Summer in Avila, Spain

Summer Session in Spain
Universidad Católica de Ávila
July 3 – 28, 2017


Romans 15:28-29, “I will come to you on my way to Spain. And I am sure that when I come unto you, I shall come in the fullness of the blessing of the Gospel of Christ.”

Known as the Universidad Católica Santa Teresa de Jesús de Ávila, or UCAV, the Catholic University of Avila is co-sponsoring with Holy Apostles College & Seminary a 4-week intercultural studies tour in Avila, Spain, and the surrounding areas. Those who join us on the Iberian Peninsula will have the opportunity to study the Synoptic Gospels and Spanish Mysticism in the homeland of St. Teresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross and receive six credits toward their Master of Arts in Theology program.

About Ávila


Photo by Julie Butler

Designated a World Heritage City, Ávila is one of the most historic and beautiful municipalities in Spain. Its world famous walls stand guard over the centuries-old artistic and cultural heritage found inside. Walking along its narrow winding streets, one easily encounters vestiges from the past… Veton (Celtic) and Roman architectural remains, Romanesque and Gothic churches, monasteries, convents, and Renaissance palaces. Not only is it a journey through the history and culture of Spain, but also that of Europe.

Several great figures were born in the city and its province: Saint Teresa of Jesus and Saint John of the Cross, whose writings on mysticism are considered both spiritual and literary classics, Queen Isabella of Castile, a leading Catholic monarch in the history of the peninsula and Tomás Luis de Victoria, an outstanding polyphonic composer. Many vivid reminders of these four are located throughout the area where one can trace their influential lives.

About the Courses – Synoptic Gospels and Spanish Mysticism


Photo by Julie Butler

The courses will be taught in a hybrid format, beginning on May 8, 2017, and ending on August 11, 2017. From May 8 to July 2, students will engage the course material online while preparing with their course instructors, Fr. Randy Soto and Dr. Kristina Olsen, for their trip to Spain. The courses will continue on the ground in Avila through the month of July. Students will have two weeks to complete their final projects upon their return to the United States. Syllabi for summer 2017 forthcoming:

  • SAS 652: Synoptic Gospels
  • CHH 630: Spanish Mysticism
  • UCAV 630: Spanish Mystical Literature*

*UCAV will confer onto all participants 4 UCAV units per course taken on their campus as part of our intercultural study tour. The 4 UCAV units are recognized by the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS – see the grading system) as worth 4 ECTS credits. These credits convert to 2 US credits that can be applied to your degree program. If you are taking two classes with HACS and participating on the ground in Avila, then you’ll receive from UCAV a transfer of 4 credits, which you may apply to your degree program if in doing so you do not exceed the number of allowable transfer credits. So, participants in this trip may receive credits for 3 classes for the price of 2.

Each Friday, students will participate in an 8-hour excursion into the countryside. Everywhere the group goes, it will be transported by a Coach Bus, which is very pleasant. Upon arrival, depending on the city, there may be some up the hill walking and some stairs to climb, but there is always easy access for persons who are handicapped or in need of assistance. Wheel chairs or even taxis are available to get participants where they have to be.

From Julie Butler (Summer 2015 participant):

Years ago I was in a really bad car accident and do have some limitations with walking. If I were to sum it up, it was ‘slow and steady wins the race.’ They were very attentive to the wide range of physical needs and the capabilities of the various age groups.

It turned out there was a fast crowd, mostly younger students and then there was a slower crowd. I hung with the slower crowd and the benefit was that the majority of the professors and priests hung out in that crowd. There was more conversation in detail about what we were seeing and I learned so much more. It is always an interesting paradox – when I go slower, I learn more and as a result am more efficient with timelines.

This area of Spain is very hilly, but the ground crew worked with us pilgrims. There were times we walked to and from town, and there were just as many times, we took the bus and/or a taxi to and from town. The emphasis was on safety, taking into account where everyone was physically, and it all was figured out from there. We even had a 79-year-old in our group, and it was good for her too.

If you have a handicap, you can also request handicap service on your flight to and from Spain which will help avoid lines and make it easier. I have done that with a friend who has a handicap, and it is a very comfortable, realistic way to travel.

