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Iona Students Moving the World in Ireland and Peru

New Rochelle, NY (February 12, 2014) Winter recess at Iona College is a time for students to take a break between the fall and spring semesters to return home for a visit with family and friends, take a winter session class, or engage in other service learning opportunities such as traveling abroad as a participant of the Iona in Mission program of the college’s Office of Mission and Ministry. This winter 13 students traveled to Ireland and 13 students visited Peru to learn first hand about social justice issues through this cultural immersion process.

Office of Mission and Ministry department director, Dr. Carl Procario-Foley, led the student experience on its first “In the footsteps of Edmund Rice” mission trip to Ireland from Jan. 5-16. 
Living at the Marino Institute in Dublin, students served in a variety of social service ministries including the Wheatfield Prison, the Fr. Peter McVerry Trust for the homeless, the Merchant’s Quay meal program, the St. Vincent DePaul Center, the Christian Brother Life Centres, and the Travact Centre for Irish Travelers.  The students learned about social justice issues facing the homeless, addicts, and the poor as the country strives to rebound after the fall of the Celtic Tiger. Working with the teens of a Life Centre, an alternative education program,  Alyssa Toth, senior and Marketing major said, “Giving all of our care and attention to these boys for the short 8 hour day and them receiving it so well - was the greatest gift Ireland gave me during my 10 day stay.” 
The mission trip included a pilgrimage to Waterford and Callan, to see the birthplace, tomb, and first school of Edmund Rice.  Students also learned about Celtic Spirituality and history through visits to the monastic ruin at Glenda Lock, the An Croi Wisdom Learning Community, and the New Grange.  Caitlyn O’Toole, senior, English and Political Science double major, was particularly moved by the pilgrimage aspect of the mission experience as she says, “The team was offered the unique opportunity to experience the places where Edmund Rice worked, lived, and slept. We were constantly reminded that each of us is the result of one man's actions. Fortunately, his actions have spread and had a lasting impact through the Christian Brothers.”  Procario-Foley added, “And our 13 students returned to campus with a renewed desire to share Edmund Rice’s passion for the poor and the outcast.”
The Iona in Mission program coordinator, Steve Hill, traveled with 13 students to Lima, Peru from January 8-19.
The Christian Brothers facilitated the immersion into the Canto Grande barrio, where they run a school and do pastoral outreach to the residents of “the hill.” The Iona in Mission team engaged the community through construction of two homes for families and running an afternoon camp for the children in Canto Grande.

The purpose of the immersion was less about the “doing,” than building relationships and accompanying our new friends who are forced to live in crushing poverty. Mike Stabile ’14, team co-leader, said “getting to live in a community such as Canto Grande has really taught me the value of faith and family…my team and I are extremely appreciative and cherish this experience.”

Hermano Juan Casey, who was the brother facilitating the immersion, kept reminding us in reflection that most of the people in the world live at this level of poverty, or worse, and challenged us to reflect on how we are called to live and move in our world.  Being unplugged from our phones and technologies; social media; and comforts such as beds allowed our group to be deeply immersed in the present moment and focus solely on the mission of building relationships and examining what is essential in our lives.  And of course the immersion was an experience of mutuality where the local community showed us hospitality, generosity and love. 

Sarah Lonergan-Rothschild ’14, team co-leader, said “[being immersed] in Peru was one of the most incredible experiences…the love that the community shared with us is truly indescribable…it is something I will carry with me forever.”  The Peru mission trip team was deeply present while on immersion; leading to service from a heart-filled with compassion; which leads to liberation where the reality and cries of the poor galvanize us to promote social justice. Albert Tunas, ’14, said, “I felt selfish coming back because I had so much more to give.”

Founded in 1940, Iona College is a four-year private coeducational institution of learning in the tradition of the Edmund Rice Christian Brothers and American Catholic higher education. It is a diverse community of learners and scholars dedicated to academic excellence and the values of justice, peace and service. Iona offers undergraduate degrees in liberal arts, science, and business administration, as well as Master of Arts, Master of Science and Master of Business Administration degrees and numerous advanced certificate programs. Iona College is the second largest private sector employer in New Rochelle, NY.

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