By NICHOLE GOLDEN, Editor | Published July 21, 2023
ATLANTA—For Belinda Held, sharing her love of travel with others is a vocation.
Held has been working with The Georgia Bulletin for more than a decade to organize pilgrimages and accompany travelers to places of spiritual significance from the Holy Land to Europe and beyond. Proceeds from the trips help the archdiocesan publication to bring Catholic news to readers.
Raised in England and Slovenia, Held spent summers in Italy with her grandparents.
“I’m my happiest on pilgrimage,” she said while chatting about upcoming trips by phone.
Held was a teenager when she won a writing competition to spend a gap year in Israel. She lived on a kibbutz, a community based on agricultural work.
“That’s how I got to spend Christmas in Bethlehem,” she said. “That’s why the Holy Land is so dear to me.”
Held then came to the United States to study at the University of Illinois-Chicago. While negotiating air travel home, the college student impressed the owner of Discount World Travel on the phone. He offered her a job.
“I’ve been working in the travel industry my whole life,” said Held.
While running the travel agency’s Chicago office, she would place ads in the papers and frequently worked with the budget Yugoslav Airlines.
She later moved to New York as a sales manager for the airline.
On her lunch breaks or for time away from the office, she would take a moment to nourish faith.
“I used to go to St.Patrick’s Cathedral,” she recalled. “My whole life, everything was coming together.”
After marriage, Held continued to work for the airlines, promoting its flights from Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Then news of the Marian apparitions in Medjugorje surfaced, and she began to organize pilgrimages there.
Held focused on raising her children for a decade. She eventually returned to the work of pilgrimages after maintaining many of her travel connections. Her company is called A Pilgrim’s Journey and specializes in Catholic travel.
In early July, Held was holding travel information sessions at three parishes in the Atlanta Archdiocese. The Georgia Bulletin is hosting trips to Ireland, The Holy Land and Eastern Europe this year and in 2024. Local priests will lead the trips.
“I have a few really good friends from Atlanta,” said Held. She has found that pilgrims from Atlanta overall have a “really good sense of humor.”
Accompanying travelers on their dream trips is meaningful work for Held.
“It’s a joyful place for me,” she said. “I get to witness their immense joy.”
Meeting new people and spiritual growth are the results of these journeys, said Held.
“They develop lifelong friendships,” she said of the pilgrims.
In addition to Atlanta, Held works with the Dioceses of Nashville, Raleigh and Pittsburgh and with priests of the Diocese of Oakland, California.
Held is always planning, including trips tied to the Holy Year, or Jubilee, announced by the Vatican for 2025. “It’s a great year for Italy,” she remarked.
Prospective travelers can track Held’s journeys on Facebook at “Belinda’s Pilgrim Friends.”
Held said this is a full-circle moment in life, where her love of exploring places and her Catholic faith have blended.
“It’s been a lifelong journey to get to this point,” she said. “I’ve always been drawn to the spiritual side of travel.”
To learn about Georgia Bulletin pilgrimages, email Belinda@apilgrimsjourney.com.