Friday, August 19, 2011

Missing Belfast and Dublin Already!

Hi Everyone,

It's hard to believe that it will almost be a week since our pilgrimage officially ended.  Even though I have enjoyed spending quality time with my family and friends from home again, I already miss Belfast and Dublin! There will always be a special place in my heart now for those cities.

When I was shopping for back to school supplies the other day, I came across some decorations students could buy for dorm room walls. I saw these stickers of a huge peace sign and other smaller symbols to be placed around the peace sign.  The first thing I thought of when I saw this was Belfast, and how much simpler life would be in the city if peace finally existed there.  I decided to buy it, and plan on displaying it in my dorm room in remembrance of those affected by the frequent physical and verbal violence due to religious and political conflicts in Belfast.

I find myself looking at pictures from our trip at least once a day, and remember all of the memories our group experienced.  But the students and chaperones made these pilgrimage memories even sweeter for me.  I wouldn't have traded a single person within this group for any other individual.  It can be a challenge to spend 9 days with the same group of people with various personality traits, but in the end we were all able to share a strong bond with one another that will last for a lifetime.

It's interesting how particular moments, like signing a peace wall in Belfast and getting to see the beautiful coastlines of Ireland, can be embedded in my mind as if they happened yesterday.  But I mean really, how could any of us ever forget what we've experienced in Ireland and Northern Ireland?  I know I'll never forget this travel adventure!


Monday, August 15, 2011

Last Full Day in Dublin!

Hey Family and Friends! 
Thank-goodness for our safe travels home! A special thank you to Christine and John Amici for picking us up at JFK Airport in the rain!
Lets go back to Saturday though so you can hear all about our last day and night in Dublin! 

The morning started a little later than normal because everyone got to sleep in just a little bit longer since out conference at the Mercy International House was over! Who doesn't love a little extra bit of sleep? Many of the GMC, Misericordia, and Mount Aloysius group went on the Dublin hop-on, hop-off bus tour! Some of the iconic stops along the tour are St. Stephen's Green, Christ Church, Trinity College, Grafton Street, The Jameson Distillery, and The Writers Museum. Listening to everyone talk about their experience was great. Everyone seemed to like their bus tour. 

Katie Kane and I decided to just walk over to Grafton Street and do some well needed shopping! Grafton was buzzing and alive with people who all had the same idea! I loved the atmosphere of the streets of Dublin, everything just has a vibrant buzz that surged through you. Katie and I decided to grab lunch at the same restaurant that our group at at on the first night in Dublin called The Elephant Castle. We ate delicious wings and some chips! After lunch we did a little more shopping and then we found our way back to our hostel on O'Connell Street. At around 3pm (Dublin time) some of the girls in room 27 started to trickle in to get ready for their final dinners in Dublin. 

GMC ate dinner at Gallagher's Boxty House.  The food was incredible! Some people ordered traditional Irish food like Boxty's, Irish stews, corn beef, cabbage, and mash. 

For desert, we decided to go back to The Elephant Castle. The group presented Ms. Pierantozzi and Brigid O'Brien with a thank-you note and a toast! 

For the remainder of the evening, everyone went out and enjoyed some live music at the Merchant's Arch pub.  The trip was really one of the best experiences I've ever had.  I hope you have all enjoyed our blog as much as we have loved sharing it all with you!

--Kate Taylor

The Journey Has Ended....The Memories Have Not

Greetings Blog Followers,

We are so very happy that you have been following our journey. We had a fantastic time during our travels through Belfast and Dublin and met many people from all over the world at the Conference for Young Mercy Leaders at Mercy International Center in Dublin.

The students from Gwynedd were fabulous ambassadors from our college. They engaged, positively, with everyone with whom we came in contact. They had many wonderful conversations and made great impressions on everyone they met! They also now have friends from as near as Western PA and as far as New Zealand and Australia!

Please continue to follow our blog for post-pilgrimage reflections as well as additional pictures and video clips. I have posted a few video clips here and will continue to do so. Thanks for following our blog!

Mary Jo Pierantozzi

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Heaven is now"

Hi Everyone!
Needless to say this experience has been a truly once in a lifetime chance and I am so grateful to share this with you. My second day of the conference began with a workshop titled "Are We Human Or Are We Dancer?" based on The Killers hit song. Lloyd Berkman, a schoolteacher here in Ireland, facilitated this workshop and I can say that it struck a chord for nearly all 15 of us in the room. He also played a few skits and songs that I will share with all of you because I know I will never forget how deep this music hit home to me.

