July 26 – August 18, 2024

Become a leader in the New Evangelization.


Applications being accepted in 2024


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 tenth year, The St. Columcille Institute will be held for three weeks in the north of Ireland, in Donegal, from July 26 to August 18, 2024. The institute 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 institute 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 Catholic 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 previous 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 (the home of St. Columcille himself), where local traditions and Irish culture remain strong and vibrant. Ards Friary 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, and 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, and 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. Michael Kelly
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.


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.


Dr. Seàn-Patrick Lovett

Dr. Lovett served as Vatican Radio’s director of English language programming and served as 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 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 

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

July 21: Depart from Washington-Dulles Airport
July 22: Arrive at Ards, Co. Donegal.
August 10: Leave Ards for overnight in Knock.
August 11: Depart Knock for Dublin.
August 12: Explore the riches of Dublin.
August 13: 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
  • Dublin
  • Kilmainham Jail

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