Walking in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius
Nineteen SLU-Madrid students embarked on a pilgrimage to Spain's picturesque Basque Country for the Loyola Ignatian Pilgrimage Retreat. With trees that seem to stretch for miles, mountains that reach for the sky and breathtaking views, the retreat gave students a view of Spain and Jesuit history, far from the commotion of Madrid.
A SLU-Madrid tradition, the Loyola Retreat traces the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, by visiting his birthplace and family home. A highlight for many students, the trip also includes a visit to the charming coastal city of San Sebastian, where students enjoy the pintxos tapas culture, tour the remarkable Neo-Gothic cathedral, and explore the hillsides flanking the famous "La Concha" beach.
During the three-day retreat, both visiting and permanent students of different faiths shared their thoughts and made new friends, all while learning about Jesuit history. With a healthy balance between spirituality, reflection and fellowship, the retreat brought students together in a welcoming community, and offered a chance for them to escape and think.
"The retreat is a momentary stop in our busy lives. Students have just gone through the stressful midterm period. Many are adjusting to their first semester in college, or to living abroad," explained Paloma Gómez de Salazar Cordero, SLU-Madrid counselor and campus minister, who co-leads the trip with Campus Chaplain James O’Leary S.J. "Beyond making new friends, the retreat affords them the opportunity to reflect on where they are in their lives and what they want to do tomorrow to fulfill the mission: to be men and women for others."
In addition to Gómez de Salazar and Fr. O'Leary, Paul Vita, Ph.D., campus director and academic dean, took part in this semester's retreat.
SLU-Madrid junior Daniela Villalobos, who attended her first Loyola Retreat in February 2020, right before the onset of the pandemic, said, "Although I have done this retreat in the past, doing it with a new group of people changed my perspective and opened my mind to new ideas. The reflection and worship times allow me to grow closer to God and the people on the retreat as we share our thoughts and come together to pray. Every time I go on this trip I come back with a sense of peace and a closer relationship to God."
For Villalobos, the visit to San Sebastian was also a highlight. As an American student in Spain, she enjoyed learning about the regional differences between the customs and cultures in Madrid and in the Basque Country.
SLU-Madrid's Campus Ministry and the Office of Student Life organize visits to Loyola every semester. The trips are 50% sponsored by SLU-Madrid to promote SLU's Jesuit mission across the entire University.