Founded by the Sisters of St. Francis, Lourdes University celebrates its Catholic Franciscan heritage through an annual student pilgrimage to Assisi and Rome, Italy.
On Tuesday, Dec. 27, Ali ElMokdad, Benjamin Jakeway, Aileen Santry, and Allison Walter will depart for Europe where they will join their peers from around the United States as part of the Association of Franciscan Colleges and Universities (AFCU) Student Pilgrimage Program.
During their 11-day pilgrimage, the students will visit several historical landmarks and take time for reflection as they follow in the footsteps of St. Francis.
Their itinerary includes: Assisi, Italy; Rome, Italy; Piazza Comune; Basilica of St. Peter; Basilica of St. Clare, Colosseum; Chiesa Nuova; Trevi Fountain; Santa Maria Maggiore; San Damiano Crucifix; Porziuncola; San Rufino; and La Verna.
This year’s pilgrimage brings together 39 students from 10 states.
Ali ElMokdad is a nursing major and pursuing the pre-physician assistant program. He serves as Secretary of Lourdes’ Student Government Association and established the Lourdes Arab American Student Association (LAASA).
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“I am excited to be a part of the pilgrimage and to expand my knowledge and enhance my efforts in assisting Muslims and Catholics to come to know each other more and to spread the peace between these two amazing monotheistic religions,” Ali explains.
Benjamin is a senior Interdisciplinary Studies major and has also served on the Student Government Association. “As I begin the next step of my education to become a physical therapist, I didn’t want to miss this opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Assisi and Rome,” adds Ben.
Never having traveled abroad before, Ben and Allison Walter, a sophomore nursing and pre-art therapy major, were excited at the prospect of applying for their passports and learning to speak Italian.
Allison is very involved in student life and campus ministry at Lourdes. She is a Resident Assistant for Lourdes Commons Housing and has participated in the Habitat for Humanity Spring Break trips to assist families as they rebuild their homes.
“Previously, I traveled to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and gutted houses that needed to be repaired. I am always interested in participating in programs that allow me to meet others who share the same passion for helping others” notes Allison.
Aileen Santry is a recipient of The Blade’s “Make Me A Gray Wolf” Contest at Lourdes. Majoring in nursing, Aileen who has participated in Habitat for Humanity in the past is now helping to plan the upcoming trip to Laredo, Texas in March, 2012.
“The students have appreciated Aileen’s leadership skills. She is a role model for students and has participated in several outreach projects,” offers Sr. Barbara Vano, OSF, Director of Campus Ministry.
“St. Francis was a peacemaker who reached out to the marginalized. Catholic Franciscans and those that are drawn to Franciscan values follow the way of St. Francis and in turn Jesus,” notes Sr. Ann Carmen Barone, OSF, Vice President for Mission & Minsitry.
“The pilgrimage program puts students’ understanding of Francis’ mission in context. Standing in these places lets the history, motivation and commitment seep in each pilgrim’s spirit and soul.”
For more information on AFCU’s pilgrimage programs, visit www.franciscanpilgrimages.com.