By Kim Walter
For the first time this summer, Christendom College is launching the St. Columcille Institute in Ireland, which invites students from American and Europe to get back to "the roots of the gospel."
Timothy O'Donnell, Christendom's president, said the college already offers similar programs that allow students to study abroad for a semester. However, the new program will be open to any Catholic student in the area - not just those at Christendom.
From July 19 to Aug. 11, participants will stay at Ards Friary in County Donegal, which is in northwestern Ireland. According to O'Donnell, the location lends itself to deep Catholic-Christian roots through local traditions and culture. The friary sits on more than 200 acres and looks out onto the ocean.
The program will offer three college-credit courses in Catholic theology, history and literature. O'Donnell said both American and Irish students will be able to learn from the experience.
"All things Irish are so popular right not," he said Monday. "We're hoping to reawaken the Irish-Christian past in a modern way."
O'Donnell said for now, seniors in high school as well as college-aged students are encouraged to participate, though invitations may be extended to a broader age group as spots begin to fill up. O'Donnell said he would like to keep the number of participants at no more than 50.
"Everyone will get their own little room with a bed and writing desk, and a small window," he said. "But I don't think they'll be spending much time in their rooms since there is so much to do and see there. I don't want the trip to become so big that it becomes impersonal."
While American students are sure to fall in love with the "almost intoxicating nature," O'Donnell added that the area where the program is being held is also a secluded spot.
"There are the beautiful beaches, and it's so far north that the sun stays up longer," he said. "There are so many exotic things about it."
O'Donnell will be one of three Christendom faculty members to teach courses at the institute. He will teach the theology course, which will present the basic arguments for the credibility of the Catholic faith.
He said he hopes to raise "important questions" like how Catholics can know about God's existence, how bad things and events play into God's plan and if the gospels can be trusted.
"I want to get back to these deep realities and actually talk about them," he said. "That's one great part of this trip - there's no language barrier, so the discussion will be rich and meaningful."
The other two courses will focus on the rise and development of Christian Europe, highlighting the special contribution made by Catholic Ireland, as well as fiction, drama and poetry resulting from Irish writers.
Several Irish guest speakers also will be a part of the program.
"For the Irish students, I hope this reawakens the love of their own traditions," O'Donnell said.
During three days out of each week, students and faculty will go on trips around the area to experience recreational and cultural activities. Daily mass also will be held, and the sacrament of confession and adoration will be readily available.
"Faith has impacted the culture in Ireland in such a deep way," O'Donnell said. "I'm just so excited, because I know this will be a powerful experience."
For more information on cost and registration, go to www.christendom.edu/academics/columcille.php.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org