Education Beyond Borders
The Legacy Pilgrimage begins in Bordeaux, France, walking in the footsteps of Jeanne de Lestonnac’s life and ministry. Students’ time in France concludes with a one-day visit to Lourdes, where students pray, experience the holy waters, and visit the five churches stemming from Saint Bernadette’s experiences with Our Lady. Students then travel to Barcelona, Spain, to visit a sister school—Colegio Lestonnac—and its students, visit churches and cathedrals, and attend Mass at La Sagrada Familia. Finally, students travel to Rome, where they attend an audience with Pope Frances, visit Saint Peter’s Cathedral, and learn about the prayer and social work of the San Egidio community. Students travel to Assisi to experience the paths of Saint Francis and Saint Clare and visit the Catacombs of Priscilla.
Places that Inspire Awe
French countryside: In all the travel we do in the country of France by bus going across this country side is on its own breathtaking. Everything about France’s natural trees and landscape is visually stunning. The trees in France look particularly unique in forests that almost look enchanted in the morning fog that lingers through the whole morning. Nature is everywhere and so full of greenery. And among all that landscape you may find farmland, wine fields, cottage villages, and old structures. Even thinking about details like this feels like you’re imagining some fantasy landscape. The thought that this was once a land where people from the Middle Ages and Roman era crossed and walked simply adds to the valor and astonishment. And furthermore, there is this sheer nature in France which really makes it stand out. As a tourist, France is a beautiful country to traverse.
Places That Inspire Awe
La Sagrada Familia: Known as the universal church, the Sagrada Familia of Barcelona Spain is one of the most stunning landmarks in the form of a church. The name Sagrada Familia translates to Holy Family, meaning Jesus, Joseph and Mary. This cathedral is a pure work of art and symbolism. Every thing on this church has a symbolic meaning to the Bible, from the sculpted imagery and stain glass, to the architecture and towers. This cathedral was thought up by the brilliant mind of Antoni Gaudi who I’d known for naturalistic feature to buildings which was evidently noticeable to this buildings design. This cathedral is colossal, acceding the height of most buildings in Barcelona. What is amazing is that this church still is not finished and is predicted to be complete by 2030, when it will reach its full height. Construction doesn’t stop it from having a complete interior for visitors to see. Upon walking inside, words cannot describe how amazing life beautiful the Sagrada Familia is. Word cannot describe how unbelievably beautiful the inside of the church is. Is it designed to match the characteristic of a forest, hence how the giant pillars inside match the nook of trees, the interior is also designed in a way that sound waves travel a certain way depending where you are in the building. Everything inside is natural light going though colorful stain glass windows which make it glow with magical colors. The effect of the satin glass windows make it particularly beautiful when the sun is setting. And Toto conclude this description of the Sagrada Familia with symbolism, the sun rises on The side of the church depicting the life of Jesus and sets on the side of the church depicting the death of Jesus, only to repeat based on where the sun rises and sets. This cathedral is the most beautiful design I have ever seen.
Walking the Streets
After pilgrimaging in Bordeaux for less than a day, I’ve especially appreciated walking down the different paths and streets. The roads here are mostly one way and extremely thin, but it’s all built around the cities historical and beautiful architecture. Walking around the streets of Bordeaux this morning was a surreal experience, as if I were in a movie. Every street was embellished with plants hanging off balconies, the walls of the building in its original state, and the bricked streets with quant shops scattered throughout. We walked in many of Saint Jeanne’s footprints as Bordeaux was her home city. Although her family lived right outside the city! We saw where she was baptized, married, her relics, the first school she built, where they hid her body for over 100 years, and where they put the body after soldiers discovered her! To this day, Saint Jeanne has made an impact throughout the city and the world, and it’s still present here in Bordeaux. After she died, her legacy lived on thorough the many schools she built, and we got to visit the school in Bordeaux for the first time last night! It was amazing seeing how welcoming and curious these students were as most didn’t hesitate to meet us all the moment we walked in. I can’t wait to see what tonight has in store for us!
