In this part 1 of 2 episode of Saints Spotlight, we speak with Henry Driscoll ’23. Henry discusses his time in Croatia during a mission trip with CRU in the summer of 2023.
(Written interview compiled from in person and Q&A responses)
We caught up with Henry Driscoll, a Thomas More student who spent several weeks in summer 2023 on a Mission Trip with CRU to Croatia. This was Henry’s second trip to Croatia, the first one being in December 2022. Henry shared his take aways from that experience in a short Q&A prior to heading out for this second, longer trip. To read about that experience and his hopes for the second trip, CLICK HERE. What follows is Henry’s observations about his new adventure, his faith journey as a member of CRU, and his newfound commitment to being proactive in his faith.
David Klenk: Hello there, and welcome back to another edition of Saint Spotlight. We have rising senior Henry Driscoll here from the Thomas More community.
Henry, thank you so much for joining us for another edition of Saints Spotlight. Would you mind explaining what CRU is and what has been the best part of your time studying the Word with CRU here on campus?
Henry Driscoll: CRU is a parachurch organization, that’s inter-denominational. It’s not nondenominational, it’s inter-denominational; It doesn’t really matter what denomination you’re from – core Christian values and they have a really big focus at the national level on international missions to different countries. In Cincinnati, our main partner is Croatia, so that’s where I was at before. Other groups, they go to Bolivia, they’ll go to Spain, and so a lot of it is like international missions. They also do here, domestically, they do missions. Really just big on missions. One went to Atlantic City, another one was up at a lake near Michigan, if I remember correctly. Those were two examples of some of those national and domestic ones (missions). They do a Bible study here on campus, over in the science wing in the basement, usually on Wednesday at lunchtime. It’s just really awesome, it’s a great environment for students here at Thomas More.
DK: I’m sure, I’ve seen flyers for them all around campus. The name CRU just stuck in my mind, and I found out some of my friends from Miami Oxford are a part of their CRU which led me to find a friend who was also in theirs. I was like, “oh, you know my best friend from middle school” and we had a nice connection from that. I’m sure Thomas More also has a great community for that as well. That’s something that I want to check out in the future sometime too.
Where is Zagreb and how did that journey prepare you for this trip to Croatia?
HD: Zagreb is the capital of Croatia in the north. Picture it like a boomerang; there’s the coast, and that’s one part of the boomerang and then you have these mountainous areas inland and that’s where Zagreb is. Zagreb is the largest city in the nation and they’ve got 80,000 plus students in these campuses in the city. The main one being the University of Zagreb, and there’s tons of them (students) that I got to talk to. It was really awesome. That prepared me for a longer trip, that I took between May and June for three weeks. That was an experience because the last trip (in December 2022) where I was talking to students, that was like an everyday kind of thing. It was for three weeks, it was a long time.
DK: What was the culture over there? Did you experience any sort of like, ‘Oh, things are very similar to back at Thomas More’ or ‘Wow, this is complete culture shock?’ How was the vibe there?
HD: The vibe there is, everybody is really, really nice. You can approach strangers and talk to them or ask them for directions, ask them for food recommendations, which to me is really important. I love food. The vibe there, as far as students, there’s not a whole lot of student life. That’s a really big difference between there and here. Even at the largest university there’s not as many clubs on campus. So that’s completely different. Like Thomas More, a lot of the students commute from the city. Although they do have a lot of dorms, a lot of the people end up getting an apartment or something, around the city. Then they walk or take a tram to their various classes, so that was really different. People don’t necessarily hang around on campus because there’s not as much student life.
As far as faith and culture, the faith there is definitely different than in America. America is majority protestant. There (Croatia), they regionally identify as Catholic. They’re literally right across the Adriatic from Rome. A lot of them are like “Oh, I’m Catholic,” but then you talk to them and it’s like, “Oh, you’re not exactly as Christian as you might seem.” So it’s it’s kind of weird, it’s like a very cultural basis for their religion. For a lot of the people, it is kind of disappointing to see. There’s one faith group for a campus of 80,000 people. Here at Thomas More, we have a fraction of that and we’ve got three, four different Christian groups working to help students in their faith. Over there, there’s one group for 80,000 students. So that was like a really big, student-like culture shock. I can just waltz into whatever club I want (at Thomas More) and hop in and do whatever.
Over there, there’s just one group and most of them don’t even know it exists. I think it’s slowly starting to turn. Talking to students this time around, this semester, there are a lot more people who are like, “Oh, my friend told me about this group called Focus.” And I was like, “Oh, you know the group I’m working with.” So I think it’s really starting to change over there.
DK: What were some of the the big takeaways from your time working in Croatia?
HD: The biggest takeaway: I need to be a little bit more proactive with my faith, for one thing. Secondly, I think the biggest one is to focus more on projecting outward and reaching out to more students about faith. There’s a lot of people that, like, they’re just hungry. They don’t know, they want to get involved in church, and they want to explore the possibility of Christian life but they don’t know where exactly to start or where to find and make those connections. That’s a place where I’m really good at, where I can really help people, but I haven’t necessarily been using those talents. That was a big wake up call for me.
DK: Well, I’m sure after such a wake up call, it is exciting to know, “this is what’s in store for me, and I can’t wait to share it with the world.”