- $1000 off the cost of the Pilgrimage tour package ($4495 rather than $5495)
- $1000 grant to your school to help pay for a substitute
- 4.5 Continuing Education Credits from Loyola Marymount University
- Tax deduction for Pilgrimage expenses
- Internet and electronic technology allows sharing of the experience with class and school community
I really want to encourage teachers in Catholic Schools to come on this Pilgrimage. It will be a great benefit for your continuing formation as an educator, and of course indirectly benefit the young people whose lives your a helping to shape. But there's a drawback, and a much greater payoff.
The drawback is primarily the timing. Who can be gone for three weeks after Easter, for many schools one of the busiest times of the year? Well, first of all, if your school is off the week after Easter, you will only have to miss two weeks -- ten days -- of class.
Yeah, right! What principal will allow that?
Obviously the principal has to be sold on the benefit too. As an incentive I am able to offer a $2,000 scholarship to help a Catholic School teacher be able to come. $1,000 of that will go directly to pay your way as a teacher. The other $1,000 is for the school to help pay for a substitute while you're gone.
OK, that's nice, but a substitute can never be as good with your class as you are! Well, the wonders of internet technology makes it possible for you not to really leave your class, but to take them with you! Virtually, of course.
There are many ways you can prepare your class, whatever the grade level, to learn beforehand about the wonderful places you'll experience with them. During the ten class-days you'll be gone, you can communicate with them (and the whole school and parish community) about what you experience each day. On the internet you can instantly share pictures, videos, and your own travel diary. You can even have an almost daily two-way video conversation with them via Skype or another internet phone service. (You do have a laptop computer, don't you? That's all you need!) When it's evening there, it's mid-morning back here, and you can tell them all about your day -- "live" and in real time!
Several teachers have made this Pilgrimage in the past, benefiting from scholarship. Three years ago, Maddy Murphy, from Good Shepherd School, posted videos and a running commentary on her blog, and photos on Picasa, as well as Skype-ing her class regularly. Take a look at what she did.
Sandra Columbus, this past year (2012) put together a wonderful and informative PowerPoint presentation for her eighth grade class, using pictures she took and information from our guide. You can watch a slideshow of her presentation here.
You can do the same and much more . . .
I hope you can see what a great benefit this will be for your class and for your school community. What about you?
First of all, by participating in this Pilgrimage you can earn 4.5 Continuing Education Credits from Loyola Marymount University Extension. I've outlined course objectives and requirements in the online syllabus.
Secondly, you maybe able to take a tax deduction for all the expenses of the Pilgrimage. Here's documentation to support the case, but your tax consultant will need to advise you if the Pilgrimage qualifies in your situation.
Okay, timing isn't the only issue. Even with all these incentives, I realize it is still a sacrifice -- but I believe it is worth considering seriously whether it might be possible. Sometimes parents and others in the community realize the value of this for a teacher, and will take great pride in contributing to help.
Pilgrimage for Credit through LMU Extension: Syllabus
Syllabus: Early Christian World Pilgrimage 2013 (March 31-April 18, 2013.)
This 18-day tour of Turkey is led by Msgr. Thomas Welbers in collaboration with Aydın Eroğlu, a Turkish guide with over forty years experience. Msgr. Welbers has wide ranging pastoral experience, as well as specialized education in liturgical theology and institutional management. He also brings an intense interest in Scripture, history, and culture. Mr. Eroğlu also is an expert in Turkish carpets and, as a devout Muslim, is deeply committed to interfaith dialogue and understanding. Arrangements for travel and accommodations are made by OrionTour, an Istanbul agency of long-standing excellent reputation, in collaboration with American Tours International, our local agent.
This will be the seventh pilgrimage of this nature that Aydın and I have led as a team. The first six, in the spring of 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 were all highly successful -- a total of about 125 people have already made this Pilgrimage -- and I am convinced that this would be a very beneficial experience for Catholic school teachers of all grade levels—and, through them, their students.