The other thing is how kind they were – I, for medical needs, am a vegetarian and they totally worked with me. They didn’t make me special meals, which I didn’t want. They just made sure a variety of vegetables and salad was always available at every meal. Plus, when we did excursions, they didn’t make me meat sandwiches. I got cheese and bread, which was fine.

Plus, I had some medicine I had to bring and it had to be refrigerated. Originally I asked about getting a small fridge in the room for the meds and they said no. They said it would have to go in the communal fridge which I wasn’t really comfortable with. I don’t push back, but in my mind, I thought I would just go anyway and buy a small fridge when I got there and donate it to them when I left. Well, it was a pleasant surprise when they brought me to my room – they thought about it, and purchased a small fridge specifically for special need situations – how nice!

About the Lectio Divina Method:


Photo by Julie Butler

Lectio Divina is a devout and prayerful reading of Sacred Scripture. The Holy Spirit guides us every step of the way, so we can move with great devotion from page to page and from text to text, extracting (Hermeneutics) from God’s Word all its nutrients to assist us in our spiritual growth. According to our Catholic tradition, this process of extracting and absorbing the Word’s nutrients contains five movements, which include Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Contemplatio, and Actio. Most recently, his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini asked the entire Church to engage in this faithful practice of Lectio Divina and to use it as the primary tool for the New Evangelization (VD § 87).

The Gospels are the heart of all the Scriptures because they are the main source to read and to learn about the teachings and the actions (dicta et facta Iesu) of the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. This course explores the stylistic, literary and theological characteristics of the first four books of the New Testament: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Our exploration will use the method of Lectio Divina to assist each student in his or her meditation of the Gospels. Our course is part of the intercultural studies program at the Catholic University of Avila, Spain.

Application Deadline

Please register by May 5, 2017.

Summer Program Details (click on the links below)

2017 Bilingual Introductory Letter
2017 Bilingual Program Information
2017 Application Form
2017 Summer Program Lodging Information

* Note on the application form that courses are advertised that are not part of the Holy Apostles offerings. Only Spanish Mysticism and Synoptic Gospels are accepted for degree program credit at Holy Apostles. Complete the Program Application Form above for UCAV, selecting only the Spanish Mysticism and Synoptic Gospels courses. You’ll be sitting for both that course and the Synoptic Gospels course in a physical classroom at UCAV for the month you are onsite, and the work in those two onsite courses will complement the work you’re doing in your online courses. Because of the onsite work you’ll be doing, you’ll receive 4 units of credit for each onsite course from UCAV (which is not transferable to your degree program at Holy Apostles due to the similarity in content) in addition to the 6 graduate credits from Holy Apostles.

What to do with the Completed Application Form

Once you’ve completed the application, email it for processing to Dr. Sebastian Mahfood, OP, at That’ll be sufficient registration for the six credits, and you’ll be immediately billed for $2,331. Holy Apostles will send your UCAV registration fees directly to Avila out of this tuition payment once the money has been received.

Want to study Spanish for a couple of weeks before your onsite Spanish Mysticism and Synoptic Gospels lectures begin? (Note – the lectures are all in English, but the village people speak Spanish, so an intensive immersion course will improve your overall experience.)

This summer the UCAV will also offer a program of intensive 4 credit (40 hour) Spanish Language courses.

Levels offered:

Beginning Spanish I & II, Intermediate Spanish I & II.

Tuition:  580 euros per 4 credit (40 hour) course.

An extended guided tour of noteworthy sites Avila is included; fee is 25 euros per student.

Please contact Maria Stella to make arrangements.

Profa. Maria Stella Ceplecha,
Directora Adjunta/Assistant Director
Aula de Lengua y Cultura Española/Institute of Spanish Language and Culture
Universidad Católica de Ávila (UCAV)
Calle de los Canteros, s/n
05005 Avila, Spain
UCAV Tel: 34.920.251020
UCAV Fax: 34.920.251030
Correos electrónicos/E-mails: de
ESPAÑA Móvil/SPAIN Cell: 34.608.058.422
EEUU/USA Tel: 1.512.699.3200

Contact Information for UCAV Program Director

Profa. Maria Stella Ceplecha,
Directora Adjunta/Assistant Director
Aula de Lengua y Cultura Española/Institute of Spanish Language and Culture
Universidad Católica de Ávila (UCAV)
Calle de los Canteros, s/n
05005 Avila, Spain
UCAV Tel: 34.920.251020
UCAV Fax: 34.920.251030
Correos electrónicos/E-mails:
ESPAÑA Móvil/SPAIN Cell: 34.608.058.422
EEUU/USA Tel: 1.512.699.3200

Total Cost for 6 credits plus one month in Spain: $3,191 plus airfare. 

