Students from Chaminade College School pose inside of the Colosseum in Rome. Seventeen students spent their March break visting churches and historical sites across Europe. Photos courtesy of Justin Veiga, Chaminade College School

Toronto students connect with old Church in Europe

By  Vincent Pham, Youth Speak News
  • April 4, 2019

Jacob Boodoo hadn’t set foot on a plane since he was two years old so boarding a flight to Europe during March break was already an adventure for the 16-year-old.

It turns out it was just the start of a much grander adventure as he tasted life in old-world Europe for the first time.

It was an experience shared with 16 other students on Chaminade College School’s March break Europe trip.

“Life is really different in these places compared to ours,” said Boodoo, a Grade 11 student at Chaminade. “Here in Toronto, you have the hustle bustle, a ‘concrete jungle’ whereas in Europe, the places we were at, there’s so many things to see and it helps you to stop and see how beautiful life is.”

From March 7-18, a group of 17 students and two teachers visited landmarks of Barcelona, Provence, Côte d’Azur, Monaco, Siena, Florence, Assisi, Rome, Vatican City and Sorrento.

Besides learning about the history and culture of the cities, this trip provided an opportunity to step foot in a number of Catholicism’s sacred sites, including the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica.

“I think the sentiment in these important Catholic places helped people, and me personally, shape my views of religion because you have these churches that are really nice, then you have these grandeur places which, without exaggeration, are truly beautiful and it’s nice to see that and makes us proud to be part of this religion,” said Boodoo.

Justin Veiga, one of two supervising teachers on the trip, said visiting sacred sites as members of a Catholic school was a chance to rediscover the roots of the Catholic faith.

“To visit the Vatican, to walk through the Sistine Chapel, just to see the profound effect that Catholicism has in all the cities that we visited, from Barcelona at the Sagrada Familia all the way to our last stops in Rome, the Vatican and every city that we visited had an epicentre of faith,” said Veiga.

He said the trip reaffirmed how faith is not only important today, but also has been throughout the ages.

The trip occurs every two to three years. Veiga said the most rewarding part of these school excursions is that it challenges students to be independent, to problem-solve, think critically, be a team player and be adaptable.

“For me, it is the most rewarding extracurricular activity that I participate in,” said Veiga, who is also a mathematics teacher, track-and-field coach and chess club moderator at Chaminade.

“The students who participate on this trip come back different people when they return. I get more out of them in these 12 days than an entire year of school and so for me to see them grow and mature is a huge reason why I give up my March break from my family and myself to recover and recharge because I see tremendous value in experiential learning.”

Grade 12 student Jean Rocha lived in Chile when he was young. He said the highlight of his trip was touring Spain and getting a taste of his Latin roots.

“A lot in Spain, where I used to live in Chile, you can see some of the similarities that Latinos have and what Spanish people have,” he said.

“A major skill I got from the trip was bonding with people. I think that’s a major thing that the trip was meant for — getting to know some of the people that you never met and becoming friends with them at the end. That is something I think everyone got.”

(Pham, 18, is a Grade 12 student at Chaminade College School in Toronto.)

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