Europe Archives - Page 2 of 4 - St. Stephen's University

The He{art} of Preserving Cultural Heritage

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

Cultural heritage is an expression of a certain way of living, that often impacts our identities and world views. Generally, it’s a tradition, custom, or practice within a culture that gets passed down from generation to generation. But what happens when that tradition starts to become uncommon? Over the years some traditions have slowly begun to fade, and rather than just living out our cultural heritage from day to day, we begin working to preserve it, instead.

In the Province of Umbria (Italy), we had the opportunity to visit a local textile studio, located in an old gothic church, within Perugia’s historic city walls. As the last one of it’s kind, we became witness to the lengths that people will go to preserve old world culture and heritage.

Upon our arrival, we met Marta Brozetti, the last in her family’s line to continue her great-grandmother’s weaving enterprise that began in 1921. Weaving has always been a longstanding Umbrian tradition dating back to the mediaeval and renaissance periods, and the Brozetti family has sought to ensure it’s continuity. Using manual pedal looms and jacquard machines to reproduce authentic textiles and designs, dating back to it’s original time periods.

As much as weaving has been Marta’s lifelong passion, you can hear from her story that upholding a dying tradition hasn’t always been easy. Household weaving faded quickly when automated machines began producing quick and cheap fabric. With authentic weaving being so labour intensive, her beautiful work doesn’t come cheap.

In this experience I was inspired to embrace the importance of cultural heritage, and learned how much heart and meaning goes into preserving it. With that being said, it’s important for us to be intentional about continuing our own traditions, and learning from new ones.

Be Patient for the Road is Long

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

Before I started on this journey to Europe those who have gone before me said that this trip would be one that would “change your life” or “you will come back changed,” but I never quite knew what they meant. But through this trip I have come to realize that we don’t often get to choose the way in which God will move and grow in us.

As I reflect I can see that God is speaking to me in the silence and the darkness. I thought that I would be changed by the experiences or the sights or the history but as it turns out God I think wants me to walk with him through the darkness and silence. To make that choice even when the road is long and there are tough days. To keep serving those I have been sent with. To change my heart from tourist who only wants to consume and be comfortable to a pilgrim who is has a physical journey with a spiritual purpose.

I don’t want to become too comfortable in one place because if I do I might try to stay there and not seek Him or not seek heaven. So I will remember that I am a pilgrim and that the pilgrim’s life is the life for me. Onward to Heaven.

Confiscating Cultures?

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

The weight of the historical achievements of architecture, sculpture, engineering, technology and art can be felt in many great museums, such as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum in London. The feeling that all of these artifacts that formed cultural and societal development throughout the world were in one place for me to experience was a great and exciting sensation, which I felt very prominently as I walked through halls filled with various specimens from long-lost cultures of Europe and Asia.

Victoria & Albert Museum (Courtesy of website)

However, this sense of awe was overshadowed by a question of ownership that had been brought up earlier in our week in London and before the trip. It deals with the fact that some of the artifacts in these museums may be have been stolen for the museums without  taking into account the significance of those objects to the countries that they were from, such as the many Egyptian mummies in the British Museum.

I think the issue has more complexities than simply robbed artifacts, such as legitimately acquiring items through trade, purchase or quite possibly to preserve them to name a few, and it is often not an issue of larger powers robbing from others. I also cannot discount the incredible value of having all of those pieces in one place to study and for the world to come and see. However, in a time where most countries can easily access other ones for research and travel, I wonder whether or not it is necessary to continue to uproot historical landmarks and objects from their cultural context. This is the question I will wrestle with as I travel throughout the rest of Europe, encountering more cultures and their historical achievements.

Faithfulness and Fear Mongering; My Response to the Manchester Bombing

By | 2017, Europe | No Comments

The loss of life – any human life- is a tragic occurrence. One thing worse than wanton killing, is the manipulation of grieving. The morning paper on the train into central London is NOT the best quality. It is, however, mass produced and widely available to the public. Unfortunately. Our theme of Seeing the Other was (potentially) put to the test in our first week of travels when the Manchester attack occurred.

How do we continue seeing the other when the other has proven them self to be dangerous? The papers jumped – nay PREYED- upon this question. The fear people have of the other, especially the Islamic or the migrant other, is real and the fear mongering occurs. The headline “Now They Kill Our Little Girls” and “He Was Chanting His Prayers Loudly In The Street” preyed upon Other- ing. Who is they? The question is open ended in order for the reader to fill it in with whatever prejudice they hold: Muslims, migrants, religious other, ISIS….

Even the positive headlines are enforcing the idea of other: particularly the Muslim other with headlines such as “Muslim Heroes of Manchester” and “Muslim Leaders: Never Let Barbaric Animals Destroy Us”. Their association with the already established “other” makes them vulnerable and likely to fall under suspicion anyway- despite the good they have done.