Beauty of La Mothe
Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac was able to be comforted by La Mothe’s beauty when she needed to seek comfort and peace, bringing her prayer. She felt compelled to La Mothe after her homecoming and being homesick from the monastery. Saint Jeanne was convinced she needed a new path of life and the first place she thought to visit was a beautiful green scenery with a natural pond area. While I was there, you could hear the water move over the logs and slowly move with the wind at a peaceful pace. The water was a green brown color from the moss and dirt, but still extremely and surprisingly clear. You could see every little bug, acorn, rock, and leaf in the water. There were a few fallen trees and branches you could sit on all around the different parts of the area. Leaves were scattered all over ranging in color from a dusty red to a hunter green. The little pond traveled all around going from one to the next, over and under different branches as well as under one small bridge. In one area, there was even a small broken down cement arch. You could hear the birds and the dragon flies flying over the water and whistling over the trees. Each time an acorn fell it plopped into the water making the sound of a rock being thrown into a lake. It was so peaceful sitting there, as I looked around I found it very easy to reflect in my journal and have a quiet mind. It was a very beautiful place that I wish we could visit one last time before leaving.
- Kendall Kelledy
Starting this pilgrimage, I was “going with the flow” trying not to expect anything because I did not want to ruin the experience of journeying with my faith. In our first day, we arrived in Bordeaux and settled into the hospitality home that the sisters prepared for us. The sisters were extremely welcoming and excited to see us. I was looking forward to getting to know them more in the little time we had with them. The next thing we did was meet and eat dinner with some French students at the Company of Mary school. I did not get to know these students well, but I was happy that my classmates were making French friends. After dinner, Sister Colette took us to the chapel where Saint Jeanne de Lestonnac now remains. She introduced us to the chapel and delved into the meanings of every symbol. From the designs of her tomb to the amount of lights in the room, it all correlated to Saint Jeanne’s life. To me, the most impactful symbols of the chapel were the wooden planks on the walls. Every plank of wood symbolized a tree cut down in the forest to make a path to Landiras. It was as if her tomb was hidden among the trees, but just in reach. Placing myself in the time era and city of Saint Jeanne prepared me for all of what was to come next.
I awoke at 7:30 in the morning preparing to leave to Europe for the next two weeks. As I left my house I was eager for the trip. I arrived at school at 10 and was greeted by my friends. The bus departed from school 10:30 towards the long day ahead of us. We arrived at the airport and made our way to our terminal which was as far a it could possibly be. We boarded the plane prepared for the 10 hour flight before us. Luckily I slept a good majority of the time and before I knew it we landed in Amsterdam prepared to make our way to our connecting flight. We waited in line for what felt like forever at the passport checkpoint and once we made it through we headed to our gate. We had about 20 minutes before our next flight which quickly passed. I slept the entire two hours and before we knew it we made it to Bordeaux. Once arriving we were greeted by the local sisters and made our way to the house where we will be staying for the next few days. Once we had finally made it, it had been over 24 hours since our day originally began.
In California, many of us do not use public transportation because carpooling, driving ourselves, or even driving with family is just easier because of the community we live in. In all the places we visited I noticed public transportation was a large majority of commuting for the population. In Rome, we used public transportation the most out of all the beautiful places we were fortunate to visit. We went on a train as well as multiple buses. Something to always be self conscious of is pick pocketing. I feel like in California, that is not our top priority of worries when we are in public, but when in Rome, it is. It is very important to have your bag(s) in front of you, not behind or on the side where you can miss someone grabbing something or something falling out. It is very easy for someone to slowly undo a zipper or reach in and sneak something out. Small bags are easier to carry than with a large bag, but even if a larger bag is brought, still put it on the front side of you to be cautious. There are seats and places to stand on both buses and trains. On the bus, sometimes you are not lucky enough to sit down right away or at all, so when you get the opportunity, take it. Bus rides are not always smooth and you can get tired quite fast especially after a long day of walking. Your body will thank you in the end for the rest.
Lined before me was dishes I had never seen or heard of. The cafeteria food of Boudreaux changed every night, and although it wasn’t the best food I’d ever had, I was exited to try these new foods as part of experiencing their culture. I had my first “French” french fires, a hamburger patty without its bun, and ham with some sort of sautéed vegetable. But from then on, I couldn’t wait to encounter new foods. The last American meals I had before getting on that bus to the airport consisted of Canes and Starbucks. Canes cost me about $15, Starbucks about $10. The last meal I had here included margarita pizza, pistachio gelato, and a coke, which all together came out to $7. And by far, this was the best pizza and gelato I’ve ever had. Aside from the prices, nearly every meal I’ve experienced here has been fresh and flavorful. I’ve been informed in some places how they prepare their meals with the finest, fresh, local ingredients. For example, we enjoyed a lunch made by the sisters in France in which we were welcomed by the mayor in a humble dinning hall. It was a “make your own sandwich” lunch with a baguette, tomato, hard boiled egg, and spreadable cheese. They had gotten all the ingredients the same morning. Everything was fresh and ripe. That was the best sandwich I’ve ever had. Just last night, I enjoyed home cooked pasta from the sisters with bread and salad. It was amazing as well. All the food I’ve had, I’m truly glad I tried.
