About Suzanne Taskowitz
Suzanne Taskowitz plans trips for Faithful Travels. The travel program began as a fundraiser for the Archdiocese of Miami Respect Life Ministry in 1984. The group plans and escorts pilgrimages to the Holy Land and other religious destinations, such as Greece and the Vatican in Italy.
Favorite Bible Verse:
2 Corinthians 5:6-7
“So, we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body, we are away from the Lord, for we walk in faith, not by sight.”
Hometown: Newark, New Jersey
Favorite Destination: Greece and Israel are two of Taskowitz’s favorite destinations because of their religious significance.
Hobbies: Taskowitz hosts baby showers for pregnancy centers during her free time. She enjoys old movies, meditation and browsing for unique items in curiosity shops.
From Teaching to Experiencing
In the 1970s, Suzanne Taskowitz taught elementary schoolchildren about exotic and fascinating places across the globe. Though the places were familiar to her on paper, the tactile experience of exploring a foreign land eluded her.
“I was teaching geography and history about places I had never been to,” said Taskowitz, group leader and managing partner of Faithful Travels. “I developed this wanderlust for all those places.”
Taskowitz remained active in her church over the years, which led her to work with the Archdiocese of Miami Respect Life Ministry. That’s when she believes some divine intervention came into play.
“They were losing their funding,” said Taskowitz. “I had just received an email from a company in Greece that would incorporate fundraisers into pilgrimages to Greece. It was incredible timing.”
The 2009 pilgrimage brought 84 people to Greece and raised $10,000 for the ministry. Taskowitz founded Faithful Travels and began regularly planning pilgrimages to follow the steps of Paul in Greece, tour the Vatican in Italy and remember the life of Jesus in Israel. Other trips to the Middle East and other religious sites soon followed.
Taskowitz’s religious travel program isn’t tied to one church but to many. She works with Catholic priests and other denominations in Florida to create custom faith-based tours.
“People like to travel with priests that they know,” said Taskowitz. “I’ll advertise trips in The Florida Catholic, but it’s the priests who usually bring people with them. I set up the infrastructure, cover the expenses of the priest, and then the priest will go with the parishioners.”
Taskowitz now has enough experience at holy sites to advise church groups on what will resonate with them most. Once she recommended a group not skip the birthplace of Jesus in Bethlehem despite their concern about the long line into the church. She knew they wouldn’t want to leave the Holy Land without seeing one of Christianity’s most revered places.
When dealing with travel to the Middle East, Taskowitz said the issue of safety regularly comes up.
“I tell the groups that we travel in faith not fear,” said Taskowitz. “I work with my tour guide to make sure everything is safe.”
Though Taskowitz has made a career out of sending pilgrimages across the ocean, attending the Going On Faith Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, this year opened her eyes to a new tour destination: her backyard.
“I had never thought of doing a pilgrimage in the United States,” said Taskowitz. “I gathered information there that I will now put together some pilgrimages in the United States.”
She also enjoyed the experience of networking with like-minded conference attendees. She asked a couple of people who drove to the conference from Detroit if they would drop her off in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The two attendees affably agreed and insisted they take her straight to her hotel. After they dropped her off, they realized that Taskowitz hadn’t known either of them before asking for the ride.
“They asked me later, ‘Weren’t you afraid we were going to kidnap you?’ I said, ‘No, I figured I was safe at a faith-based conference.’ I met some really nice people there.”
Taskowitz previously planned secular travel as well as faith-based travel but has found that people often join her pilgrimages with distinct motivations.
“There are all different reasons that people go on a spiritual journey,” said Taskowitz. “Some might be more into their faith, some may be trying to reconnect with their faith, or some may be in turmoil. To watch the transformation of people on a pilgrimage is a moving experience.”
Over the years, Faithful Travels has helped bring many people closer to God. Taskowitz has several stories of people coming on a pilgrimage angry with God and the world. The travelers often come back with newfound clarity and peace.
“It has been a rewarding experience,” said Taskowitz. “When you bring people to the Holy Land and see their reaction, it is an irreplaceable feeling.”
1. Spiritual journeys bring out some deep-seated issues and experiences that you must sometimes help with and get the spiritual director’s assistance.
2. Some of the most wonderful and difficult people will go on a pilgrimage for special reasons. They can try your patience, but pray for guidance when dealing with them.
3. Don’t be afraid to set behavior standards.