It was interesting to be in a Mosque the week of the tragedy. To see and hear about Islam from a faithful follower of Islam, someone who believes that what they follow is the doctrine that will bring them to God, was so beautifully refreshing. After having learned about Islam from the media and possessing a warped understanding of the religion, I was not sure about what should or should not be believed about this religion so similar and so different from mine. I received a Quran from our presenter, which was a weird moment for me. As a Catholic I read the Bible. I wouldn’t know how to read the Quran. But to have it, to hold their sacred text, is a beautiful reminder to fight the things that inspire fear, and to follow those that lead you in faithfulness to God.

System Overload

By | 2014, Europe | No Comments

The Europe trip is constant stimulation. Your brain feels like it is working on overload for two months trying to take in all the information, beauty, and experiences that are occurring daily. At the end of it all, you’re not sure what just happened to you. Being slightly introverted, I feel as if I need a good solid month of silence in order to process everything. Yet, this isn’t the case; life goes on. New responsibilities emerge, assignments need to get done, and life plans have to get figured out.

Yet these memories will remain in the back of my mind for years to come. And they will rear their heads from time to time, I expect. The adventure of living in tents and the daily grind of appreciating art, peering inside churches, and walking unknown streets will soon appreciate with time. Like a good wine, I believe these memories will produce the best results once they have sat in the back my mind for a while. Our experiences shape who we will become, the information that all of us on the trip just gulped up in the short amount of time will therefore form more well-rounded individuals.

Europe has been for generations, a place travelled by many as a rite of passage. I think the same is true of us. We’ve seen and experienced some incredible things, and began to attempt to see the world through a variety of different lenses. Though the journey has had many challenges, I am thankful for the trek, and I know the full results have not yet even come to fruition!

Let it soak into your skin, further up and further in.

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

In Europe, I encountered many different places that spoke to me and resonated with me. I felt often as though I was fulfilling some kind of sacred rite of passage.

Now, back home, I have begun to crave the places of worship.

Shouting their grandeur at tourists, while at the same time seeming to be quietly announcing their holiness.

They are often described as thin places, places in which the fabric that persistently separates the physical world we inhabit from the spiritual realm that exists in parallel to our own. In these places, that fabric seems to have been worn so thin by pilgrim feet and devoted knees, that it becomes merely a transparent membrane. I feel as though, if someone were to be on the other side, they could see the outline of my hand as I push through, like a restless baby still in the mother’s womb. If one were to put their angelic ear to that thin place, they could hear our oohs and aahs, make out our whispered prayers and stifled laughter, as we immerse ourselves in the Cathedrals and Shorelines.

Some time ago someone had a crazy idea about going to Europe, and this year my class and I enjoyed the fruits of those labours. It was well worth it. We planned, we scheduled and we went. It was excellent exposure, and none of us left without being impacted in some way.

We went as strangers, but soon became friends. I had a bone to pick with those narrow cobblestone streets. I loved the plants that spilled over the ornate balconies.

Sometimes we would glide, sometimes we would trudge, sometimes rushing, sometimes leisurely, some strutting, some trundling, in sickness and in health, in company of friends and by ourselves, with eyes wide, mouths open, sweat on brows, hands in hands, occasional tears in eyes, wine across tongues, and the corners of our mouths turned upward. Here, a discotheque; there, an altarpiece that shows what the Savior looks like for the every man. War is a wild danger and Patience is my stickman, but I am learning. If I could convey in a sentence all of what has happened, it would be tricky, but may look something like this: Europe isn’t everything, but at the same time, it’s quite something.



kind of like buttons.

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I don’t think I am an emotional mess; I’d like to call myself ’empathetically emotionally aware’.

Confession: I have cried almost every single day since returning home from Europe.

I cry in beauty.

Watching my brother coach his son’s soccer team. When I heard about a ‘young Mother’s’ meeting at our Church continuing to meet together long after the formal meetings ended. Reading about a coastal town in Italy that has been setting a trend of welcoming refugees in with open arms. Every time I put on the Les Miserables album.

I cry in anguish.

Listening to a friend talking about his wife’s struggles through cancer and radiation. Learning about the incumbent divorce of close friends. Reading about the reality of Tunisian refugee camps.

An event didn’t used to grasp my attention unless I personally identified with it.

In Dachau we saw a crematory that had disposed of tens of thousands of denigrated human bodies. In Dresden we toured where the all-consuming inferno had swallowed up the whole town. In Paris, we stood near where the guillotine had sat. In Assisi we learned about one man’s life lived for peace. In Munich, we learned about Sophie Scholl and her sacrifice for freedom. Just when human life seemed irredeemably disposable, it became more precious than ever.

My perception of institutionary Christianity took a beating on the trip, yet my adoration and appreciation for people – Christian or not – bringing about the love, peace, and graceful equality of the Kingdom of God grew to overflowing. Life is so precious. Life is too precious not to share it.

