Participating in the Mission Ambassador program here at The Mount has given me countless incredible opportunities, and all have been impactful and meaningful.

Mount St. Joseph University students at emmitsburg smiling in group

However, our group’s Pilgrimage to Maryland this past summer was more enriching and life changing than I ever thought it could be.

With the expert minds of world-renowned Sisters of Charity, as well as our own Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton experts here on campus, I was presented with an opportunity to journey directly into the past, and was submerged in history like never before. I was able to actively learn about American history, walk in the same spaces as Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, see the beautiful rolling hills that inspired her journey into Emmitsburg, and even learn a little more about myself along the way.

As Mission Ambassadors, we are taught to reflect the mission of the Mount by walking in the footsteps of those who have come before us.  One of the most impactful parts of the pilgrimage for me was actually being able to walk in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton’s footsteps. Our group was able to tour the Mother Seton House on Paca Steet in Baltimore, where she first started her boarding school for girls. This was a moment for me that I will never forget. Though she was at this location for only a year, this was the exact place where the foundress of the Sisters of Charity started her educational journey! The messages that she shared in that room would be carried on through generations as her impact grew exponentially. Sitting in a classroom here at the Mount still takes me back to exploring the room on the second floor of the house where she taught her first few students. Standing there, it was impossible for me not to think about the hundreds of thousands of people that would come to be impacted by those first few moments in that little house.

One of the most vivid moments I remember from our pilgrimage happened after our daily activities had ended. I was looking out the window of our charter bus observing pink and orange sky framing the rolling hills of the countryside. I don’t think that I will ever forget that view, and sometimes the hillsides of Cincinnati are reminiscent of them. While those hills brought incredible beauty, they also brought struggle. Navigating the thin, windy roads and the steep hills in our huge charter bus was definitely not easy. It was exciting (and scary, too) to observe as our skillful driver was able to conquer each obstacle with grace.

It wasn’t until after I returned home to Cincinnati that I was reminded the same obstacles we were conquering on the bus Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was conquering on foot. She climbed mountains and endured countless treacherous journeys to share her gifts with the people who needed them most. This pilgrimage truly put into perspective how much faith and dedication were put forth by so many people in order for the Mount to be what it is today. The people who founded this incredible school struggled daily and risked their livelihood to make their dreams come alive. We are the ones that get to benefit from that, and thus, it is our job to continue to spread the message of those who came before us.

This pilgrimage also helped me to learn more about some of the historical events that shaped our country. Our group was able to visit Fort McHenry, where we explored the beautiful grounds and the surrounding harbor and learned about the battle that saved the city of Baltimore from being invaded by the British. In addition, we spent a portion of our pilgrimage exploring Gettysburg, where we were able to tour some of the battle sites, explore the museum in the park, and look around the National Cemetery. Seeing the grounds at Gettysburg is a moment that I will never forget. As I was standing at the highest point in the park and looking at the battlegrounds surrounding me, I was able to almost see the war continuing below. I could hear the cannons, the horses, the gunshots, and the shouting of the men. It was definitely a surreal moment, and it changed the way I think about our country and those who fight for our safety and freedom.

Another very memorable part of our pilgrimage was visiting the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, where we attended mass in the Basilica where the remains of Saint Elizabeth are. Being as our pilgrimage was focused on her, it was incredible to physically be in her presence, and it was such a gift. While exploring the grounds surrounding the building, I was able to learn about the Sisters of Charity’s role in the Civil War as nurses caring for soldiers. As a nursing major here at the Mount, this part of the pilgrimage was particularly insightful for me. Though Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton was not alive during the war, her legacy lived on in the care of the soldiers. Witnesses noted that the nurses who were Sisters had such a gentle touch about them and that they showed the upmost respect and care for each person, no matter which side they were fighting on. These Sisters were admired for their kindness, professionalism, and perseverance, traits that Saint Elizabeth showed, and traits that I can only hope to have as I continue pursuing a career in nursing.

Reflecting on the Mission Ambassadors’ pilgrimage to Emmitsburg and Baltimore, I could not feel more thankful for the experiences it has brought, the places it helped me to see, and the lessons it taught me. Learning in depth about the Sisters of Charity’s foundress allowed me to see our University in a completely different light. Simply walking around our beautiful campus is now a reminder of the unique history that we share as members of the Mount community, and that itself encourages me to live out the values of perseverance, faith, and love in my daily life, just as Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton did.