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Caldwell University Community Travels to Fanjeaux, France to Explore Culture and the Catholic Dominican Tradition

By: Marina Maret

Caldwell, NJ – July 22, 2014 – Members of the Caldwell University community joined other Dominican colleges and universities in the U.S. for the Summer Fanjeaux, France experience. The 19th annual trip gave attendees the chance to immerse themselves in the culture of the country and the history of the Catholic Dominican tradition. This year’s Caldwell University representatives were Andrei St. Felix, director of the Educational Opportunity Fund Office, Thomson Ling, Ph.D. associate professor of psychology and counseling, Barrie A. Scanlan, adjunct in the nursing department, and students Michelle Mione and Jessica Lopez.   

The 15-day adventure featured 11 days in Fanjeaux and four days in Paris. The group learned about the Dominican tradition and the art, philosophy and history of Southern France on excursions and during class time. “Our course was entitled ‘France in the Middle Ages’,” Lopez, a senior, said.  They learned about religion, courtly love, and homage to the king during that time period.

“Because the class was focused on the Dominican tradition, we visited many churches and chapels, such as the Church of the Jacobins, the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Cecilia and the Basilica of Saint Nazaire,” said Mione, a junior. After learning about Saint Dominic and his mission, Mione said she came to appreciate the uniqueness of the Dominican tradition.

Lopez found being able to trace Saint Dominic’s steps throughout Fanjeaux to be a life-changing experience, “Tradition, communication and family are at the root of his mission,” she said. Walking into St. Dominic’s house and where he said Mass made her feel closer than ever to the Dominican tradition.

The immersion experience gave St. Felix a deeper understanding of what the Dominican mission means on a personal level. “It gave me the tools to live and carry out its mission in my day to day life.”   Beyond the study, she learned from being with the people. “Interacting with the locals in Fanjeaux taught me about the simplicity of life and how to appreciate every gift and moment granted to us by God.”

Caldwell University attendees visited various cities, including Albi, Toulouse, Mirepoix and Niaux, and they explored prehistoric caves, saw a falconry exhibit, swam in the Mediterranean Sea and toured the Palace of Versailles. “We climbed a mountain to see Montségur, which is a fortified Cathar castle,” Mione said. Lopez described climbing the mountain as one of the biggest challenges of her life. “After finally getting up there it was such an accomplishment. It was invigorating.”

The final evening the group went to see the Eiffel Tower light up at midnight, which Lopez said was a perfect ending to the adventure.  “The trip was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I am so lucky to have gone.”