College of Arts and Sciences

Back From Italy, With a New Perspective: Reflections of Catholic Studies Students  

A group of Seton Hall students studying abroad.With spring break in the books, the students in Catholic Studies’ Italy in the Footsteps of the Saints have returned from their pilgrimage and learning adventure in Italy and are settling in on campus with new perspectives and greater appreciation of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, cultural history, and the variety and beauty of life in Italy.

In the Spring 2022 semester, Catholic Studies led the Foundations of Christian Culture: Italy trip, the University’s first study abroad trip since the onset of the pandemic. Following this successful experience, and gaining momentum from students’ rave reviews of the Spring 2022 course and trip, the Spring 2023 Italy in the Footsteps of the Saints experience enrolled 22 students.

Led by Ines Murzaku, Ph.D., Professor of Religion and Director of Catholic Studies, this semester’s Italy in the Footsteps of the Saints students walked in pilgrimage with St. Padre Pio, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Peter, St. Paul, the early Christian martyrs, St. Michael the Archangel, and the Blessed Mother, among other saints. Cities the group visited included Assisi, Siena, San Gimignano (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), San Giovanni Rotondo, Naples, Pompeii, Lanciano, Mozzagrogna, Monte Sant’Angelo, and Rome. The pinnacle of the trip was the group’s attendance Sunday Mass at St. Peter's in Rome, followed by the Angelus with Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square.

Two of the students in the course have shared some reflections on their experience with the group in Italy and how their study abroad experience has influenced their outlook and approach to their education.

Michael P. De Marco, ’25 an undecided business major, reflected:

A group of Seton Hall students studying abroad."As a result of the Italy in the Footsteps of the Saints study abroad trip, I have gained conviction in my faith. With the 'busy-ness' of everyday life, it can be easy to lose sight of our relationship with God. After studying in the footsteps of the saints, however, my outlook on that 'busy-ness' has changed. I now see how important it is to keep God, and my relationship with Him, front and center. Through learning about the lives of several saints, including Padre Pio and Saint Francis of Assisi, I was amazed at how much they were able to accomplish and how much change they were able to bring about in the world through the course of their lives. However, the impact that they had and continue to have today on countless souls would not be what it is without the grace of God. Their faith is what strengthened them to work to change the world and bring more people to God; and because of my experience on this trip, I pray that I may be able to do the same."

Kennedy Dierks ’23, a pre-medical student double-majoring in Biology and Catholic Studies, shared:

A group of Seton Hall students studying abroad."Something that surprised me about Italy in the Footsteps of the Saints was how connected I felt to the saints and religious figures we were studying. It’s difficult to wrap my head around, but it’s so surreal to think about walking the same roads, praying in the same churches, and viewing the same frescoes as saints that I’ve come to admire. I felt both their presence and God’s in many of the churches, shrines, and museums we visited, which was incredible.

Studying abroad deepened both my Catholic faith and my appreciation for our basic humanity. Although I was in a different country, with people speaking a different language, and adhering to different cultural norms, our similarities stood out more than our differences. As I attended Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, a place I’ve always dreamed of visiting, I realized that, despite our language barrier(s), everyone attending the Mass was worshipping the same God. It was so special to share in that tradition and be reminded of our human connection, and the notion that we are all created in God’s image.

Furthermore, study abroad reminded me that, sometimes, it is necessary to see something in person in order to truly appreciate it. Although I studied St. Peter’s in my art history course, the textbook photos simply did not capture the beauty and grandeur of the church. I was awestruck and met with a new appreciation for not only the art, but the stories of faith that inspired it. I am already so eager to visit Italy again."

Information about and registration details for the upcoming 2024 Catholic Studies study abroad experience in Italy will be available in the coming months.

Categories: Faith and Service, Nation and World