We discussed the lyrics of the song such as "there is no message we're receiving, let me know is your heart still beating" and we all just discussed what we believed the songwriters were trying to say. Things only got deeper from there, and Lloyd led us on a journey in our hearts and minds and helped us relate what we were feeling to the power of music. The one item that hasn't left my head since that day is the idea that "heaven is now."

When we were all in a close circle, Lloyd stood and explained that in heaven, those we love are not hurting and he said the first thing he would do when he gets to heaven is to find his parents and ask how long they had been there. After a few silent moments, he said "they will say they have only just arrived." Since heaven is only now, there is no yesterday and there is no tomorrow, those who are blessed to be there can live peacefully without fear, anxiety, or yearning for those who are on Earth.Our families, friends and those we mourn will only have missed us but a few short moments until we are together again. I hope this post can bring any of you who are mourning a sense of peace and serenity like it brought me.

I hope to post more about my experiences soon and I have also included the press releases from on the coverage of the conference, but "until that day safe home to you my friend!"

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Songs from presentation...hope you all enjoy
The Killers- Are We Human or Are we Dancer

Jack Johnson-Home

Tom Baxter-Better

Lifehouse-Everything (Skit)

Augusut 11th: The Second Day at Baggot Street

Top of the Mornin' to you! (They don't actually say this in Ireland contrary to popular belief....and they don't have little leprechauns running around either!)

August 11th was day two of our conference and day two of our time at the Mercy International Centre on Baggot Street in Dublin. Walking in those grand front doors where Catherine McAuley walked is breath taking. Actually being present in the "motherland" of Mercy was inspirational. And knowing that I was in the place where Catherine McAuley started it all was truly a moving experience. Visiting the beginning of the Mercy world was really something special; after all, we at GMC wouldn't be here without what happened in the building on Baggot Street.

After a lovely prayer and a presentation that taught us how to best use the International Mercy Website,, we had a wonderful day of presentations and sessions to attend. Learning from the very Sisters of Mercy who are now continuing to do the work which Catherine started was indescribable. Catherine's legacy lives on and I know she is jumping for joy knowing that so many are continuing to do Mercy.

After lunch I sat outside for an hour in a courtyard where Catherine is buried. This moving experience solidified my true appreciation for a woman who made a huge impact in the world. I hope I can somehow follow in her footsteps and I know if I grow to be half of the Merciful person she was, I will have lived my life well.

Here's some food for thought: "Be the change you want to see in the world" ~Gandhi

That is all for now...thanks for reading and have a grand day!
Steven Rufe

Conference: Day 2!

Hi Everyone,

It's Beth here talking about Day 2 of the Mercy Conference.  Thursday was another great day to learn more about mercy and Catherine McAuley's spirit & mission.  I attended a tour of the Mercy International Centre.  While on the tour, I saw many things which included Catherine's resting place in this beautiful garden area with flowers, a water fountain, and benches all around it.  Also, I stood in the room where she died and saw valuable items like the cross she held on her death bed and her rosary beads. 
 Beth posing with the Catherine McAuley statue in front of Mercy International Centre

After the tour, I attended a workshop called Out of the Stars.  It showed us how human beings originated from star dust because we have very similiar DNA components within our bodies.  I don't know if I fully believe it, but within this session the presenters showed us a timeline of how things and people evolved, so I want to investigate this topic more once I get home in the U.S.  After that session, I went to another session called Ways to Enhance Your Prayer Life.  It taught me various forms of prayer by doing yoga, journaling, singing, dancing, and listening to music.  It was a really great workshop to attend.  Later that night, there was a talent show.  Many people from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, England, and the U.S. performed in this talent show.  Some of the acts included performances of native songs & modern songs, comedy acts, and dancing.  Everyone loved the talents displayed in the show, and had a wonderful time cheering for our new friends we have made at this conference.  I am really going to miss these international Mercy leaders once the conference is completed.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our Journey to Dublin

Tuesday August 9th 2011. 