Here’s how it breaks down:

The cost of tuition and registration for SAS 652: Synoptic Gospels and CHH 630: Spanish Mysticism is $1,955 USD ($1,920 for tuition and $35 for registration).

This tuition cost will cover the UCAV registration fee, which is 580 Euros per course (total 1,160 Euros), or $640 USD per course (total $1,280 USD) and the stipend paid to the Holy Apostles course professors.

The cost of the excursion fee is 280 Euros, or $310 USD.

The excursion fee covers the intercultural study portion of the course (which includes trips to Alba de Tormes, Fontiveros, Segovia, Salamanca, Toledo, a guided visit to Avila and charter bus transfers between Madrid Barajas airport and Avila at the beginning and end of program).

Additional textbook for onsite Spanish Mysticism portion of the course is 60 euros, $66 USD, and will be charged as a coursepack add-on. All other books required are listed in the course syllabi and will be purchased by you separately.

One month’s room and board – Please see Lodging Document (2017 LODGING INFO SUMMER PROGRAM) for information regarding the four different lodging options and cost. Given that there are four options for housing, you’ll pay this housing expense directly to UCAV depending upon which option you choose.

Round-trip airfare from New York to Madrid is around $1,000. This cost will vary depending on your departure location.

Student Testimonials


Photo by Julie Butler

By Christina Ford – The month in Avila, Spain with Holy Apostles College & Seminary was for me a profound and fruitful experience, both culturally and spiritually.  Being immersed in the heart of Spain, celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of Saint Teresa of Avila- in Avila itself -was a tremendous grace.

I had recently completed the course by Dr. Kristina Olsen on St. Teresa of Avila, so I felt better prepared in visiting the places made holy by Teresa and John of the Cross.  Since I had already taken Synoptics, I was enrolled in a directed reading with Fr. Randy Soto on the Psalms as Christian Prayer.  I was also enrolled in Spanish Mysticism taught by Dr. Kristina Olsen.  Both courses were academically challenging, yet taking into account the unique situation of being in Spain, allowed for travel and reflection that made the Avila experience so uniquely memorable.

The ancient wall of Avila still stands, looking very much as it must have in the time of Sts. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross.  To see the open country with the distant mountains in the horizon, to feel the wind and sun, to look on the fields with little summer flowers, made me feel very close to the two saints who were our invisible hosts while we were guests in the land of their earthly sojourn.  It was a particular grace to go to the Monastery of the Incarnation where Teresa spent the first 25 years of her religious life.  We spent the great feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel there with the nuns as they sung from behind their cloister for the Holy Mass, celebrated with every possible reverence.

I owe such a debt of gratitude to God for making this trip possible for me!  Additionally, I am in grateful awe of my tremendous professors, Dr. Olsen and Fr. Soto, who cast the light of truth and knowledge into our minds and hearts that we may draw more from our stay than had we been mere tourists or travelers.  It was a month long pilgrimage into the heart of Catholic Spain that I will treasure “forever, and ever”, as Teresa would say!

Photo by Julie Butler

Photo by Julie Butler


By Julie Butler  – The HACS Summer Program in Avila Spain was fantastic! Definitely the most educational, fun, inspirational, and uplifting trip I have ever taken. It was wonderful to learn and travel with students from 19-79 years old, which greatly added to the learning experience. The professors were extremely knowledgeable, and lots of fun. It was 24/7 hands-on learning, and definitely a full-immersion experience.  Wonderful country, incredible culture, and it was an honor to retrace the steps of our beloved St. Teresa of Jesus and St. John of the Cross. I can’t wait to go back!