Dr. John Waldmeir, recent recipient of the John Cardinal O’Connor Chair for Catholic Thought and Loras professor, planned and led a trip to Ireland for eight students to attend the 2012 International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin this summer, with focus on comparing and contrasting the Congress to the last one held in Dublin in 1932 and the overall contemporary Irish Catholic Church with its 1930s counterpart.
The students, selected by Waldmeir from disciplines including Irish Studies, Religious Studies, Catholic Studies, St. Pius X Seminary, the Brietbach Catholic Thinkers and Leaders and John Paul II Scholars, spent 10 days in Dublin, accompanied by Drs. Kevin Koch and David Cochran and Sister Beth Driscoll of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary order in Dubuque.
In addition to attending workshops and liturgical events during the Congress, Loras students attended presentations by Fr. John Littleton and Eamon Maher, leading scholars of the contemporary Irish Catholic Church, and informally interviewed Dubliners, other Irish individuals and fellow international travelers to gain insight into the Church today and the Church of 1932.
“The students were struck by the vast differences between the contemporary Catholic Church in Ireland today and the 1932 Irish Catholic Church,” explained Cochran.
The students will present their reflections at Loras College and at the motherhouse of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in late September.
Loras College students have many opportunities to study abroad during their academic career. They choose programs in Spain, South Africa, Botswana and other places around the globe. But perhaps one of the most unique study abroad programs that Loras offers is in Ireland.
All current students are able to choose the study abroad program in Ireland, but its uniqueness is tied to another unique feature of Loras College—the Irish Studies minor. All students enrolled to receive a minor in Irish Studies are required to complete at least two credits through study in Ireland. Students choose either the semester-long study abroad option, during which Loras professors from many disciplines travel with the students and teach Irish-themed courses, or shorter, more specialized courses taught in Ireland, often by both Irish and Loras instructors.
Dr. Andy Auge, director of the Irish Studies program at Loras, said, "One of the central premises behind the Irish Studies minor is that Ireland provides an excellent opportunity for cross-cultural analysis. It shares enough traits with the United States to provide a basis for comparing many social and cultural issues, but at the same time, it's different enough to provide a new perspective on those issues. Both the summer research projects and the semester Study Abroad program offer opportunities for our faculty and students to engage more extensively and directly in the cross-cultural analysis imitated in the classroom."