Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

The Diocese of Superior is organizing a pilgrimage to Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families and Pope Francis’ visit.

Megan Noll, diocesan director of Marriage, Family and Youth, is the contact person for anyone interested in learning more about the Sept. 22-27 trip.

“It’s definitely going to be a spiritual journey,” said Noll, who will be traveling with the group.

Canterbury Pilgrimages & Tours, a New Hampshire-based travel agency, designed the tour package, which includes departure from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, visits to the St. John Neumann National Shrine and St. Katharine Drexel Shrine, World Meeting of Families activities, a guided tour of historic Philadelphia and attendance at the pope’s welcoming ceremony and closing Mass.

The package, which costs $1,695 per person, includes airfare, five nights at a Holiday Inn Express, motor coach transportation and some meals.

Registration costs for the World Meeting of Families varies by age and package; adults who register for the basic package by April 30 pay $125 each. Cost is $95 per person for ages 6-17.

To give pilgrims more options, Noll is also working with a sister parish. She’s communicating with Fr. Tom Whittingham, parochial vicar at Mary, Mother of the Redeemer Catholic Church in North Wales, Pennsylvania, to arrange lower-cost accommodations.

“If a family wants to do that, or if our travel package is more than they want to spend, they can contact me,” she said.

Seeing the pope will be the biggest highlight of the trip, Noll said, and she’s also looking forward to visiting the two shrines. Beyond that, she’s open to whatever happens; she’s learned to expect the unexpected on spiritual journeys.

“A pilgrimage is just really being open to what God has planned for you,” she added.

Noll expects about 50 people will join the group, and advises prospective travelers to sign up as soon as possible. Her other advice: “Don’t let money be an obstacle if you feel called to go.”

The World Meeting of Families will be very youth-friendly, according to Noll, so parents need not worry about whether their children will enjoy the trip.

“If you have a lot of kids and you want to go, you shouldn’t feel prevented because there’s something for everybody,” she said.

Noll is available to travel to parishes to talk more about the pilgrimage; she can be reached at 715-234-5044.

For those who’d like to learn more about the challenges facing families, Alice and Jeff Heinzen, the couple from the La Crosse Diocese who attended the Extraordinary Synod of the Family in October, will be sharing their experiences March 21 at St. Joseph Church, Rice Lake. All are welcome.

“This coming year, we’ll be trying to celebrate the family in different ways,” Noll explained. “Understanding what the bishops were talking about at the synod is one way.”

As Noll prepares to lead the diocesan pilgrimage, she wants to encourage everyone to pray for the World Meeting of Families and for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, “because they’re taking on a huge responsibility.”

This is also a good time for Catholics to light a candle and pray for healing in their families, she added.

“I think we need to be prayerful in our preparation,” Noll said. “Even if we’re not going, we can be there in spirit.”