Money Concerns While Traveling
Since the pilgrimage is coming to an end, I learned a lot about how to budget/save money. At the beginning of this pilgrimage it was easy not to spend money since we did not go shopping or eat out in Bordeaux, although this is a good thing it was also a bad thing because once I had the opportunity to shop I spent a lot. I think the biggest lesson that I am taking away from this pilgrimage is that everyday to have a set amount of money, and try my best to not exceed it. It was very tempting to go in every shop to get some gifts for family and friends but at a certain point in this trip, I realized that I already got everyone gifts and I didn’t need to buy anymore for anyone. Going to Europe was a great experience in many ways. And learning how to manage my own money, for me I think was vital. Although I did lose a lot of money due to spending it on unnecessary momentum’s, the next time I travel, I now know that some purchases are unnecessary and some are necessary.
Travel day time frame coming home!
On Thursday 20 October I woke up at 7 am European time had breakfast at 8 am European time arrived at Saint Peter’s at 10 am European time for 1 hour and a half then arrived at the Catacombs at 2 pm European time left the catacombs at 2:50 pm European time had lunch and arrived at the convent at 4:45 pm European time. This is where things get crazy after we got to the convent we had to start packing our luggage and have them ready to go downstairs before dinner at 8 pm European time. It was funny with my two roommates at night when we would pack because we would have to play music and sit on the floor or on the bed for a while to destress from the packing craziness. I didn’t sleep at all after dinner because I knew that if I did fall asleep I wouldn’t have been able to get up in time to leave the convent at 3:25 am European time to go to the airport to leave for Amsterdam. We got to the airport at 4:15 am European time where we got on our first flight from Rome to Amsterdam at 7:20 am European time where we landed in Amsterdam at 9:23 am European time where we then had a layover for 1 hour and a half. After the layover in Amsterdam, we got on our 10-hour flight to Los Angeles at 1:50 pm European time and landed in Los Angeles at 3:20 pm Pacific time. Once we got to Los Angeles we got on the bus and had a 2 hour and thirty-minute bus ride to school we got to school at 8:15 pm Pacific time where we were reunited with our parents after the long two-week Pilgrimage.
- Victoria Castillo
Best things about traveling with friends
The best thing about traveling with friends is getting to do new experiences with different people like going out of the country and not traveling with parents. We would have to wake up early every morning so because one of my roommates would wake up early to get ready for the day while my roommate and I slept in a while longer. Once our roommate was done getting ready for the day they would wake up my roommate and me in a fun way to where we would actually wake up pretty fast some mornings. I got to form bonds with people that I would and wouldn’t normally talk to. I’ve gotten to know the seniors and juniors more when I would be in their group of three people. It was a challenge in the beginning when we would need to be in a group of three people that we wouldn’t normally hang out with but it got easier as the days went on. When the trip was coming to an end I feel like I got close to for the most part everyone on the trip.
- Victoria Castillo
Landing in Rome, I woke up right as the plane landed. With slight disappointment, I realized it only looked like a greener version of California. Industrial simple buildings lined the street, the vast empty spaces of green, and LA like traffic. I was so used to what I believed all European architecture was like, as in what it was about 1000 years ago that I forgot the world evolves and grows everywhere. As the bus drove us to our next location, I looked out the window at the gentle sunset. It was like home. I asked myself “Why was I so disappointed in the buildings that l was used to? Why would I be sad being reminded of home?” But my worries went away and seeing the people around me napping and joking with each other truly made me feel at home. I felt at peace and welcomed even entering the city after our tour guide warned us of all the dangers of Rome. But I could only look forward to the day ahead of me, experiencing new cultures, food, history, art, and continuing my journey in faith. Landing in Rome, I woke up right as the plane landed. With slight disappointment, I realized it only looked like a greener version of California. Industrial simple buildings lined the street, the vast empty spaces of green, and LA like traffic. I was so used to what I believed all European architecture was like, as in what it was about 1000 years ago that I forgot the world evolves and grows everywhere. As the bus drove us to our next location, I looked out the window at the gentle sunset. It was like home. I asked myself “Why was I so disappointed in the buildings that l was used to? Why would I be sad it being reminded of home?” But my worries went away and seeing the people around me napping and joking with each other truly made me feel at home. I felt at peace and welcomed even entering the city after our tour guide warned us of all the dangers of Rome. But I could only look forward to the day ahead of me, experiencing new cultures, food, history, art, and continuing my journey in faith.
