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All good things come to an end

Concordia St Paul students in Rome during Benedict’s last days as pope

Concordia University, St. Paul, honors students were in Rome on the day of Pope Benedict XVI’s final audience at St Peter’s Square, and watched the “popemobile” drive by. Photo provided by Mark Schuler

The seven students had spent four years together — including eight hours a week for the first four semesters — as part of the Delta Class of the Concordia University St. Paul, honors program. The last semester of that program includes a capstone class, a bringing together of all they have learned and shared with an emphasis on integrating the training with future plans. And this class wanted to go out with a bang.

With their advisor, Dr. Mark Schuler, they decided to take a trip. As director of the honors program and professor of theology and Greek, the group decided to take a spring break a little different than the more well-known ones; they wanted to view the antiquities of Rome.

As Schuler described it, the trip was an opportunity to view both Western civlization and the Christian faith in a place where minority culture interacted with dominant culture.

An added benefit for Lutheran college students, according to Schuler, is that the Vatican offers a glimpse of Counter-Reformation efforts, allowing for reflection on Lutheran and Catholic interactions. Little did they know, as they planned the trip, how timely that would be.

No reservations for Delta

On February 11, German pope Benedict XVI announced plans to retire on February 28. For the first time in almost a millennium, a pope was stepping down from his office.

The students of the Delta Class Honors Program at Concordia University, St. Paul, included Carrie Tignanelli, Jackie Wiebold, Anna Shaw, David Edwards, Jay Weiler, Kyle Sorkness, and Daniel Ondov.

Seven Concordia University students were going to be there to view some of the transitition. For the first four days of the trip, the students toured the catacombs, the Vatican museum, ancient Roman tombs, and the Dome of the Basilica. Then on February 27, the fifth day of their visit to Rome, the students got in line at St. Peter’s Square to see if they could catch a glimpse of Pope Benedict during his final audience. As the photo above demonstrates, they got very close.

The students had raised more than $10,000 in donations to defray the cost of the trip to Rome. “Their ability to raise that much money is a testimony to the kind of support they have at Concordia,” said Schuler. “These are some of the best students I have had,” he added. “I am glad we could have such a good experience [as part of the capstone class].”

The Delta honors class students on the trip were David Edwards, Daniel Ondov, Anna Shaw, Kyle Sorkness, Carrie Tignanelli, Jay Weiler, and Jackie Wiebold. Each student blogged extensively about their experience. Their blog posts can be viewed at rome.csphonors.org/index.php.

While Schuler stressed his students were engaged deeply in learning throughout the trip, he explained that each had her or his fun side. One student wore her “Here I Stand” Reformation socks to the observation of the pope’s final audience. Perhaps this is the perfect way to end one’s college career at a Lutheran institution of higher learning.

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