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Coach Doug Bruno Reminisces About France

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DePaul has done it again!!!! In six months time our University has allowed our Women's Basketball Team to put together a trip to France that has included: a great tour of the life and works of St. Vincent DePaul and St. Louise De Marillac
led by Father Ed Udovic; how the Vincentian Mission, which had its roots in Paris, has impacted not only Paris and France but the entire world; all of the great churches and monuments of Paris; Normandy and Omaha Beach; Mont Saint-Michel; Bordeaux and wine country; the beaches of Perpignan; Nice, Monaco, Monte Carlo and the French Riviera; and... the opportunity to play and win four basketball games!!!!  None of this could have happened without the creativity and hard work of so many good people.

Let me explain how this wonderful trip all came to pass.  Most men's and women's basketball programs participate in foreign tours.  Most of these trips have become just another angle on the recruiting front.  The teams that you fans all expect us to beat are constantly taking their teams to Europe for summer hoop opportunities. For DePaul to compete, these summer trips are a must. The NCAA has written their rules so that every eligible player will be permitted to participate in one foreign trip during their NCAA eligibility. 

When faced with the concept that DePaul's men's and women's basketball teams need to be taking these foreign trips in order to compete, Athletic Director Jean Lenti Ponsetto had a great and simple vision.  If we are going to be sending our student-athletes to Europe, let's do more than 'just' play basketball.  It was Jean's thought and vision that since St. Vincent lived his urban missionary life in Paris, then why shouldn't our student-athletes study and learn about the life and works of St. Vincent while they are playing basketball? Jean had a great idea; a great vision.  Ideas and visions are funny little things that only work if people do.

My assistant coach, Nicci Hays-Fort pushed me hard beginning last January to take our team to Europe this summer.  My experience has been that it takes at least a year and a half to two years of planning and fundraising to be able to make these trips really happen.  We made our first DePaul Women's European trip in August of 2000.  We took our 2000-01 team to Austria, Slovenia, and through the Italian Alps into Italy from the North to Venice. That was a great trip. 

When you strategize these trips you either want to take them when you have a very veteran team that can gain an edge through valuable extra seasoning or a very young team that can gain an edge through valuable experience.  We have a veteran team so this would be a great summer to travel to Europe for some extra seasoning or pre-practice practice!!!!  The trick was to pull it all off in six months.  Once the vision became a reality Nicci Hays-Fort added an extra assignment to her summer normal summer regimen of Women's Basketball Recruiting Coordinator.  Carolyn Lewis (was Jean's assistant) who really made this trip a happen by going over and above her normal day job as DePaul's Director of Business and Financial Affairs.  

Nicci pushed me to request that we go.  I knew of Jean's vision and desire for how this would take place but was still reticent with only six months to bon voyage.  Jean was open to creating possibilities as she always is.  Carolyn Lewis was also very supportive to help make this trip a reality. I had an idea. Since our women attend the second session of summer school anyway, could it be possible to create a four hour summer school class specifically on the Life and Works of St. Vincent DePaul?  This is where DePaul's Athletic Academic Advisors, Kate O'Brien and our women's basketball advisor, Jill Hollembeak picked up the ball.  Kate, Jill, Nicci, and I all met with Sharon Nagy and proposed the summer school study option as a combination Religious Studies Class and a Study Abroad class. Kate, Jill, and Sharon worked out the logistics of creating such a class through the College of Liberal Arts and the DePaul Study Abroad Program.  Tom Judge was the Professor for the class and the DePaul Women's Basketball Team followed a strict four week syllabus on the life and works of St. Vincent and St. Louise De Marillac. 

Tom Judge was THE super teacher and leader as the team read, wrote, discussed, watched film, and conducted field trips throughout Chicago on the life and works of St. Vincent DePaul and Louise De Marillac. The fifth and final week of this Religious Studies class on St. Vincent ended in Paris where Father Ed Udovic was just finishing one of his three trips a year to France as the leader of DePaul's St. Vincent DePaul Heritage Program.  Father Ed had just concluded his Faculty/Staff Vincentian Heritage Trip and agreed to stay over in France and help lead our Women's Basketball Team in their onsite study of the life and work of St. Vincent DePaul and the subsequent 'Vincentian' impact and relevance in France and throughout the world. Upon the team's return from France, they meet with Tom Judge as a class, wrote a final reflection paper and presented to the class on the impact on this summer's second session of summer school.

Looking back, this trip really happened!!!!  Yes we visited the sacred grounds of Omaha Beach and Normandy!!!!  Yes we visited the Benedictine's Abbey at Mont. Saint-Michel!!!!  Yes we visited Bordeaux and the vineyards of France!!!!  Yes we visited the Mediterranean Beaches of Perpignan!!!!  Yes we visited the French Riviera and Nice, Monaco/Monte Carlo!!!!  Yes we looked at Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower!!!!  Yes we cruised the Seine!!!!  Yes we visited the Louvre, Les Invalides and Napoleon's Grave, and les Champs Ellysis!!!!  Yes we even visited the Cathedral at Notre Dame!!!!  But best of all, thanks to the hard work of so many people mentioned above, we got to visit where a 17th Century St. Vincent DePaul made it all really happen......all put together in only six months!!!! DePaul has done it again!!!!  WE ARE DEPAUL!!!!!        

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Coach Bruno