I realize that this may pose personal and logistical difficulties and hardships for both the individual teacher and his or her school. In order to to help alleviate concerns, I am able to offer a limited number of scholarships for Catholic school teachers who take the Pilgrimage for credit – $1,000 for the participant and $1,000 for the school to help defray the cost of a substitute teacher. An additional incentive is that preparatory resources early in the spring semester and the possibility of almost daily real-time internet communication will enable the students of the school to become “virtual Pilgrims” themselves.
Purpose and Desired Outcomes of the Early Christian World Pilgrimage
Why Turkey? Turkey has rightly been called “the other Holy Land” because of the great number and accessibility of its important early Christian sites, many dating back to the time of the Apostles. This journey is first and foremost a Catholic pilgrimage in which every experience will be viewed from the perspective of our Catholic-Christian faith, heritage, and interaction with other faiths. The accompanying itinerary reveals how wide-ranging and diverse these experiences are. The itinerary has been worked out specifically for the purposes of this pilgrimage—we bypass many standard “tourist” sites and visit some places that are unique to this tour. As we proceed, both Aydın and I talk about the background and relevance of the places we visit in much greater depth than the standard tour. The extended travel times on the bus are not wasted, and include viewing of relevant videos, music, as well as lecture and discussion. We not only probe the heritage of both Christianity and Islam, but we will have the opportunity to experience firsthand Muslim life, spirituality, and culture as it is lived in a modern secular state which is strategically a bridge between East and West. In this pilgrimage, we will not only celebrate Mass almost daily in historic locations and pray with the Scriptures and ancient Christian writers, we will also experience Muslim prayer and spirituality, including the “sema” of the Whirling Dervishes, a Sufi sect.
Why are we going in the spring, right after Easter? Having been to Turkey at other times, I am convinced there is no better time to take advantage of this experience. The weather is still cool (it’s blistering hot in the summer), and the masses of tourists have not yet arrived. During tourist season, a lot of time and energy is wasted dealing with the crowds. We simply could not accomplish what we set out to do if we have to contend with crowds and heat. Furthermore the countryside is green and gorgeous (summer and fall are like southern California, dry and brown), wildflowers are abundant, and it’s the height of the tulip season. (Tulips are the national flower of Turkey, and they are breathtakingly magnificent.)
As I noted above, I realize this time poses a challenge for Catholic school teachers and administrators, but I believe it is an opportunity as well. It means taking nearly three weeks off from school, and all that entails, including the need for a substitute teacher. However, and this is the experience of teachers and principals who have already made this pilgrimage, there is so much to learn that, with creativity, can enhance almost every subject at every grade level. A teacher can include the students (and parents) in learning about the history, culture, music, art, geography, science and religion covered in this tour. While the teacher is away, it will be possible to follow her or his itinerary on the internet, virtually accompanying the teacher every step of the way.
The experience of this Pilgrimage has been likened to “drinking from a fire hose.” As one can tell from the itinerary, it is intensive and non-stop. It is not a vacation. A major goal of the experience is to whet the appetite for more, to inspire and motivate one to study more deeply into something that arouses interest during the trip, whether it be religious, historical, social, or cultural. It has also been described as “a life-changing experience.” One will not look at religion, the world, or life the same way after this Pilgrimage. Our Catholic faith will not be challenged by exposure to other faiths; it will be deepened.
I will advise and assist all participants, especially teachers, with resources to enable them to gain maximum benefit from the experience. Three preparatory meetings will be held on the following Sunday afternoons, 1:30 to 4:30, at Good Shepherd Church in Beverly Hills: January 20, February 17, March 17.
Requirements for CE Credit:
Participation in at least several preparatory sessions, or if this is not possible, completion of some background reading or exploration of pertinent websites under the direction of Msgr. Welbers.
Full engagement and participation in every aspect of the Pilgrimage itself.
Within two weeks of the end of the Pilgrimage, the submission of a brief but meaningful project on some aspect of the Pilgrimage pertinent to the curriculum and grade-level he or she teaches. This could take a variety of forms, e.g., a sample lesson plan, a classroom project, a descriptive essay, etc. The project should be approved beforehand by Msgr. Welbers.
Suggested Basic Reading list will be given.
Rev. Msgr. Thomas Welbers, Pastor, Church of the Good Shepherd
505 N Bedford Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90210
firstname.lastname@example.org – www.ecwpilgrimage.org