We knew we were leaving around noon to head to Dublin, so many of us woke up early and headed into city centre to finish some last minute shopping. City Centre is much like inner city Philadelphia with many shops and places to eat. We enjoyed people watching and experiencing there culture. For example, McDonalds which you would think is universal was much much different. They have many strange combinations and add many different types of condiments. Sadly, we found out the hard way. After shopping we went back to spend our last few minutes in Farset. We definitely enjoyed our stay in Belfast. We learned so much about the history and 'troubles' that took place in the town, thanks to Jude, his family and friends. 

At about noon we climbed aboard the bus and started the second part of our journey to Dublin.On the way to Dublin many of us caught up on our much needed sleep. It took us about two and a half hours to get there. The weather was beautiful, warm and sunny and when we arrived and the city was buzzing. We are staying at Abbey Court Hostel with many of our fellow friends who are also attending the Young Mercy Leader's Conference. We are staying in a room with girls from our neighboring PA schools. Nineteen in total. You would imagine it to be wild, but we are all having a very nice time.

 Once we were all settled in, many of us went out exploring along the river Liffey, which is right across the street. Its amazing to see how many similarities we have but yet we are so very different. After exploring the GMC gang met back up and headed to a very nice dinner at the Elephant Castle, thanks very much to Fr. John whom treated us. After a lovely dinner and dessert we got cleaned up and headed to the Arlington Pub where we watched live Irish men sing and later watched Irish step dancers, both of which were awesome! Everyone had a great time! This experience so far has been one of a life time. Our eyes have been opened to many different cultures and traditions. We cant thank our supporters enough for this phenomenal experience. 
Enjoy following the rest of our week! 

