Friday, October 7, 2022

MSMC Students Visit France to Follow Footsteps of St. Dominic

As the Mount Saint Mary College community began their summer break, a group of students and employees prepared to travel to southern France for a two-week pilgrimage to follow in the footsteps of St. Dominic de Guzman, founder of the Dominican order.

St. Dominic made innumerable contributions to Christianity more than 800 years ago, all while living a simple, joyful life. About seven centuries later, the Dominican Sisters founded Mount Saint Mary College, using as a guideline the four pillars of Dominican life: study, prayer, service, and community.

Fr. Gregoire Fluet, Campus Chaplain, director of Campus Ministry, and adjunct instructor of History and Religious Studies; Gina Evers, director of the Writing Center and the college’s First-Year Experience Program; and students Christopher Christiano of Waterbury, Conn. and Katie Hogg of Rockaway Park, N.Y. were joined by representatives from the Mount’s sister Dominican schools to learn more about the life of St. Dominic, visiting locations of special significance in his life and the founding of the Order of Preachers.

“Visiting the same places where St. Dominic walked and preached was truly extraordinary,” explained Christiano. “There was a special feeling at these places that were also reminiscent of being on campus at the Mount. It was interesting and rewarding to be able to get a better sense of the values that our school was founded upon.”

Fr. Greg added, “You have a sense of connection that you would not have in a book. It was just an amazing, amazing experience from every point of view.”

The entire group found the beauty of Fanjeaux to be a most striking experience of the pilgrimage. Fr. Greg, through the lens of the trip as a spiritual retreat, experienced a touching moment at the Church of the Jacobins in Toulouse.

“They housed the main body of St. Thomas Aquinas there,” he explained. “And to celebrate mass with a Dominican priest on the altar above his body was amazing.”

For Christiano, the aspect that stuck with him the most was the camaraderie of every person that participated in the Fanjeaux pilgrimage. He also expressed the importance of his own spiritual journey from the experience.

“Prior to going on the trip, I desperately needed time for myself to reload and rethink what I really wanted to do with my future,” he stated. “I had time to decompress in an environment that was so welcoming and true to the founding of our school. I had time to ponder my faith, academics, and future professions. I left France with a clearer image of who I was and who I wanted to be.”

The pilgrimage was jointly sponsored by the Dominican Sisters of Hope and Mount Saint Mary College. The trip was also made possible through the planning efforts of the Mount’s Catholic and Dominican Institute.

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