Over the course of three weeks, Mary Lawler (C’23) spent time in Ireland learning more about Evangelism and Irish history. Lawler is a member of the fellowship program at the Mount and learned about the study-abroad program at St. Columcille Institute in Donegal, Ireland through Christendom College, a small Catholic college in Front Royal, Va. Initially, due to COVID-19, Lawler was not sure if the trip was going to happen. Ireland had been under strict protocols when it came to COVID-19 and was shut down for a few months at a time. A few weeks before their trip Ireland opened up and were letting people in so they were able to continue with the program.
The students who went were from other small colleges and universities around the country, as anyone could participate in the program. Lawler was the only student from the Mount to attend in 2021. As a fellow, she got funds from the Mount and was able to travel to Donegal to participate in the program. Throughout their days in Ireland, the group of students had three classes in the morning, which consisted of a theology course, a Irish history course and a literature course. Daily mass was held in the afternoon and their day was mostly fit around prayer.
St. Columcille was a Catholic monk in Ireland who was known to have evangelized Ireland and preserved a lot of Irish culture. Due to the impact he made, the name of the program is a perfect fit. Donegal seemed like the perfect place to send students who wanted to learn about evangelism and Irish culture. Ireland needs evangelizing because it has almost lost its touch with people's faiths. People are not nearly as involved with their religion as they were earlier in their lives and they needed to get back in touch with themselves and their religion.
“The program was promoted for young people who were interested in evangelizing, since the start of the New Evangelization the church is calling for a renewal of young people to bring Christ to the world.” says Lawler. The program did not state that students who contributed needed to be Catholic although most of the days were surrounded by prayer and discussions about faith. If students were simply interested in learning more about the history of Ireland they could learn just as much as if they were to attend for religious purpose. “Usually the weather is a little iffy, but while we were there we surprisingly experienced a bit of a heat wave, it was nice and sunny, so we were able to go to the beach.” Apart from their regular classes and mass, the students would sometimes go to the beach in the afternoon or go on excursions to visit areas of Donegal. Fun activities were incorporated in addition to the work that had to be done.
Lawler strongly encourages students to travel to Ireland, regardless of faith. She received six credits that counts toward her overall credit requirement for participating in the program. All of the information about the program can be found on Christendom College’s website or at https://www.christendom.edu/academics/ireland/.