Much Love,
Kellie and Amy

The Lovely Northern Ireland Coast

Good Morning from across the Pond! This will be a blog post from both Regina and Mary!
Regina: Although we are far from home, the day started out in a normal fashion, I slept through my alarm and Katherine had to stir me from my slumber for our morning run. All three of the Mount Aloysius girls--Rosalie, Whit, and Tonya joined us. We took a left out of Farset International and ran up the hill/mountain that Liam took us on last night! It was so neat to see all of the murals and now have the background of them too! Although it was raining, it was still a gorgeous view, filled with plush green grass, cows and horses!
From here on, this is from the voice of Regina and Mary, the duo that conquered Giant’s Causeway and Beyond!!!!!
Of course Regina snoozed on the bus ride to Giant’s Causeway, as Mary enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Nothing so far prepared us for the “Brilliant” view that Giant’s Causeway had in store for us!
As we stepped off of the bus, we attempted to adjust to the gusty winds and extremely cool temperature. It was more than a wee bit cold that morning on the coast! The sky was gray at the moment, but the ever changing Irish weather left us hopeful that the sun would be shining shortly! Finding ourselves only 11 miles off the coast of Scotland, there were contemplations of just running o the shore across the sea. Since that would be nearly impossible, we decided to climb all over the oddly uniformed hexagonal columns of Basalt, which scientifically were formed by an old volcano around 60 million years ago. The lovely Irish with their fantastic imaginations know that the columns were formed by the Giant Fin McCool throwing stones around in competition with a giant form the nearby Scotland.
After nearly slipping off the piles of damp columns, we saw a windy and steep gravel path that wrapped around the mountain. Of course, being eager to explore, we trucked up the path. Mary, of course, got distracted by all of the beauty that we were immersed in taking a million pictures and causing her camera to go dead halfway through the excursion. Regina was busy touching all of the red rocks and practically everything else around! Words cannot express the feelings that overwhelmed us as we explored this natural wonder. One thing that could not escape our thoughts, was how we both wished our mother’s were with us to share in the beauty. We made plans to bring our mothers back with us when we have children, so that they can share the experience and of course watch the kids when we venture out to the pubs! Sorry Moms!!! Word’s really cannot express feelings that engulfed us at Giant’s Causeway, so pictures will have to suffice.
The next adventure was along the magnificent Northern coast of Ireland. We visited Dunlace Castle, which partly fell into the ocean, bringing down a handful of servants. Once again, the view was spectacular, and the grass lush and soft. It was so soft that Regina lay down and just rolled around and down the hills in it. The sun was out, the sky was blue and we’ve never seen an ocean so blue. The drive down the coast was incredible on the perilous yet gorgeous back roads that followed the ocean. Awe filled the bus as everyone snapped pictures, pointed out the sheep (which are spray painted according to each farmer), and just soaked in a sight we could have never created in our wildest dreams. The next destination was Carrick-A-Redge Rope Bridge. The “wee” bit of gust our new Irish friends claim are normal kept blowing us away, so we enjoyed the view from afar rather than crossing the rickety rope bridge that is suspended between to high cliffs. Everyone was giddy and breathless from trying to capture everything to store into memory. The views we took in today will be special places in our memory, which we can always go to when stress takes over. 
Our final stop of the day was a place called Corrymeela, In the gorgeous town of Ballycastle, which roughly translated is the lumpy crossing place. It’s a safe haven for Protestants and Catholics to come and discuss the “troubles,” and anything else in a safe environment. The grounds included housing for volunteers, housing for those visiting the center and workplaces. It was founded in 1965 by Ray Davie. We were given the history as well as a rundown of what typically goes on during sessions, such as a puppet game. Again, it was situated on a high, jagged, cliff along the beautiful coast. Next to the view. the best part was the traditional Irish food of stuffing wrapped in steak, potatoes and carrots. The dessert was coco-rice-krispie treat in a custard. Listening to the volunteers talk about the mission of Corrymeela was as addicting as their energy was contagious.
               The GMC group outside on the grounds of Corrymeela
On our way back to Farset, our bus was driving down the streets of Belfast and we saw Bonfires that were as tall as buildings with the British Flag pinned to the sides. One bonfire was a building down or two from our hostel. Joe, our nice Irish receptionist told us that the bonfires mark the beginning of “Interment” which was when the British soldiers came around the Catholic areas and randomly arrested Catholic citizens. Some of the students from Mount Aloysius walked down and talked to one of the teens building the fire. He referred to the night as “Bonfire” night and explained how bonfires are a form of competition between Catholics and Protestants, and how the Protestants always win, because they are more privileged. The bonfires were lit and burned all through the night causing most of the gates along the peace walls to be closed off.
                                  One of the bonfires in Belfast
Our receptionist Joe is quite helpful, he calls our cabs and sent us to the “Bot”, Botanical Inn, or as us Americans referred to it as the “Butt.” Although Joe claimed it would be “hopping,” the only ones who were there were Regina, Beth, Kellie, Kate, Steven and Kady. It was nice to have a place to just sit and talk and converse with the local bartenders. Since there were “troubles” through the city and specifically the road where we were staying it took us forever to get a cab. The security guards Mario (from Croatia), and Paul (from Poland) kept us company as we waited. Paul helped Regina practice some of her Polish phrases.
Finally a cab came and driving around it seemed as though all of the bonfires were out, but around midnight Joe took some of us out to the balcony to watch multiple bonfires. No matter what direction I looked I could see a bonfire. There was lots of fire and smoke. Joe explained that during the Parade Season there would be more bonfires and how it is merely a way of life for the teens in Belfast. It was enlightening to have someone who’s lived through many Bonfire nights to comfort us as we questioned the point of such chaos.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dublin Pilgrimage of Young Mercy Leaders Conference: Day 1

Hi Everybody,

It's Beth and Ashley here talking about our first day of our 3 day Dublin Pilgrimage of Young Mercy Leaders Conference! This Wednesday morning, the GMC group left the Abbey Court Hostel and made our way through the Dublin streets to the Mercy International Centre on Lower Baggot Street. The Mercy International Centre originated when the Sisters of Mercy was created by Catherine McAuley.

We began our conference with an opening ceremony, which highlighted all of the various schools in attendance from different countries around the world. Some of these countries include New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, Great Britain, United States. Each school gave a brief description of their school, and presented at least one symbolic item from their institution or town. Gwynedd-Mercy College presented a mini replica of the Liberty Bell and votive candle holder with Assumption Hall painted upon it. It was a beautiful ceremony, which showed us how truly connected we all are because of our common Mercy bond.

It was great to learn about schools' backgrounds as well. New Zealand's representatives are from the town of Christ Church, which is where a recent earthquake occurred and caused massive destruction. Even though their town was devastated by this earthquake, we were surprised to see how excited they were to be at the conference, almost as if nothing had happened in their town. It was also interesting to see how many hours it took for the students from New Zealand and Australia to arrive in Dublin. It took the people from Australia about 30 total hours of flying to arrive in Dublin! Everyone seems to be very nice, though, no matter what part of the world they are from. It's nice to hear all of the various accents too!

