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Iona in Mission and Study Abroad Work Together to Allow Students to Explore Iona's Rich Heritage

By Brianna D'Alessio ‘14
Student Reporter - The Ionian
As part of the college’s continuing efforts to reconnect students with its vast Celtic roots, Iona has launched new programs in the Iona in Mission and Study Abroad departments.

Both the mission trip to Ireland and the study abroad trip to the Isle of Iona were designed with the intention of creating a comprehensive understanding of Iona’s rich history and culture.

These trips have a special focus on Edmund Rice, the founder of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, and St. Columba, who was responsible for the foundation of the Christian abbey on the Isle of Iona.

Students are often curious as to whether or not Columba was a Christian Brother, and what prompted Iona’s founders to name the college in honor of his prominent Christian community in Scotland.

St. Columba pre-dated Edmund Rice by approximately 1200 years.

However, that isn’t to say that Columba’s life’s work didn’t have a resounding influence over the Christian Brothers and their institution.

“There is a clear connection to the tradition of Celtic Christianity that Columba represents; along with Patrick and Brigid, he makes up the trinity of Ireland’s most important saints,” said Dr. Christina Carlson, associate professor of English and developer and coordinator of the Study Abroad trip to the Isle of Iona in Scotland.

“Beyond that, I think the brothers had in mind Columba’s model of community, which was based on the twin foundations of faith and learning, and I suspect they wanted Iona College, likewise, to be a community of faith and learning.”

The concept “Move the World” is highly representative of these ideas, and the trip to the Isle of Iona allows for students to access Columba’s legacy and share what they have learned with others in the future.

During the week-long study abroad session, Dr. Carlson said students live in community. Not unlike the medieval monks, they will share meals, perform light chores, worship together and study natural, historical, spiritual and social topics ranging from manuscript illumination to eco-justice.

The Office of Mission and Ministry began developing a mission trip to Ireland with a similar focus as the Iona study abroad trip.

Along with working in Dublin, the students will also go to Waterford, where Edmund Rice founded the Christian brothers.
“It’s somewhat surprising that Iona has never sent a mission trip to Ireland in the past, considering our strong ties to Edmund Rice, who was born and began his mission work right outside of Dublin,” said senior Alexa Serrecchia, who is also a campus minister. “I’m personally really excited to be co-leading the first Ireland mission trip, it will be an unforgettable experience.”

Other students share similar sentiments in regards to attending Iona’s new mission initiative.

“I really wanted to see a side of Ireland that is not in the tourists’ eye, and give back to a community where my heritage is from,” said senior Ryan Harding, who will be traveling to Dublin with the mission team this spring.