For Blue Demons, it's `Bon Voyage and Eiffel Tower, Here We Come.'
Aug. 11, 2014
CHICAGO - First came the studies as the DePaul women's basketball players learned all about the namesake of their university.
Now comes the exciting part as the Blue Demons turn those words and pictures into a real-life experience jetting to Paris and walking in the footsteps of St. Vincent de Paul.
While they marvel at the compassion, humility and generosity of this 17th century Catholic priest who came to be known as the "Great Apostle of Charity" and was canonized in 1737, they will also experience the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, a Seine River cruise, a visit to Normandy and Omaha Beach, the French Riviera and Monaco.
In addition, the Blue Demons will get a precious head-start on the 2014-15 season by playing four games during their 12-day trip.
"We learned a lot about all the great things St. Vincent de Paul did and what he believed in," said junior point guard Chanise Jenkins before the team departed on Monday. "It's going to be a big educational experience to walk in his footsteps in France.
"I learned about why you become special wearing DePaul across your chest and what it means to represent DePaul every day."
Jenkins and her teammates attended a class twice a week during the spring quarter gaining an understanding of St. Vincent de Paul and how that relates to their mission at DePaul.
"You don't have a chance to meet someone like him," said senior guard Megan Rogowski. "I mean, he did saint-like things. It would be so hard for me or anyone to do what he did. He always put others first and gave up his life for the community.
"Listening to what he did is eye-opening. He gave up everything in his life to help take care of someone else. When you understand where that came from, it makes you want to do more. You want to reach out and do what he did.
"We'll do community service as a team for one day. You feel real good about yourself, but it can be exhausting. St. Vincent de Paul did that every day for his entire life."
Jenkins could relate to St. Vincent de Paul in a personal way.
"I didn't realize that he had doubted himself for a while," Jenkins said. "Then came the turning point, when he was 25 years old. That was the year---1617.
"I had a lot of self-doubt after I tore my ACL. I was going to quit playing. It's inspiring to know that someone like St. Vincent had his doubts and look what he became."
Jenkins was pretty enthusiastic about her first trip to "La Ville-Lumière" (The City of Light).
"Kids have a dream of one day playing basketball overseas, and I'm really looking forward to that," Jenkins said. "I'm also excited to walk in St. Vincent de Paul's footsteps and learn about what he encountered. We are ready to check out the city---and I hope Paris is ready for us."
Jenkins will be sharing this experience with four members of her family---her mother Carla Jenkins, grandmother Debra Minniefield, and a pair of aunts, Tommie Blanks and Claudia Williams.
"One of my aunts started texting me in French," Jenkins said with a laugh. "My grandmother started packing two months ago. I took French in high school and can speak it somewhat. I do know all the French food words."
This will also be Rogowski's first trip to Paris.
"I hear Paris is a beautiful city," said the perimeter sharpshooter. "I really like history and I'm excited to see Normandy. Coach Doug Bruno really puts an emphasis on U.S. history like the special tour we took of Pearl Harbor on our Hawaii trip.
"D-Day was such an important part of American history, and we're going to walk on that sand. That opening scene from the movie `Saving Private Ryan,' I can't imagine what that was like. It's going to be surreal. And then you think of the sacrifices they made for us.
"I can hardly wait to visit Nice and the French Riviera. I've only seen those places on TV shows. It has beautiful scenery, beautiful people and everything there is just exquisite."
The Blue Demons will be spending a lot of quality time together from Aug. 11-22, especially with the absence of cell-phone service.
"This will take our team bonding to whole another level," Rogowski said. "There won't be any headphones or texting, just us talking to one another.
"I'm rooming with freshman guard Ashton Millender. We're both from the Chicago area. When I played at Hersey, she was at Marian Catholic and we played against each other."
Jenkins motioned over to Rogowski.
"They're both shooters," Jenkins said. "It's like `Rogo' is going to be mentoring Ashton to assume her role after she graduates.
"We all love each other and crack jokes on each other. I really enjoy just sitting in a room and talking to my teammates, learning about family backgrounds and everything.
"I'm rooming with freshman center Elri Liebenberg who's from South Africa. She's already in my room at DePaul 24/7. This is going to be a great opportunity to know her even better.
"It's like that point guard-center connection. You get me the rebounds and I'll get you the ball."
While other college basketball players are just making their way back to campus, these Blue Demons will be working out the kinks on their high-velocity, wide-open, equal-opportunity attack.
"This trip will be a good chance to see how much our team has improved after our summer workouts," Jenkins said. "You always strive to do better. We made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 last season, and with senior leadership from Megan, Brittany Hrynko and Centrese McGee, we're looking at the Elite Eight or Final Four."
Rogowski seconded the notion.
"It's a nice advantage practicing in the summer in advance of this trip and then playing four games," Rogowski said. "You get a lot of the preliminary stuff out of the way so you can be ready to go in the fall.
"We want to do something no other DePaul women's basketball team has ever done, and with so many talented returning players along with the freshmen---this is the team that can get it done."