After the opening ceremony everyone listened to a speech about Catherine McAuley's personality, mission, qualities, and ongoing legacy. Then, everyone was participating in different sessions throughout the day. First off, Beth attended two sessions today. The first session was called "What Am I Going to Do with My One Wild and Precious Life?" Students in this session learned to use discernment as a life skill through listening and prayer to discover what we are called to do in our lives. These young pilgrims also learned that vocations mainly come from the heart through prayer, awareness, seeking understanding, and taking action. In order to respond to our vocational callings, we should determine what gives us joy, what are we good at, and what the world needs. The second session Beth attended was called "Are We Human or Are We Dancer?" This title is from The Killers' song called "Are We Human or Are We Dancer?" The session was interactive and allowed students to realize the impact music and dance can have in our lives. We should be free to sing or dance to music because they can both be forms of prayer. In fact, our own lives could be a song or a dance. Even though as human beings our lives can seem choreographed, we should be able to just do freestyle dancing throughout life.

Ashley attended the sessions "Mercy Volunteer Corps" and "Mercy Beyond Borders." The former session, given by our very own Brigid O'Brien, was replete with information about volunteering with MVC after graduation in places in dire need throughout the United States and in Guyana. Volunteering in the States requires a minimum one-year commitment, while Guyana requires two years. "Mercy Beyond Borders" gave discourse on the strong need for help in Sudan, particularly where it comes to healthcare and education for women and children. It was chaired by Sister Marilyn Lacey, author of the memoir This Flowing Toward Me; she was a lively and fascinating speaker who discussed with us the crossing of borders - personally as well as geographically.

After dinner, we had an on-stage theatrical performance called "A Heart Centered in God" which told the story of Catherine McAuley. The entire play is performed by one actress named Lisa Bansavage, and the play's script is written by her husband L.E. McCullough. This play has been performed at GMC before, so it was nice to see the play again in Dublin.

Today has been one of the longest, most interesting, most fascinating, most fulfilling, incredibly full days we've ever had - made twice as incredible by the city in which we reside.

        Here is Ashley speaking to recognize GMC at the Opening Ceremony

--Beth and Ashley
My Sunday started a little different than Ashley's. Mine began with an early morning run with Regina up this mountain, which I later found out is named Black Mountain. Unfortunately, we did not think until afterwards to bring our cameras so that you could share in the spectacular aerial view of the entire city of Belfast and its surrounding areas.I did have my camera for the rest of tours, so I am going to share some pictures with you that will help you to understand what Ashley described.

This is a mural from the Protestant side of the peace wall. There are about 40 walls remaining throughout the city, most of which are lined by murals. What struck me most was that murals not only told the story of past struggles in Belfast, but that many commemorated similar struggles occurring in other parts of the world. The following mural from the Catholic neighborhood relates Northern Ireland's troubles to those in Israel and Palestine.
This is the mural of Bobby Sands that Ashley described to all of you.
After our tour of the murals we headed on to the Titanic District. We were just a year too early to get into the museum, but I was simply amazed by the building. I'd like to take a vote on how many people think that it is a boat, and how many think it is an iceberg.
We had a good time anyway getting to see the ship's final resting place and enormous size(the yellow dot is the size of a person) and acting out scenes from the movie("If you jump I'll jump"). The ship was larger than I had ever imagined.

Liam did an amazing job of walking us through West Belfast, the area in which he grew up and the most fighting took place. Here is a clip in which he will describe the importance of remembrance gardens.

After visiting most of the city's hot spots and tourist attractions we were off for a cultural experience to Fibber Magee's Pub to listen to some live music. It turns out that the band that night was covering American music such as Adele, Mumford and Sons, Flogging Molly, and the songs from Titanic. It was not until we related our entire experience to the receptionist, Joe, that we realized we'd done anything to identify ourselves as Americans. His words were "What? you don't dance at Fibber Magee's, you dance at a night club!" It was one of the best days of my life.

A part of me will remain in the city of Belfast, which we have all come to love and feel at home in. Literally, our names along with the names of thousands from around the world will remain on this wall forever (or at least until another mural is put up).

