When you travel, invite the Lord!

Orlando International Airport chaplain Missionary of Our Lady of LaSalette Father Robert Susann blesses travelers while they wait for their flight. (JACQUE BRUND | FC)

Tips for Keeping the Faith during Summer Vacation

Summer is here and soon many will be flocking to the beach, boarding planes or cruise ships, or heading off on road trips for the long-awaited vacation getaway. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of airport terminals, rest stops and shore excursions, how does one manage to keep faith at the center?

If taking a cruise this summer, many ports will have an Apostleship of the Sea office. Located in 153 ports worldwide, Apostleship of the Sea is a professional association of Catholic maritime ministers, cruise ship priests, mariners and all those who support travelers and those who work in the maritime industry or military. Many of these locations offer Mass, Wi-Fi, phones and other services to minister to those visiting other shores.

Jan Leeper, a parishioner from St. Stephen’s Catholic Community in Winter Springs recently took a cruise and included a pilgrimage to Fatima as part of the voyage. Leeper said, “There was an English language Mass which we attended and, of course, visited the tombs of the three children. Several pilgrims were crossing the piazza on their knees—such devotion.”

Many airports offer chaplains and a chapel for a quiet place to pray in between flights. At the Orlando International Airport, for example, Missionary of Our Lady of LaSalette Father Robert Susann celebrates Mass at 8:15 a.m. and noon on Sundays at the interfaith chapel located in the Gates 1-59 corridor. Father Susann has been serving airport staff and travelers since 2004.

“I get a chance to meet all kinds of people from all over the world. I work the crowd and am very present,” said Father Susann. He has an intention book in the chapel so that he can pray for all those with special requests. He also equips the chapel with interdenominational information. Father Susann says his goal is “to be present to people and to be a witness to the fact that God lives among us and journeys with us.”

For members of the faithful opting for “stay-cations” this year, the local Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe in Orlando serves visitors from near and far. Offering Mass and the Sacrament of Reconciliation daily and adorned with beautiful chapels, Stations of the Cross, a museum, a pilgrimage center and a gift shop, the Basilica nurtures prayer and quiet in the center.

Vince Castellano, who is the director of volunteers and liturgy, says the Basilica also provides guided tours of the shrine by booking ahead of time. “We will do it at the visitor’s convenience,” said Castellano. “It is important to minister to tourists because it is an extension of evangelization.” He added, “They make the effort to come because their faith is that important. This is a place for them to have a spiritual sanctuary. Even though they’re on vacation, their faith doesn’t take a vacation.” The Basilica hosts more than 500,000 visitors per year. He added, “It’s a wonderful little find.”

Diocese of Orlando Facebook followers shared how they are planning to enliven their faith this summer. Some suggested joining your local parish Vacation Bible School and taking part as a crew leader to share the fun with your children. Others are going on diocesan or parish mission trips, like Susan Engel, youth minister for St. Patrick Parish in Mount Dora. Engel said, “There will be 16 youth and five adults from St. Patrick who will be traveling to Jamaica… We are very excited to be focusing on the beatitudes as we serve the marginalized in the city of Kingston.”

Toni-Marie D’Allesandro from Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Melbourne is going to California. She said, “After we pass through the San Ynez Mountains onto beautiful Santa Barbara …we are going to visit the 200-year-old mission with its famous twin bell towers, and celebrate Mass.”

“There is no “vacation” for our “vocations,” said Father Thomas Walden, pastor of St. Joseph Parish and St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish in Orlando. “As we make travel plans, it is just as important (if not more important) when booking destinations, hotels, attractions and restaurants, to find a Catholic church near your vacation spot, and participate in Mass. Seeing a different parish and meeting new people can be a great part of a vacation. When you travel, invite the Lord!”

To find Mass times at your vacation destination, visit www.masstimes.org. For a list of pilgrimage sites in the United States, visit www.usccb.org/about/world-youth-day/sites-of-catholic-heritage-in-the-usa.cfm.