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Walking in the Footsteps of St. Ignatius

by Daniela Villalobos on 02/10/2022

Thirty-five SLU-Madrid students embarked on a pilgrimage to Spain's beautiful Basque Country for the Loyola Ignatian Pilgrimage Retreat. With trees that decorate the landscape, green hills that seem never-ending and mountains that seem to touch the clouds, the retreat gave students an opportunity to see a new part of Spain while learning about Jesuit history and the life of Saint Ignatius.

Participants in the Spring 2022 Loyola Retreat

This Spring 2022, participants from the Loyola Ignatian Pilgrimage Retreat in the Conversion Chapel within the home of Saint Ignatius. Photo by Paloma Gómez de Salazar Cordero.

As a SLU-Madrid tradition, students go on a weekend retreat to the birthplace of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. On the trip, the students visit the home of Saint Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuit order, and learn about his life from beginning to end. A highlight for many students is a day trip to the beach town of San Sebastián. There the students are able to enjoy pintxos, special tapas from San Sebastian, tour the San Sebastián Cathedral, and even hike up to the top of Urgull Mount to get an unbelievable view of the whole coast and La Concha beach.

During the three-day retreat, both visiting and permanent students of different faiths shared in reflection and made new friends. With a balance between spirituality, reflection and fellowship, the retreat brought students together in a welcoming community, and offered a chance for them to escape and take a momentary break from their lives. 

"The retreat is a momentary stop in our busy lives. Students have just gone through the stressful adjustment period. Many are adjusting to a new culture, living abroad and new classes," 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."

La Concha beach
The view of La Concha beach from the top of Urgull Mount. Photo by Daniela Villalobos.

"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," said SLU-Madrid junior Daniela Villalobos, who attended her first Loyola Retreat in February 2020, right before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. "The reflection and worship times allow me to grow closer to God and get to know the people on the retreat better 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.