Fr. Jim Donohue, a Theology professor who has been at the Mount since 1996, is traveling with our group of 36 Mountaineers while they are in Prague. After wrapping up his time as the Department of Theology’s department chair this summer, Fr. Jim arrived about a week before the students in August to get settled in to his apartment for the semester. In addition to teaching at the Mount, he is also the Vicar Provincial for the Congregation of the Resurrection Ontario-Kentucky Province. He is keeping a blog for his religious community and has shared some excerpts of his time in Prague so far with us:
“While in Prague, I organize and monitor the three Czech courses that all students take while here: Czech Language, Czech Life and Culture, and Czech History. In case you are worried for the education of the Mount students, I am not teaching these courses! We have three wonderful Czech teachers who teach each of these courses. I participate in the courses as well, learning while I am here. I also have my own courses to teach: Business/Sports Ethics, Encountering Christ, Holocaust through Literature & Film, Old Testament Survey, and Belief in Today’s World.
I celebrate the Eucharist at 1:30 Monday-Thursday for any students who wish to participate, and I am also hosting dinners on Sunday evenings at my apartment for 12 students at a time. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to be together outside of the classroom in a more relaxed manner.”
Many of the courses Fr. Jim is teaching this semester are part of the Mount’s core curriculum. Fun fact: Studying abroad for a semester doesn’t put students behind in pursuit of finishing their core requirements at all! In fact, some students even find that they can get ahead in completing the core by studying abroad!
Fr. Jim also sits in on the Czech courses with the students, learning about the language, culture, and history while he’s there. One of the big challenges for both the students and Fr. Jim alike is being able to communicate in Czech instead of relying on English to get by.
“The Czech Language class is a challenge, but we are all making progress. Most of us can ask small questions and understand most of the normal questions that one is asked each day. These include being asked if you want a bag for your groceries, if you are paying by cash or credit, what you want in your coffee, etc. Some of the students have a knack for languages and have great pronunciation. Our Czech Language teacher is very affirming. I answered a question in class about my favorite food. Naturally, I responded in Czech with “large chocolate ice cream”— velká čokoládová zmrzlina. She clapped her hands, marvelling at my pronunciation and said, “Super, Jim!” I am sure that you know the expression that even a blind squirrel can find a nut once in a while! No doubt you can imagine how the students teased me about this over the rest of the week!”
Fr. Jim is also enjoying his down time. He said he’s gotten a Fitbit and regularly walks over 20,000 steps in a day – watch out anyone who dares to challenge him in a Workweek Hustle! His apartment is also across the street from a Jazz club, so he’s been trying to partake in some of the music scene in Prague, too:
“I went to a Jazz Club one night last week. Prague is very famous for its Jazz. In fact, when President Bill Clinton visited Prague, he played his saxophone in several Jazz Clubs one night. Most of the Jazz Clubs are small and are located beneath street level in what looks like a cave. Many of them are free of charge, but they make money on the sale of beverages.
The night I went, I listened to the Hot Sisters Swing Band. They were absolutely incredible, and I would gladly listen to them again. I was planning to go [another] night to hear the Rene Trossman Blues Quartet, but it did not start until 9:30, and I was too tired!”
It seems like Fr. Jim is having a great time in Prague along with our students. Later this week, we’ll share some more of Fr. Jim’s reflections on going to the Klementinum and taking in a panoramic view of the city, visiting some of Prague’s churches, and losing a few students one day (no worries, everyone’s accounted for now).