After reviewing the restrictions in place in Ireland at this time and their plan for easing them and consulting with friends and colleagues in Ireland, we have decided that it will be necessary to cancel the St. Columcille Institute for 2020. This decision was not made lightly; but in view of the arrangements that need to be made for a successful Institute experience, we cannot guarantee facilities, transportation, etc. will be open and running smoothly by July 26th. We have further been informed that Ards Friary will remain closed at least until August 20. We are deeply disappointed that we have to postpone the St. Columcille Institute until next summer, but we sincerely hope you will be able to reapply and join us for an amazing experience July 23-August 15 in 2021.

July 23 – August 15, 2021

Become a leader in the New Evangelization.



Experience your Catholic heritage and the ancient Christian roots of Ireland. Visit the sites of great people and historical events that formed the country, and directly influenced Western Christian civilization.


Through daily classroom discussions and lectures deepen your faith alongside young adults who share a love for the Church and the New Evangelization, and for building a culture of life.


Meet students from across the United States and Ireland who are like minded and ready for adventure. Build new friendships, and enjoy sporting and fun activities together – including climbing Croagh Patrick, viewing the Bunglass Cliffs, and more!

In its eighth year, The St. Columcille Institute will be held for three weeks in the north of Ireland, in Donegal, from July 23 to August 15, 2021. The program will seek to strengthen the faith and deepen the understanding of young Catholic leaders through a thorough catechesis, ensuring that participants develop the ability both to evangelize and defend the Faith within secular society. Participants will also examine the patrimony of Western Christian Civilization through an in-depth study of history and literature.

The Institute invites the youth* of both the United States and Ireland to experience an awareness of the spiritual depth of the Catholic culture of Ireland that has enriched and determined much of the history of Europe, the United States, and the world. With its Gaelic roots, Ireland remains the culturally dominant English-speaking Catholic civilization in the world. Bringing young people together from the United States and Ireland will occasion fruitful dialogue and an exchange of ideas and experiences, reawakening a love of our mutual heritage and energizing a determined hope for a revival of Christian faith and culture.

*Participants must be at least 18 years old by the first day of the Institute.


The St. Columcille Institute promotes the New Evangelization called for by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis by forming both lay and clerical leaders and equipping them with the tools needed to engage the culture and bring the Faith to our modern world.


  • The program seeks to strengthen the faith and deepen the understanding of young Catholic leaders through a thorough catechesis, ensuring that participants develop the ability both to evangelize and defend the Faith within secular society. The Institute responds to the exhortation of St. Peter, “To be always ready with a reason for the hope that is within you.” (1 Peter 3:15)
  • Secondly, the Institute examines the patrimony of Western Christian Civilization through an in-depth study of the early foundations of Christendom, highlighting the Irish contribution, with its deep Roman roots, and noting the successful evangelization of Europe through Ireland’s historically vibrant Christian culture.
  • Supplementing intellectual formation, in a bold effort to celebrate the Christian imagination, the Institute explores the fundamental truths of reality and the problems encountered in living the Faith by means of great works of literature and art.
  • Finally, in order to satisfy the human need for community and leisure, the Institute provides an atmosphere that fosters true friendship, festivity, and recreation and that nurtures the whole person, mind, body, and soul.
  • For more information on the evangelization of Europe and Ireland, see Blessed John Paul II’s Apostolic Exhortation, Ecclesia in Europa. We recommend the entire document, but especially these paragraphs: 45, 47, 50, 61, 62, 64, 108, 124, and his final prayer at 125.

Explore pictures from the previous three years and witness how incredible this experience truly is:


The Institute is located at Ards Friary, Donegal, in a spectacular part of the northwest of Ireland where local traditions and Irish culture remain strong and vibrant. Ards Friary (the home of St. Columcille himself), is owned by the Capuchin Friars and includes over 200 acres of lovely countryside and a commanding view of the ocean, bay, and surrounding beaches. Situated away from the chaos and noise of modern urban living, the site offers participants opportunity to experience, in an intimate way, wonder at God’s creation, amidst the power and order in nature. Ample opportunity to pray and reflect deeply upon that which is permanent—the true, the good, and the beautiful—will reinforce the riches gleaned in the classroom.

Click here to watch drone footage of Ards Friary

  • American Students

    Includes price of the courses, room and board, three full meals per day, all excursions in Donegal and Dublin. Students are responsible for providing their own airfare. Contact Brenda Seelbach (brenda.seelbach@christendom.edu) or Catherine O’Donnell (cathyaodonnell@aol.com) for help booking airfare.

  • Irish Students

    €2,000 ARDS ONLY PACKAGE Contact Brenda Seelbach (brenda.seelbach@christendom.edu) to learn about scholarships for Irish citizens residing in Ireland.
    Includes price of the courses, room and board, three full meals per day, all excursions in Donegal


Theology 501: Special Topics in Catholic Apologetics (2 credits)
With Dr. Timothy T. O’Donnell
Institute Dean and Professor of Theology
As part of the New Evangelization called for by the Church, this course presents the basic arguments for the credibility of the Catholic Faith and natural law. Students will develop cogent arguments for defense to serve as effective means of persuasion. Topics range from God’s existence and the problem of evil to the historical reality of Jesus Christ and the mystery of the human person at the center of the New Evangelization.

