Alumni Explore the Slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro

July 21, 2017

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Canisius alumni enjoyed the trip of a lifetime when they traveled to Tanzania from July 5 – 15 to explore religion and nature on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro.  

“Over the course of this intense 10-day seminar, Canisius alumni from all age groups stepped out of their comfort zones as they were immersed into the faith and culture of the Chagga and Maasi people of Northern Tanzania,” says Timothy Wadkins, PhD, director of the Institute for the Global Study of Religion (ISGOR). “Their willingness to do this paid remarkable dividends in a profound, once-in-a-lifetime learning experience.”

Participants stayed in the village of Marangu in a hotel on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro that was originally a colonial era coffee plantation.  The seminar included visits to important cultural and religious programs/agencies, and presentations by experts in religion and culture, including the son of a Chagga king, a local Islamic imam and the Marangu Lutheran bishop.  The group visited with people in the community as well as local churches and mosques.

“We attended services packed to capacity with African worshipers supported by jubilant choirs swaying in enthusiastic songs of celebration,” says Veronica Serwacki ’05, MS ’16, a native of Kenya who spent many childhood summers in Tanzania. “Whatever our faiths, it was impossible not to become captivated by the spiritual experience.”

“The country has diverse geography with mountains, sea coast, off-shore islands, wetlands and savannah,” observed Robert Schmitt ’67. “Agriculture thrives there and virtually all subsistence farming is done by hand. No horses or oxen were seen.”

An overnight viewing safari in two different national parks offered the group the opportunity to view African wildlife.   On the last day, some participants took on the challenge of climbing 11,000 feet of Mt. Kilimanjaro.

“Climbing to Madara Hut on Kilimanjaro and going on safari to Tarangire were unforgettable,” says Vinnie Alcazaren ’09.  “How often do you get to visit the Masai and see the influence that Christianity and schooling has on them or debate with Kilimanjaro’s religious leaders about the tensions between different faiths.”

“It was a truly spiritually uplifting experience for me and I came back with a keener sense of the challenges Third World countries face in Africa today,” adds Serwacki.

In addition to Serwacki, Schmitt and Alcazaren, Katie Scanlon ’06 participated in the trip.

The excursion was a “Road Less Traveled Pilgrimage” sponsored by the Institute for Global Study of Religion (ISGOR) at Canisius.

IGSOR exists in order to promote interest in the study and practice of religion within the Canisius College community and the wider community of Western New York. Affiliated with the department of Religious Studies and Theology at Canisius, its programs and activities facilitate the academic study of religions across the world, promote the Catholic identity of Canisius College, and assist in the Jesuit pastoral mission to educate men and women for the service of faith and the promotion of justice.

Read more information about IGSOR here.