Join Maria Caero Conley on Pilgrimage
I never thought I would be a single mom, with 3 teen age girls. As a way to build relationships with them, I went with them as a chaperone, on a diocesan student trip to the DC March for LIfe. When I got home from the trip I realized I was changed and so were all of the 27 children and other parent chaperones that came with us – our faith was stronger. On our trip, we took advantage of the conference and leading catholic speakers and learned much more than pro-life positions. Because of the trip, my relationship with my daughters became stronger and we began to work together to build each others’ faith. I thought “ everyone needs to have this!” so the next year, I lead a trip – reservations, funding, logistics, and lots of paperwork. After my first trip, I organized 8 more group trips to the March in DC, changing the lives of many others.
In 2007, my oldest daughter and I were invited to go to Rome with my sister and her husband. Our first trip to Europe, thinking the food would be expensive, I took lots of cheese crackers and cheese sticks, and even checked a bag with canned soup – hard to admit! My life was changed again – being in holy places I had read about inspired me and renewed my desire to learn more about my faith – bible studies, movies. programs, books, conferences. I was excited about my faith. Again, I thought “everyone needs this” – such a life-changing faith experience! After the Rome trip, I developed a passion for researching catholic travel destinations, including saints, relics, shrines, miracles, and church history and for planning pilgrimages for my own family, and my extended family and friends. Since my first trip to Rome, I planned and led over 20 pilgrimages to Europe and Canada, and planned many other pilgrimages for family and friends.
This past year, one of my daughters suggested I retire from General Services Administration, to focus my time on expanding my pilgrimage planning efforts to parishes. I prayed about it, researched organizations, and then took her advise. I retired last year and made parish pilgrimage my ministry. The tour company I joined has 35 years of experience planning travel to holy sites and requires a priest go along to say daily mass and administer sacraments. For me it is important that this company is aligned with my thinking – catholic and also sees their efforts as a ministry. My goal moving forward is to leverage my passion, working with priests, deacons and parish staff to make possible pilgrimages that enrich the faith of parishioners and build parish community.