Saint Dominic is often called “the joyful friar.” That message elucidates when you travel through France over a two-week period, tracing the footsteps that Saint Dominic laid on the land over eight centuries ago.

Each year, a group of sisters and lay people make the pilgrimage to learn about the life and ways of Saint Dominic. On the journey, the “pilgrims” are called to consider how they can live in a way that spreads Dominic’s spirit today.

While walking through sunflower fields, pilgrims learn stories of Saint Dominic’s life that attest to his mission, and ours. For instance, joy saved Dominic from death. When he approached assassins hiding out in the fields of Fanjeaux, France, Dominic was singing. Although the assassins had a specific mission to murder him, they let him live: this man simply seemed too happy to kill.

Stories like this one begin to color the land. And, while many vowed religious have the opportunity to go on this pilgrimage or similar ones, Sister Catherine Walsh insists that it’s crucial to spread the message to lay people, especially those at Mount Saint Mary College. Sister Catherine says:

“Sending students and faculty to Fanjeaux is a key way to ensure that the value system of truth and community and justice and prayer continue to spread to students at the Mount.”

After making the pilgrimage, one associate professor returned with such a passion for the Dominican charism that he embarked on a project to interview sisters individually and write a dramatic piece around his interviews.

While not everyone has to be so creative, Sister Catherine hopes that the pilgrimage sparks something in everyone.

“I hope the students and faculty return with a commitment to the Dominican way of life,” she says. “I also hope they return with a recommitment to Mount Saint Mary College and to inculcating the rest of the students and the faculty.”

This post is part of our Hope Is series to commemorate Hope’s 23rd birthday. Follow along and see all of the posts here.