Faculty led travel gives meaning to winter break for Southwest students

Over the winter break, three faculty-led trips to different corners of the globe highlighted the diverse cultural engagement of seminarians at Southwest and showed how forming a community has little to do with the limits of geography.

Church History Professor, The Rev. Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, led a group of students to Rome and Assisi on a trip steeped in historical significance and rich cultural content. Said Joslyn-Siemiatkoski, “This pilgrimage to Rome and Assisi was eye-opening for our students. They encountered the rich traditions of the church in Rome, exploring beautiful churches and ancient monuments. Our students also learned about contemporary ministry in Rome, especially among the refugee community cared for through the work of St. Paul’s Within the Walls Episcopal Church. In Assisi, we traced the lives of Saint Francis and Saint Clare and found moments for meditation and reflection amid the beauty of the Umbrian landscape. We returned to Austin with new perspectives on what it means to be the church and to follow the call of Jesus.”

Middler Camie Dewey documented the first few days of the trip on the Sowing Holy Questions blog, found here.


The Rev. Al Rodriguez led another group, all Juniors, on the annual Encuentro trip that is central to Southwest’s identity as a seminary steeped in the traditions of the Hispanic and Latino cultural diaspora. “The January Encuentro is a required three-week course for all M.Div. Juniors and is designed to connect students with those pastoral and congregational issues and challenges specifically related to Latino congregations. The course also exposes them to the unique problems related to the U.S.-Mexican border, such as undocumented immigration, deportation, unaccompanied refugee children, stark poverty found in the “colonias,” and the symbiotic clash and blending of languages and cultures found in the border areas. Not surprisingly the average seminarian usually comes to Encuentro with some trepidation, some anxiety and some discomfort.  Encuentro also challenges the students to confront their own ‘borderlands’ that call for introspection and theological reflection.  Challenging our comfort zone is one of the pedagogical goals underlying the Encuentro course.  What is amazing is that many of the students come away feeling that they have had a life-changing encounter, and some experience  a redirection of their envisioned ministry as a result of their Encuentro experience.”

The Rev. Danielle Tumminio, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology and Director of Field Education, led a trip with five students to an interfaith retreat for seminarians across different religious traditions  at the Prothro Center in Lake Texoma, Texas.  The theme of the retreat is “Respect and Dignity According to our Sacred Texts.”  The students had the chance to interact with other faculty and students from different seminaries and who represent different religious traditions during the course of the retreat.  This is an annual retreat sponsored by the Multicultural Alliance. Said Tumminio, “The interfaith retreat was an immersive journey for students.  They not only learned about other faith traditions but they also had a chance to cultivate relationships with students who came from different religious backgrounds.  It was a joy to observe their learning and to watch these relationships flourish.”