The 7th annual St. Columcille Institute proved to be an amazing experience for participants. The three-week summer abroad experience held in Donegal, Ireland, is a spiritual retreat, an educational program, and tour of Ireland rolled into one. Participants attended classes on the History of Ireland and the New Evangelization, prayed together at daily Mass and adoration, and went on many excursions to see the historical sites and geographical wonders of Ireland. This year’s institute brought together students from across the United States and from Ireland, allowing participants to make friends with other young and passionate Catholics.

The average day during the Institute started with breakfast, followed by classes. This year, a theology class covering the apologetics and the new evangelization was taught by Dr. O’Donnell and Professor Mike Brown. A course on the history of Ireland was taught by Dr. Brendan McGuire and Dr. O’Donnell. Professor Sharon Hickson taught a literature course focusing on Irish writers such as Walter Macken, W. B. Yeats, and James Joyce. Dr. Sean Patrick Lovett, Director of English Language Programs at Vatican Radio, taught a course on communications and the New Evangelization.

After classes, participants attended Mass and then lunch. Most days, afternoons were free for exploring Ards Friary (the home of St. Columcille himself), which is owned by the Capuchin Friars and includes over 200 breath-taking acres of countryside, woodlands, and beaches. If not exploring the Friary or the local town of Donegal, participants attended lectures given by guest speakers, or traveled on excursions to see one of the historical or geographic sites of the region.

This year, participants travelled to a large variety of sites. Participants visited Doon Rock and Doe Castle, Gola, Letterkenny, Donegal Castle, the Bunglass Cliffs, and Glenveigh National Park. Students also did an overnight trip to see the shrine and apparition site of Our Lady of Knock and climb Crough Patrick. The program concluded with a visit to Dublin.

New to the program this year, participants attended a special dinner after a beautiful visit to Gola. A new friend of O’Donnell, Trey Fitzgerald, and his wife Nora, hosted students for an evening of Irish music and dancing, and authentic Irish cuisine.

“The incredible excursion to Gola Island and visit to our host’s house afterwards was my personal highlight from Columcille,” remarked participant Thomas Ward. “With authentic local Irish music playing and peat smoke filling the air, Gaelic football being played across the street and white sheep dotting a verdant green pasture, it was a memorable evening. It was such a powerful experience of Irish hospitality and genuine care for visitors in their beautiful homeland.”

Another special experience was Mass with Papal Nuncio Archbishop Jude Thaddeus Okolo in Cardinal Newman’s College Chapel in Dublin.

The pilgrimage to Knock is always a special experience for attendees. Many participants develop a special devotion to Our Lady of Knock after visiting her shrine. Fr. Mark Byrne led the entire group in a Marian Consecration in the Chapel of the Apparition.

The 2019 St. Columcille Institute was an exceptional experience for all who attended. From campfires on the beach, to time spent in the chapel, to time spent studying together, participants were able to experience an authentic Catholic culture and an educational formation to help them become leaders in the new evangelization.

Learn more about the St. Columcille Institute here.

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