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Studying culture and Catholicism in summer programs overseas

Students near St. Dominic statue

The Caldwell University group near a statue of St. Dominic at the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba.

Professor and Students pose in Spain

Dr. Rosa Sanchez (2nd from left) and students in Segovia, Spain.

Campus Minister Colleen O’Brien overlooking the "seignadou,”

Campus Minister Colleen O’Brien overlooking the “seignadou,” which means sign of God, where St. Dominic saw the globe of fire from the sky over the church of Prouilhe, which would become the place where he would start the Dominican order.

Colleen O’Brien outside the St. Dominic house

Colleen O’Brien outside the house where St. Dominic lived between 1206-1215.

Cross statue

The cross marking the spot from which Dominic received the seignadou.

Laura Ziegert in Carcassonne, France.

Laura Ziegert in Carcassonne, France.

Members of the Caldwell University community spent time in Spain and France this summer on study-abroad experiences to learn about culture, language and Catholic history.

Anne Ilardi was one of the students who traveled to Segovia for “The Catholic Tradition in Spain,” a monthlong excursion led by Dr. Rosa Sanchez of the Modern Languages Department. One of the most enjoyable parts for Illardi was living with her host family. They shared their food and dance and “showed [me] that their family dynamic is similar to the American family dynamic,” said Ilardi.

The students took two classes and visited sites in Madrid, Seville, Granada, Cordoba and Malaga in June. “The courses are designed to help them appreciate what they will see on the excursions, so they learned about architecture, history, religion and literature in addition to language,” explained Sanchez, who teaches one of the courses. “They visited nearby palaces and cathedrals, strolled through the Jewish quarter and learned how to cook paella and croquetasfrom a local chef.”

Illardi said she progressed in her Spanish language skills and brought home Spanish recipes, a yearning to travel and “a respect for people who move or immigrate to a new place and have to learn the customs and languages of that area.”

Summer Study in Fanjeaux and Paris

The annual trip to the medieval village of Fanjeaux, France, to trace the roots of the Catholic Dominican tradition took place May 28 to June 13. It was “life-changing” to learn about the Dominican heritage along with faculty, staff and students from other Dominican institutions, said Laura Ziegert, a graduate admissions counselorand Dominican associate with the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell.

Members of the group would start their days with “warm croissants and coffee,” said Ziegert, and then they would take classes to learn about art, medieval history and the spirituality of St. Dominic. She found it soul-stirring to visit the ancient churches, walk along the country path St. Dominic traversed in the 1200s and attend the evening vespers prayer service with the Dominican Sisters in Prouille, France. They also spent four days in Paris.

Ziegert was grateful for the opportunity to have learned more about St. Dominic’s vision and explore how she can carry that forward in her life and on campus. “I brought back St. Dominic’s love for teaching and education, and I hope to incorporate it in my work as a graduate admission counselor.”   She encouraged others at the university to explore the Dominican foundation, which can be done “right here,” she said, by visiting the Motherhouse or the Sisters in the infirmary or by getting involved. “There is so much to learn.”

Attending with Ziegert were Caldwell School of Psychology and Counseling instructor Linda Farina and students Caroline Colmary and Adriana Floridian.

Lands of Dominic Pilgrimage

Colleen O’Brien, director of campus ministry, made the “Lands of Dominic” pilgrimage to Fanjeaux from June 26 to July 4. She traveled with Dominican religious and lay associates and lay staff members at Dominican institutions as they went from Toulouse to Carcassonne to Prouille learning how Dominic preached the gospel and lived in relationship with others.

O’Brien was in awe of St. Dominic’s courage and the depth of his belief, especially since he was a Spaniard living in France. “His commitment to his faith was so deep that he solely trusted in God to make the impossible possible,” said O’Brien. “It was his faith and his humility that led him to aid in the conversion and change of hearts for many people in southern France in the early 1200s.”