History 501: Ireland and the Western Ethos (2 credits)
With Dr. Brendan McGuire
Professor of History
Among all the nations of Europe, Ireland boasts a unique and stirring history. With due attention to extant literary and archaeological source material, this course seeks to illumine that history, from pre-Christian times through the trauma of early modernity. The first evangelization of Ireland’s Celtic chieftains, the achievements of the island’s medieval monasteries and missionaries, the connections between Ireland and continental civilization, and the fierce resistance to the Elizabethan settlement will all be important themes. Moreover, this course is complemented in a special way by the excursions, as the recent history of Ireland—from the Ulster Plantation to the famine and the Civil War—is there to be read in the very folds of the Donegal countryside.

Literature 501: Christian Imagination and Prominent Irish and Continental Writers (2 credits)
With Prof. Sharon Mahoney Hickson
Professor of Literature
This course surveys fiction, drama, and poetry drawn from the masterworks of the Western literary tradition, focusing on the Catholic perspective of man’s struggle throughout history to exercise his free will as he encounters both the reality of evil and the force of God’s love and mercy. Special emphasis on Irish writers will reveal the powerful, universal Truth of the redeeming nature of suffering especially when leavened by the Faith. The authors studied include James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Walter Macken, Liam O’Flaherty, John Synge, Sean O’Casey, Oscar Wilde, Leo Tolstoy, Graham Greene, Gertrud von Le Fort, and Alexander Solzenitsyn.

The Art of Communication in the New Evangelization: Living the Medium. Loving the Message.
With Dr. Seàn-Patrick Lovett
Program Director at Vatican Radio
A series of three experiential communication workshops aimed at re-energizing the evangelizer in you by focusing on your talents and skills as a communicator—and applying them to ensure the Word is both heard and understood.


Dr. Timothy O’Donnell

Dr. O’Donnell received his early education at Loyola Marymount in Los Angeles, California, where he graduated with B.A. degrees in Philosophy and History. He continued there, achieving the M.A. in Church History. He completed his academic pursuits at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (Angelicum), where he was the first layman to receive a doctorate in Ascetical and Mystical Theology. Dr. O’Donnell is the President of Christendom College, a four-year, Roman Catholic, liberal arts college with a graduate program in theological studies.


 brendan-mcguire_8355  Dr. Brendan McGuire

Dr. McGuire specializes in the study of medieval Christianity; his scholarly research has focused on a variety of issues related to the Church in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Dr. McGuire received his Ph.D. from Saint Louis University, and has been a member of Christendom’s history faculty since 2007. He resides in Front Royal with his wife Susan and their three children.

 hickson-024 Prof. Sharon Mahoney Hickson

Prof. Hickson attended Marymount College in Tarrytown, NY, and completed her Master’s Degree at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been involved with Christendom since its inception and has been teaching in the Language and Literature Department since 2004. She has also been greatly involved with student formation, leading discussion groups, giving talks, and encouraging fellowship by hosting student events.

lovett Dr. Seàn-Patrick Lovett

Dr. Lovett, Vatican Radio’s director of English language programming, is a professor of Communications at the Pontifical Gregorian University. A native of South Africa, Lovett received his education at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and the National Academy in Rome.

 Spiritual Formation
 fr-mark_0902 Fr. Mark Byrne, SOLT; Chaplain

Fr. Mark is from Dublin and is a priest of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity. After graduating with a B.A. in Psychology from University College, Dublin, he received a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology and Research at the University of Kansas. Following ordination, he completed his formal education at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome (Angelicum) with an S.T.D. in spiritual theology, writing on the Divine Pedagogy, and John Paul II’s vision for education for a New Evangelization.

Program Coordinator
 fr-mark_0902 Mrs. Catherine O’Donnell

Mrs. O’Donnell has been a travel coordinator to Ireland, Italy, and other European countries for the last 20 years. A founding staff member of the St. Columcille Institute, she is available to assist attendees throughout the program.


The program will be conducted at Ards Friary in the months of July and August. Here is a sample itinerary:

July 23: Depart from Washington-Dulles Airport
July 24: Arrive at Ards, Co. Donegal.
August 12: Leave Ards for overnight in Knock.
August 13: Depart Knock for Dublin.
August 14: Explore the riches of Dublin.
August 15: Return to the United States.

Other Travel

  • The scenic and historic Glen Columcille
  • The Blue Stack Mountains
  • The historical Donegal Castle and Monastery
  • The ancient kings’ residence and sun temple of
  • Grianan of Aileach
  • The spectacular cliffs of Bunglass, the tallest sea cliffs in Europe
  • The historic Doe Castle and Lough Swilly
  • The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at Doon Mass Rock and Holy Well
  • County Mayo and Croagh Patrick
  • The site of Our Lady’s apparition at Knock (with Mass)
  • Derry
  • Tory Island

St. Columcille (also known as St. Columba) was born in County Donegal in 521 and died on the Island of Iona in 597. One of the intellectual giants of his age, he was raised and educated by a priest close to his family. After being trained in the school of Christian asceticism and monasticism, Columcille founded a number of monasteries, including the famous Monastery of Derry in 548. In 563, he left Ireland with twelve companions and sailed for the Island of Iona, where he erected a monastery and began his great mission to Scotland. Iona became a thriving center of the monastic culture that dominated the northwest for centuries. Columcille, a voluntary exile for Christ, returned to Ireland only once in 575 to attend the convention of Ulster of Drumceatt, where his intervention saved the bards and poets of Ireland from banishment. A man of deep faith, great culture, and charity, his life has been recorded for us in the Vita San Columba, written by St. Adomnan. St. Columcille was one of the great lights of the early Middle Ages and one of the great missionary evangelists in the history of the Catholic Church. We are proud to claim him as our special patron.

“Ireland offers the kind of passion and peace you just can’t find anywhere else. Nearly every day was an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life.”

Hannah Rainey

Program Participant

Christendom College admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.