Travelling Western Europe expanded the boundaries of my ‘self’. At least, I’d like to think that my identity was enlarged; I have been introduced to my history, my roots; my heritage. I’ve become aware of my shared history, shared roots, and shared heritage. With this and the realization that life is too precious not to share, I think I’ve adopted a clearer purpose and meaning for life.

I’m not saying one has to cry to be ’empathetically emotionally aware’. I hope I can grow to process through life without looking like an emotional mess, but for now I appreciate my tears as a God-given way of expressing my joy and pain, and I don’t want to lose them, not yet.



kind of like buttons. disposable? precious.

[Nicola Gladwell is currently slack-lining and reading the first volume of Les Miserables for stress-relief as she battles through post-trip academia and looks for a job that’s hopefully pertinent to her IS degree. She has a lovely habit of collecting discarded buttons and calling them gifts of grace. She misses her friends and professors, yet is grateful for the near-completion of her first-rate liberal arts university education at SSU!]




Looking back and stepping forward

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

I started writing this blog entry over a week ago. At the time I was writing about how hard it is to have all of my memories and experiences from the trip bottled up with no real outlet to share them. But I have decided to scrap that and just share one of these memories instead of complaining about how I can’t.

I had almost forgotten about our visit to the Pantheon. So many things had happened almost every day on our European tour, our days in Rome were no different. We saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Vatican, Trevi Fountain; you name it we saw it on our Roman Holiday. There was, however, something a little different about our visit to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was once a temple to the many Roman deities but was later re-appropriated as a Christian Church. Today it is a spectacular architectural landmark and stop on every Roman tourists’ agenda but I would not say it is a particularly spiritual place. In keeping with a bit of a St. Stephen’s University tradition we changed that.

Standing in a circle in the middle of the magnificently domed room we started to sing the doxology, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow…” In the noisy din of a huge space filled with people we made a little holy space, a “thin place”. It felt rebellious and right at the same time. We stopped being tourists for a moment and we were pilgrims, we were on a journey to somewhere. The journey I took through Europe was both physical and personal. This is a memory I will treasure and I am so glad to have shared it with others. I look forward to more memories, like this one, popping up in my mind and I look forward to unpacking in the months to come how I have been impacted by what I have seen and experienced.


owners of the temporary

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

After two months of moving every four days, adjusting to familiar surroundings at home is both nice and different. The trip was eight weeks of constant motion and it was necessary to learn how to make the temporary ordinary.

One way I adjusted to travelling was to form personal rhythms. Some people allotted an activity they did each morning before breakfast while other people had a bus routine. Everyone’s routine was shaped by their personality and interests. I chose to write in my personal journal often to clarify my thoughts. We creatures of rhythm naturally etched ourselves into some sort of familiarity in order to remain grounded living in flux.

Europe was also a time to start new relationships while strengthening old ones. Foundations were established as relationships formed and we were able to learn something new about those around us. People came alive and into their own on the trip which was exciting to watch.

By learning to take ownership of the temporary elements of our life, meaning is created. As our group learned how to become rooted despite the travelling, we were able to flourish. We anchored ourselves and were free to branch out into new experiences. I for one reflect back on the grounded nature of the Europe trip and am thankful.


Life after…

By | 2011, Europe | No Comments

As some of the others have pointed out, we’re back in the scramble of normal life. What is the Europe trip experience to me now? I returned home eagerly looking forward to the simplicity of sleeping in a bed, having eggs for breakfast, not having to walk a half mile to the nearest washroom or live out of a backpack. Those trifles have vanished now as I suddenly am missing my travel companions, the camaraderie, the teamwork and just living a crazy life for two months with 30 amazing people. I won’t forget singing the doxology in the Pantheon, climbing into the hills of Montserrat, biking through Montserrat and around Lake Zug, and so much more! Seeing the progression of art as we travelled and visited many different museums gave me a sense for a side of art I have never appreciated–painting. The evolution in style in response to world events or rigid backwards thinking, became fascinating to learn about and observe. Along the way we met some stellar people, from our guides in various cities to our hosts in others. This trip has been carefully designed to promote and facilitate the rapid expansion of ones worldview while also pacing all of us and giving us time to mentally process, experience and enjoy.

I want to thank our leaders who patiently walked with us through this experience. Mentors, pastors, professors, facilitators–our leaders wore many hats and it’s thanks to their work and determination that everything went as well as it did. Thanks you guys, you know who you are.

To my fellow students, my extended family even, I say thank you for treating me as one of you–despite an arguably sizable age-gap! We lived, learned, laughed, cooked, and moved together for so long and then in a flash we were saying goodbye and going our own ways. I can’t wait to see all of you back next Fall and will be praying for all of you. Blessings,