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Travel agency's bankruptcy threatens Catholic youth trip

Posted: June 18, 2013 - 12:10am

The sudden bankruptcy filing of a Las Vegas-based travel agency nearly dashed the hopes of 50 of Alaska’s Catholic youth. The group, which includes three teens from the Juneau area, had been planning and fundraising for their pilgrimage to Rio de Janiero for World Youth Day when they received word that ITC Tours was going out of business.

Youth Minister for the Diocese of Juneau Jacob Coffman said two of the youth planning for the trip had raised $10,000. Breaking the news that their plans were in danger wasn’t easy.

“They were shocked,” Coffman said. “They were wondering what was going to happen.

The Archdiocese of Anchorage estimates $181,000 in fundraising is lost because of the bankruptcy.

Diocese of Juneau Bishop Edward Burns said that the Alaska Conference of Catholic Bishops had been doing business with ITC tours for 14 years. He said at least 15 other dioceses across the nation are affected by the bankruptcy filing.

“There are hundreds of kids affected by this and millions of dollars held up by these bankruptcy proceedings,” Burns said. “A number of dioceses canceled their trips.”

The bishops of the Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau dioceses ultimately decided to collectively loan money to the ACCB so that the trip could go on as planned.

“To do that means we had to make some financial decisions on how we were going to cover it all,” Burns said, explaining that the Alaska delegation will have more modest travel and lodging arrangements than originally planned.

World Youth Day is held every three years and young Catholics from around the world attend to meet their international counterparts and to hopefully get a glimpse of the pope.

Burns said the decision to salvage the trip was made in part thanks to members of the community who stepped up to cover added costs incurred as a result of the bankruptcy filing.

“I think this is one of those major obstacles that you never see coming and the community rallied around these kids,” Burns said. “I do believe we learn a lesson when moments like these happen.”

The ACCB has made a claim against ITC Tours in bankruptcy court, but the Diocese of Anchorage said it could be years before they know if any money can be recovered.

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