Orbis Catholicus Travel (OC-Travel) was founded by John and Natalie Sonnen with the express goal of providing assistance to those who wish to journey to the main shrines of the Christian world.
John and Natalie met in Italy and were married in Rome in 2011. Both were graduate students with shared backgrounds in tourism.
From the beginning, John and Natalie had the idea to offer interested travelers the chance to live a pilgrimage experience, a reflection of the inner journey which they themselves had already experienced while living and working in Rome and the Vatican.
John had years of experience as a tour guide in the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. For him, pilgrimage is a metaphor for our existence on earth. It embraces all that is best in the human search for the divine.
Natalie believes that pilgrimage helps one to find the answer to the thirst for the infinite. To reach God, it is not enough to visit places, one must first encounter and then be transformed by contact with local communities; the names and faces, the experience of traditions, history and the daily lives of the inhabitants.
John and Natalie hope you will join them on a journey into the human heart. Each moment on pilgrimage offers an imprint that can last a lifetime. You will be touched and moved by the beauty of the people you meet and places you visit on an OC-Travel pilgrimage.
Centrality of the Pilgrim – A Personal Welcome from Us!
At the heart of our services are the personal needs of our pilgrims. The main goal of our activities is the benefit of the pilgrim. We are committed to putting ordinary people in the extraordinary position of being a pilgrim. Our motto is simple: “Experience pilgrimage.”
We accompany our travelers on their search to meet God by offering an experience that is for many an introduction to Christianity. Our trips are uniquely set up to include time for questions and answers.
Thanks to our experience over the years, our activities and services represent a unique reference model for anyone who may wish to discover the beauty and depth of their Christian heritage. We have accompanied and will continue to accompany countless pilgrims of all ages and backgrounds to discover the roots of their Christian past, offering attentive spiritual guidance – when possible – through the presence of a chaplain.
With a pilgrimage, new roads of prayer materialize and new dialogues are opened through listening and sharing. We are committed to offering a unique experience, with the goal of answering the call for an interior search, spiritual growth, rediscovery of oneself and new beginnings in a journey of faith.
We welcome you to travel with us!
Why Choose Us?
The organizational model of OC-Travel continues to grow and evolve with a balance between common sense and the essentials. We aim for better tours.
Our work is focused on assisting pilgrims at places of religious and cultural interest. Our efforts reflect a strong sensitivity that takes into account the needs of different travelers. There are different interests and diverse needs of different groups and we try to be in harmony with each group dynamic.
Our Catholicity and flexibility are what distinguish us from others in the industry. We seek to inform and transform all those who participate in our religious, cultural, and educational tours. We hope for our travelers to have a fruitful encounter with Christ, the revelation of the face of God.
The beauty and meaning of the pilgrimage experience includes the spiritual moments felt at the religious destinations and this makes for a powerful life experience. Each trip proves a dialogue between God and man. The difference is how this is facilitated.
At OC-Travel we aim to plan and carry out our pilgrimages as a distinctive religious undertaking. A genuinely religious exercise in the spirit of prayer, with reverent openness to the workings of the Spirit and the possibilities of conversion of life. Accordingly, our pilgrimages differ from simply religious tourism and/or ordinary tours.
Our aim is to have our pilgrimages, when possible, led by chaplains and licensed Catholic guides who are accredited spiritual animators. Leaders who appreciate and respect the Christian religion, history and traditions. Each tour is usually led by a chaplain who is available for Mass, Confession and spiritual guidance.
Pilgrimages under the OC-Travel banner are planned and conducted with ample opportunity for prayer, celebration of the Sacraments, quiet time, spiritual direction and personal reflection.
Often times, the spiritual atmosphere of a pilgrimage can be enhanced by the simplicity and quiet of staying at convents or religious guesthouses, as opposed to the busyness of first-class commercial hotels. This also affords pilgrims the use of a chapel for Mass and prayer.
Liturgy is of special importance to us. We do all we can for daily Mass to be celebrated in a church, on an altar, instead of on a bus or in a parking lot. Care is always taken, with advanced planning, for the celebration of Holy Mass and other Sacraments, including special rites such as the renewal of baptismal vows at the River Jordan or the renewal of marriage vows at Cana.
The OC-Travel pilgrimage experience is enhanced by liturgical music that is both sacred and in good taste. We encourage groups to identify able musicians and song leaders, and select music or hymnals in advance.
Some shrines and holy places offer specialized Mass books for special votive Masses adapted to the memory of saints, blesseds or events associated with certain sites and locations. In addition, the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem has local liturgical books offering various special Masses commemorating different saints and blessed pilgrims, hermits, penitents and other holy men and women who journeyed to the Holy Land or chose to live their lives there. These special Masses are often a source of great inspiration for pilgrims.
OC-Travel is not a secular/commercial travel supplier — there is no question of retaining the religious intention of our journeys. At the same time, pilgrims of other faiths or no faith are welcome on our tours and adequate prearranged free time is given for activities such as shopping, rest or exploring on your own.