This past summer four Jesuit schools from Catalonia joined efforts to bring the first coordinated exchange to fruition. Eight Catalan students were picked to embark on the newly opened Saint Ignacio’s Pilgrimage. To help them along the way, they were joined by a Jesuit School in Phoenix Arizona. For ten tough days, the 16 students along with three teachers and a spiritual guide walked 180 kilometers across Catalonia to be in touch with Saint Ignatius, to test themselves and most importantly to make new friends.
The walk tested our limits, it was suffocatingly hot, there was dust everywhere and our feet seemed as if they had been put through a meat grinder. But with the help of the group, we all made it home, safe and sound. It made us proud that we were all capable of finishing such an arduous walk. It was a pilgrimage in every sense of the word. Staying with us forever is that sense of common struggle, friendship and above all else getting in touch with the founder of all our schools, as we walked the walk he had done so many years before. At the end of August, the Catalan students flew out to the USA to spend 16 days with the brothers they had walked with. This was the easy part of the whole experience!
When we arrived in the airport all our students were picked up by their families. And so the 8 Catalan students began their complete immersion into the American way of life, which they all loved! On Monday we had our first day in school. Shocked they also were by the amount of extra-curricular activities that they participated in. The Americans had little free time.
The boys experienced firsthand the excitement of an American football game, and they even had a back to school dance. They were also very lucky as they were taken by their new families to visit many interesting places in Arizona. The highlight for us was the visit to the Grand Canyon, to which we were accompanied by Hans Martin, a Jesuit from Munich. Between walking in the steps of Ignatius and experiencing American culture first hand, I think the boys had an experience they will never forget.
Brian O’Hogain – Accompanying Teacher and International Exchanges coordinator at Jesuïtes Sant Gervasi – Infant Jesús (Barcelona-Spain), Jesuites Educació Catalonia