Sunday Tours

Hey all! This is Ashley, bringing you part one of our Sunday excursions into the world that is Belfast (or, since we're in Dublin as of this posting, the world that was Belfast).

Sunday, we took a bus tour of Belfast. Ireland –Northern Ireland, at any rate – seems to be made of walls and murals, remnantsof a darker, more conflicted age that hasn’t quite faded from the memories ofits inhabitants. I’m not entirely sure I understand all of the details, but theoverarching conflict, from what I gather, is between the Protestant Loyalists and the Catholic Irish. It’s striking to me to see barbed-wire fences, buildings pockmarked with bullet holes not quite healed by time, plaquesdedicated to the dead, the struggles of the past few decades put on display like medals of Honor as well as remnants of the trials that these people haveundergone. Above all, I notice the so-called “Peace Wall,” which separates the Catholic communities from the Protestant ones.

We stopped at a mural of Bobby Sands, a man who went on apolitical hunger strike and died from it, becoming the symbol for theresistance against the British, Protestant government. Liam Stone, our tourguide during the walking tour of Belfast, painted the analogy this way: imagineif, when the United States declared their Independence, the British receded butfor New England territory. How would we feel now? That is similar to what is going on in Northern Ireland right now, and it is the reason for the battlesand the warfare that have only ceased in recent years in lieu of a peacefulmovement.

During the bus tour, we drove through a city tattooed withthe memories of its horrors as well as the medals of its victories. Forinstance, Titanic Quarter, which is becoming a national monument. The ship was massive; at its inception in Belfast, in fact, it was the largest movingman-made vessel ever created. It’s a mark of pride for the people of Northern Ireland (and I can’t blame them for that).

Later we had dinner at a restaurant called Caifé Fierste.The food, authentic or not, was delicious,and I didn’t realize that what I was eating was chicken with garlic-flavored mayonnaiseuntil after I had consumed it. Weird but yummy.

Then we met a former political prisoner named Liam Stone. Hetold of how he was shot at fifteen, how he had been embroiled in theparamilitary movements from then on. As we walked through the streets ofBelfast, he spotted mural after mural dedicated to names and events I’d neverheard of: Bobby Sands (previously mentioned), Sean Maguire (the musician whoperfected the art of dodging the taxman), Angela Gallagher (athirteen-month-old baby killed in crossfire), Fianna Éireann (a youth movement), Mochara (an incredibly artist), Gairdín cui Mhneachan (dedicated to Republicanskilled during Internment Week, in the Kelly’s Bar explosion, in the Springfield Massacre, and to civilians killed by accident). We stood upon a road wherehundreds of ambushes occurred, and probably just as many people killed. We looked upon a cemetery – a cemetery –where it was ordered that a wall had to be built underground separating Catholics from Protestants. If Liam taught us nothing else that day, he managedto impart just how deep these old prejudices lie, how something as simple aswalking on the wrong side of the road could get you killed. Perhaps the most disquieting thing that Liam said to us (there are 27 students between Misericordia, Aloysius, and Gwynedd) was that had we been 16 to 17 years old merely 35 years ago in Ireland, two of us would be dead before 20, and 6 in jail.

With all this, Northern Ireland, steeped in memories and a grudging, tense peace as it is, seems, in equal parts, politically aware, traumatized, patriotic, proud of its culture, and to be stubbornly moving forward in spite of everything else.

It was quite a day.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

"We welcome the Americans, wherever they are."

Hello family and friends!This is Katie and Kate here ready to tell you all about our Saturday in Belfast. We may even tap into Sunday festivities, but we'll see!

Our main guide here Jude has helped us greatly during our stay here and we can't wait to tell you about him and his wife, Sota. First though, some of our group members had an adventure to Tesco, Belfast's version of Wal-Mart. After that Jude invited his family Monica, Stephen and Michelle and his niece Cara and nephews Daniel, Matthew, Aidan, and Oran. We loved having a laugh with them and getting to know each other, and baby Cara adored the bubbles we bought her. The boys were quite rough though with their beachballs but we managed. After dinner it was off to mass at Colnard church. The interesting thing is that the main church is being renovated, so we had mass in a tent out front. The entire congregation was welcoming to us and it was just like being back at home. We have a picture with the priest, but until the two of us can figure this technology out, we'll be sure to post it!

