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​Cayla McKernan ’13 and Clare Carroll ’14 pose with children in the
Solomon Islands.

Father Smith Fellows Experience Life-Changing Moments Abroad

Seven Providence College students experienced profound moments while overseas on Fr. Philip A. Smith, O.P., Student Fellowships for Study and Service Abroad.

The program is named for the late Rev. Philip A. Smith, O.P. ’63, who served as the College’s president from 1994 to 2005, and is made possible through generous gifts from former and current trustees.

The competitive fellowships are awarded to students entering their junior and senior years for summer service or study at Catholic and Dominican sites outside the United States.

Fellows will offer reflections on their summer service and study at noon on October 2 and at 7:00 p.m. on October 3 in the Center for Catholic and Dominican Studies, which is co-sponsoring the talks with the Center for International Studies as part of International Education Week. In addition, each student blogged about their experiences abroad.

Laura Wells ’14 (Poughquag, N.Y.) and Beatriz Forster ’14 (Glastonbury, Conn.) spent six weeks at Blackfriars’ Hall at Oxford University in England. Wells researched the works of Elizabeth Anscombe and Pope John Paul II as part of a research project on ethics, Catholic feminism, and the family.

She appreciated being welcomed into the young Catholic community at Oxford, experiencing traditions such as afternoon tea parties.

“I could never have imagined what a warm, gracious community I would find welcoming me at Blackfriars,” said Wells, a mathematics major and music minor. “My days were filled with a delightful balance of reading in the beautiful library, chatting with the other friendly students, interacting with the Dominican friars and student brothers, participating in the religious and social life of the community there, and getting a true glimpse into the heart of England – through its people.”

Forster, who researched the Apologetics and G. K. Chesterson in current academia, truly felt a connection with the academics who walked the same steps before her at Oxford — as well as martyrs “who died for the knowledge of Christ that they prized above all else.”

“The scholarship and books at our fingertips would have been enough for any avid student, but our inevitable reflections on who went to the churches, libraries, and halls that we frequented before us is absolutely stunning,” said Forster, a double major in political science and history and a philosophy minor.

Emily Foster ’13 (Wrentham, Mass.) worked with the Dominicans for Justice and Peace in Geneva, Switzerland, participating in summer meetings of the United Nations Council on Human Rights and the U.N. Council on Indigenous Peoples. On her last day, she was struck by the site of the world flags outside the Palace of Nations. It served as a reminder of “how interconnected we truly are,” she said.

“I learned that even though the world can seem massive at times, it can be much smaller than it seems and that we need to constantly remember that our actions and decisions will have further repercussions than we could ever know,” said Foster, a psychology major.

Clare Carroll ’14 (Merrick, N.Y.) and Cayla McKernan ’13 (Monroe, Conn.) spent 10 days in Australia with Dominican sisters and friars in addition to four weeks on Malaita Island in the Solomon Islands. There, they worked with Bishop Christopher Cardone, O.P. ’80 and Dominican sisters in the Diocese of Auki.

Carroll helped organize donations of books into a library at the Sacred Heart Secondary School in Visale, where students can now read and study. The English major and business studies minor taught in English at Aligegeo Secondary School in Auki and helped 10 students prepare speeches and essays for a contest sponsored by the United Nations Development Program.

“It was wonderful to watch the students learn and assert themselves using English, which is their third language,” she said. “The Dominican sisters and Bishop Chris helped me become immersed in the daily life of the community and develop relationships with the local people.”

McKernan, a psychology major with a minor in biology, worked at health clinics in Tenaru, Visale, and Honiara, as well as Kilu’ufi Hospital in Auki, where she observed many surgeries. At one point, she witnessed the delivery of a baby who was a short time afterwards named for her.

“For each patient who passed away, I experienced the miracle of birth,” McKernan said.

Though she couldn’t cure all the children suffering at the hospital, McKernan was able to make a positive impact. For example, she delivered wooden crutches to two children who had been unable to leave the hospital for months without them.

“Perhaps the most valuable lesson I learned from my time in the Solomon Islands is that ‘change’ cannot happen in four weeks,” McKernan said. “I learned to step back and observe the bigger picture, and from this perspective I was granted the same unconditional happiness as the Solomon Islanders.”

Life among Solomon Islanders also taught her to maintain a sense of perspective.

“The Solomon Islanders do not have many possessions themselves, yet are the most giving people I have ever met,” she said. “They persevere through poverty, violence, and illness not out of obligation, but because they are truly alive.”

Emily Corr ’13 (Commack, N.Y.) served with the Dominican sisters of Eastern Australia in Sydney, primarily working with elementary history and religion classes at Santa Sabina College, a K-12 school, as well as at St. Lucy’s School for children with disabilities.

The social science major, who is minoring in theology, was struck by the generosity of the people she encountered.

“The very last thing I expected when embarking on a service trip was to be taken care of, and to my surprise, that turned out to be the biggest challenge I faced over the six weeks – accepting hospitality,” Corr said. “I had to learn how to give out love, but more so, how to let it come in and how to accept it graciously.”

Joseph Slattery ’13 (Mount Airy, Md.) worked with Sr. Rosemary Kinne, O.P., a Dominican living in Sydney, Australia at several locations — a nursing home, a school for children with disabilities, an elderly men’s group, and a refugee house in addition to other Dominican-related programs.

“Each experience had its unique challenges and joys,” said Slattery, a biology major. He recalled trying to overcome language barriers at the refugee house, but enjoying babysitting children while their mothers attended a budgeting workshop.

He also appreciated time meeting with Dominican friars and sisters, in addition to spending several days at the Dominican priory in Melbourne.

“By going to morning prayer, evening prayer, Mass, and having discussions with the friars, I felt as if I had been given a spiritual retreat that rejuvenated me and gave me a new perspective on what the fellowship meant to me,” Slattery said.

— Liz F. Kay

 

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