episode” feature on the right. It will be easier to skim by detitnation and air dates. Sample destinations include Our Lady of the Angels Cathedral in 3D, the Basilica of St. Therese of Lisieux in France and St. Joseph Oratory in Quebec, Canada (it’s a two-parter).

China — The young men who contributed to this blog were the first Brophy students to participate in an exchange program with this Asian country. See it through their eyes.

Guatemala — The young men of Brophy who opted for this Central America immersion trip have already returned home, but their reflections are here for the reading. They even got to stay in private homes…an experience that inspired them to write a song.

Zambia, Africa — Three Presentation sisters flew from South Dakota to the capital of Zambia earlier this year and visited two of the order’s missions. Overall, 27 sisters work full-time serving the area’s 27 missions. Each sister blogged separately with the communal stream seen at a glance on “Bridging Cultures.”

Peru — Some Brophy students opted for the Peruvian experience instead. Although text-heavy, the blog does link to the photo page already set up for when Internet access and time to sort/upload allows them to share images of their journey. A couple of entries caught my eye. The note on Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos was one of them. I can never hear enough about how American kids — from 10 of our local Catholic schools last I knew — are among godparents worldwide financially supporting orphans in Latin American countries and the Caribbean so that the orphans have a brighter childhood and bright future. More on Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos and 2013 stats.

I also stopped on “Nuns who feed the poor.”  The first sentence spoke to me. “Last night, we ate dinner cooked by members of a branch of Carmelite nuns in a special restaurant they set up in their convent.” It reminded me of a similar setup of our last meal in west Africa last fall. Local Catholic Relief Services staff treated us to a French restaurant run by religious sisters. I’m not sure where they lived, but their gift shop next door was a modest tourist haven. Turns out, had I read the second sentence of the Brophy blogpost before writing this, I would have learned that these Carmelite nuns in Peru are from the same order or the beautiful women who served me in Africa.

Tip — If you are planning a real trip to Italy, keep in mind children get in free to state-run museums and archaeological sites, according to are free to Catholic Travel Blog.