Learning about theology and ethics doesn't have to be limited to the classroom.
So 25 St. Edward's University students took their classroom to Rome this summer with guidance from Jack Green Musselman, associate professor of Philosophy, and Steve Rodenborn, associate professor of Religious Studies.
Their trip included exploring museums and churches, and learning about Italian culture.
Before setting out to sightsee one day, Musselman sat and wrote an email to his 90 year-old mom, Mary Musselman, telling her what he planned to do. Then he had an idea; Why not have the students write to his mom, too?
“As we waited, I thought, ‘Well, they're all sitting there chatting until we head out, while I'm typing to my Mom about our plans that day. Why don't I just ask some students to tell her what they think about their experience? She'll like that more than me just telling here what we're going to do,’” Musselman said. “Next thing I know, those students were sitting there taking turns telling my Mom about what they liked most about Rome! They were very sweet to do so, and their comments to my Mom (after grades were due) were really thoughtful.”
Here’s what the students wrote:
“Hi Jack’s mom! I’ve never left the U.S. before this trip, so coming to Rome has been a very exciting experience for me. Experiencing a foreign culture for the first time as well as interacting with the locals that belong to that culture has been great. We’re only on day four, and I think I’m already catching the travel bug.” — Allison, who is from a Navy family, so she is from everywhere.
“Hello, I hope you are doing well. This is my first time in Europe, but I am loving every minute of it! I am fluent in Spanish and speak a little Italian, so I am having fun practicing here. The sites and artwork are beyond beautiful. Yesterday we heard a papal address from Pope Francis, and I am attaching a picture of the Vatican at sunset. Many blessings!” ADG — Amanda from McAllen.
“Hi, Jack’s mom. Rome is pretty awesome. My favorite part was St. Peter’s Basilica. I saw all of the powerful baroque frescos and statues, and it stunned me. When I sat down in front of the tabernacle in the basilica, I broke into tears because of the wonder and awe that the basilica showed me. I imagined how much greater God could be.” — Carlos from Houston.
“Hi Jack’s mom. I’m biased because my Dad’s family is from Italy, so all of the culture and food and experiences are amazing! I’ve loved every moment of my time here, and I can't wait for all of our coming trips.” — Mike from Connecticut.
“Ciao! How are you? I hope well. My favorite part of this trip so far has got to be the Sistine Chapel and just absorbing all of the beauty that Michelangelo created mainly by himself. It is very hard to describe in words. I wish everyone could come and witness this beautiful artwork. It must have taken so much dedication to the church to create this accomplishment. Take care. Xoxo.” — Camila from Bastrop.
“This is my (first) time in Europe, but not abroad. I have been to China, but Italy is completely different from Asia. I have enjoyed everything that we have seen, some of which was nothing like what I expected, like the Colosseum. St. Peter’s Basilica was one of the most remarkable places I have ever been/seen. Hope all is well. Ciao!” — Melika from Austin.
Musselman said he was impressed with how the students wanted to discuss theology, ethics, politics and culture after hours, and how rich and robust those discussions were.
“Clearly for the students, this wasn't just a chance to be tourists but instead was an opportunity to engage the culture to better understand their place in it,” Musselman said.
His mom later sent a response back to the students:
“Dear Allison, Amanda, Carlos, Mike, Camila and Melika,
Good evening! I was talking to Jack the other day and asked him to send you this reply.
What a wonderful trip for each of you! I enjoyed hearing about your experiences at St. Peter's and the Sistine Chapel and all the other art and travel, since that is such an important way to learn about another culture.
Jack also told me about your deep conversations at night back at the hotel, which covered philosophy and theology and much more, which sound terrific.
And, well, I may be biased, but I think Jack would be a great professor to help guide those discussions!
Mary Claire Musselman (Jack’s Mom)”
See more photos from the Rome trip here.