After mass Jude walked us to a memorial on Bombay street, the site of an intense fire that left hundreds of Protestants without homes. It was there that we saw our first sight of the "peace wall" that surrounds the city, nearly 40 in total. The homes that are against the peace wall have fences around their backyards so their children can play safely outside. One side is Catholic and one is Protestant, and in the years they never knew if one would throw bombs or stones over the wall. It was then that it came to light for many of us that this battle between the two sides is still very serious and nearly hidden from an outsiders perspective.

After our walk we all returned safely to our hostel and talked about the day and how surreal everything was around us. Katherine is next and is going to tell you about our tours today and how much we realized this city is split and how much anger is still present. Even simple matters such as what side of the road a person walks on defines if they are a Protestant or a Catholic. We love you all and miss the states but we're fitting in just fine here and learning our way around and the local slang. For instance, people here do not dance at a pub, but they save that for the nightclubs. Needless to say, we brought some American to their pubs! Slan Abhaile!(Goodbye for now)

Love,Katie and Kate!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Toto, I have a feeling I'm not in Gwynedd Valley anymore!

Hello All!

We have safely arrived in Ireland! Here's a short recap of our travels Friday and Saturday:

On Friday, August 5th, we met at GMC in the Loyola Hall parking lot at 9:30am in preparation for a 10:30am departure. At 10:00am we had a wonderful sendoff ceremony and started off our trip with a wonderful, supportive, and endearing Mercy beginning in preparation for our pilgrimage to the "Motherland". (aka Dublin) Thanks again so very much to all those who made this trip possible; we will keep you updated over the course of the trip!

After leaving GMC we embarked on a two and a half hour van ride to JFK airport. (Thanks Father John and Brittney for the ride!) We arrived at JFK shortly after 1:00pm and then, after eating lunch and going through security, we departed from the United States on our flight for Dublin at 5:45pm.

Here's a picture of our Ireland crew before leaving JFK and also a picture of our flight, Aer Lingus flight 104 towards Dublin, before departure:

Finally, after a little more then six hours in the air, we arrived in Dublin, Ireland safely at about 5:00am Dublin time. We had quite a bit of luggage and after little sleep on the plane, we carted our luggage through the airport.

After a short two hour van ride we arrived in Belfast, Northern Ireland and slept, slept, slept! (And a few of the pilgrims also shopped for lunch making supplies and slept after that.)

We hope that each of you continue to follow our pilgrimage through Ireland as we get closer and closer to being in the same place where Mercy began and walking in the footsteps of Catherine McAuley and her fellow sisters.

Thanks for reading,
Have a grand day!

Steven Rufe

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dublin Pilgrimage Countdown=1 Day Left!

Hi Everybody,
I can't believe that after all of this preparation, our journey will finally start tomorrow!  The 10 students and 2 chaperones from GMC have been gathering at meetings and communicating through e-mail, especially during the final months of the 2011 spring semester and in the summer, to prepare for our travels.  We are so excited to be traveling on Friday, August 5 from New York's JFK Airport over to Dublin Airport, courtesy of the Aer Lingus airline.  Tomorrow morning, we will all be gathering at Gwynedd-Mercy College around 9:30 A.M. to join some family members, friends, and GMC faculty & staff in a proper sendoff.  Then, we are expecting to leave our college campus around 10:30 A.M. so that we arrive at JFK airport with enough time to complete all of the standard airport procedures before boarding our flight.  Our flight leaves JFK airport at 5:45 P.M., and we'll be arriving in Dublin, Ireland at 5:15 A.M. their time on Saturday morning.  I'll have to remember that Dublin is 5 hours ahead of our Eastern time zone here in Pennsylvania.  I'm hoping to get some sleep on the plane ride there, but I honestly think I'll be too excited to sleep!  Once we land at Dublin's airport, we'll be boarding a bus and heading to our first destination--Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

I also found this Irish blessing online, and thought it would be appropriate to include in this first blog post from me.  So I leave you all with this today:
"Lucky stars above you,
Sunshine on your way,
Many friends to love you,
Joy in work and play--
Laughter to outweigh each care,
In your heart a song--
And gladness waiting everywhere,
All your whole life long!"

See you again shortly,