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Junior Marisa Moonilal’s Zeal for Spirituality Drives Summer Research

Marisa MoonilalJunior theology major Marisa Moonilal originally did not want to attend a religious-affiliated university because she had attended private Catholic schools for most of her life and was unsure of her religious convictions upon entering LMU. However, after three years at LMU she is grateful for her decision.

“I feel like I really have a place at LMU where I can grow both academically and spiritually,” Moonilal said. “Everyone is encouraged to contribute to the community, and I have gained greater confidence in what I have to share.”

As a recipient of an Honors Program Research Fellowship, Moonilal will travel to several cities in France for a summer immersion and research experience from June 22 – July 22. In the first week, Moonilal will visit Provence, France where she will visit Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, and surrounding areas such as the Abbey of Notre-Dame de Senanque. During the second week, she will participate in a spirituality program in Taize involving prayer, reflection, group discussions and communal work. Moonilal’s final week will be spent in Lourdes where approximately 5,000 youth will gather to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the apparitions of Mary to St. Bernadette and celebrate World Youth Day.

“I decided to take advantage of the opportunity LMU presented me with to more seriously develop my understanding and practice of the Christian faith from within and outside of the classroom,” Moonilal said. “It will be exciting to hear about other young people who are finding God in their lives.”

When Moonilal returns to campus next fall, she will share her observations about the community of Taize and its work with her peers. She hopes to include some of her research into her senior honors thesis on Taize.

“It will be an invaluable opportunity to travel abroad and expose myself to another culture and people,” Moonilal said. “My experience will benefit the Honors Program as an example of independent research and the wider LMU community as I help build the Taize program on-campus.”

Each year, the University Honors Program offers several fellowships for summer projects around the world. Fellows are awarded $5,000 to support research, travel, internships, writing or tuition.

“I am extremely honored and grateful to receive the fellowship,” Moonilal said. “Being a recipient will open more doors for my future, perhaps leading to other awards and grad school.”