Traveling with Friends
Traveling with friends is something we all say we’ll do in our future when we’re adults. But I was lucky enough to be able to experience this in my high school career. I was lucky enough to be able to have relationships with everyone, if not almost everyone on this trip. Being able to learn more about other people on this trip while becoming closer to my already close friends was something I’ll never forget. Being able to venture off with friends for different periods of time throughout the places was exciting each day to get the opportunity to experience these new places with them for the first time. From playing uno on the bus, to racing up the stairs to our rooms after a long day, and being able to get meals and shopping done together. Each day I got to create so many memories with my friends and it was one of the best parts for me on this trip was being with them.
Communicating in a Non-English Speaking Country
While I've encountered non-English speakers before it was extremely different being in a non-English speaking country where almost everyone but me spoke the language. The hardest part was trying to communicate when purchasing items from stores or restaurants. I learned the basic phrases such as hello, goodbye, and thank you but besides that, I had no idea what they were trying to tell me. The majority of the time I resorted to trying to say the name of the items but most time I would just end up pointing. Luckily for me, most of the time people would know enough English to complete the desired transaction but I NEVER began by asking if they knew English right away. Along with not learning the language, it was also hard to be switching the language every couple of days. After I would finally learn basic words we would completely switch the language and I was back at square one.
The bus ride to Lourdes was a long and painful ride, it felt like it wouldn’t end. It was a four hour drive with a rest stop in between. When we were approaching our destination it seemed like it was a different country to me, when we drove into the city we were greeted with an isolated government building that looked like a castle on a hill in a small body of water. Once we departed from the bus, sister told us that the women wearing blue nun-like clothes were actually nurses from around the world that came to help people that visited Lourdes. Our tour guide showed us around the grounds and taught us the history behind the church which had multiple different churches within, and I got to take really cool pictures. This was a really neat part of my Europe trip because I finally got to walk around and talk with friends for the first time in France.
The bus was my enemy for the whole trip because the constant pain in my arm was killing me and the bus ride was not smooth. When I arrived in Barcelona we got to the hotel and the rest of the students got to go on a tour around town but I made my way to the hospital with sister and Mr. Nguyen. We were there for eleven hours to get me an MRI and an X-Ray for my shoulder because of the injury I acquired back in the US. They didn’t speak the greatest English but they told me I had torn some ligament in my shoulder in two spots. They gave me pain medication through my veins and I felt instant relief of my pain for a while. The next day I was able to tour with the group and learn about how if you didn't have people at the doorstep of your house in the morning you weren't “it”, so they would hire really good archetypes to make cool or weird looking houses to make people go to them. One of the archetypes had a park-like area where it was full of all these weird houses and places he made. I remember going there and seeing the view of the whole city of Barcelona from the hill we were on. That was one of the coolest parts of Spain for me along with the interesting buildings we got to see.
Appreciating Another Culture
Ever since I was little I loved Rome. Something about the culture being depicted in the movies and how old the structures are and how they’re placed intrigued me. The most exciting thing in Rome to see was the colosseum for me. I always saw it in movies and in pictures and was in awe when I saw it in person. I think I was so amazed about this particular structure because they built this with no modern technology, and it’s still standing amazes me. Although we did not go inside it, it was still a feeling that I’ll never forget. Knowing that the Romans were walking on the same streets as we were, and how they thrived in this environment is an experience I’ll cherish forever. Hearing how advanced civilization was before technology was a great experience that I appreciate because of my own experience learning my culture. I feel as if Rome captures everything that always made me love history. The streets and how the roads are bricks, the buildings and how closely they are placed, the historical paintings and sculptures inside churches. I believe that Rome was the best experience for me for looking at the culture, although I do think that the faith side of things would be Bordeaux.