This morning classes were cancelled at the Pontifical Gregorian University. However, the cause was most certainly just. Pope Francis had invited all of the faculty, students and staff of the university to an audience at the Vatican. I guess you could consider this another field trip.
So instead of heading across the city to the university, those of us from the NAC only had to go down the hill to the Vatican. We met up with our classmates, other students and professors. For the first hour or so there were a series of songs sung by representatives of the various countries and cultures represented at our university. The mixture was quite eclectic. As the time for the audience with the Holy Father approached, the event took a more prayerful disposition, as the rector led us all in prayer. Then Holy Father arrived and addressed all present. His address can be found here. After the address he greeted many of the professors present. Then, to our surprise he started to make his way up the aisle where all the students were present. We all lined up against the barriers and stuck our hands out shake hands with the Pope.
A blessed morning indeed. I took my simple point-and-shoot camera and didn’t get too many good shots. Here are three I can share.
This spring I will be finishing my three year course of study known as ‘First Cycle” which results in the ecclesiastical degree, S.T.B. I have been working towards this degree at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Seeing that we are at the end of the three years, my classmates and I decided to invite all of the professors from the core classes throughout the course of the three years to come for a dinner at the North American College.
Naturally, we decided to go for a somewhat American theme. Therefore, I was asked to take over the BBQ duties. I cooked pork shoulder for 11 hours and pork ribs for 6 hours. I also grilled some vegetable skewers. Other classmates provided great help in preparing potato salad and cheesecake for desert.
What made this evening so entertaining and memorable was the opportunity to interact with so many of our professors in a new context. Our professors come from so many different countries, cultures and backgrounds. They are both men and women, consecrated religious, diocesan priests, and laity. Normally we only get to see one professor at a time, and normally, they are lecturing while we sit, listen and take notes. In this context, there was more than one professor present, and it was a more social setting. Everyone seemed to have a very good time while enjoying both the food and the company.
Even at 25 years old, in my 19th year of formal education, I must admit, field trips are still fun. Today for my class on the Church’s social doctrine, we got to do just that, take a field trip. We visited the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. We were treated to a lecture by the secretary-archbishop of said council. He talked about important global economic themes in the recent documents, Caritas in Veritate and Evangelii Gaudium. A layman who works for the council also presented to us the council’s most recent text on the relationship between energy sources and justice. No it wasn’t the zoo, a museum or the science center, but it was still a fun morning. It provided a nice change of pace and a way to see how it is that the principles learned in the classroom are being applied in the life of the Church.
As you are already well, aware Monday was St. Patrick’s day. This year I had a special opportunity to celebrate unlike ever before, with the Irish!
One of my classmates at the Gregorian University is a seminarian from the Pontifical Irish College. He was very gracious in inviting me to join the college for their festivities.
The evening began first with solemn vespers including a thought-provoking homily on how St. Patrick can help teach us to live as Christians in the 21st century. After vespers we moved into a parlor for a concert of traditional Irish music. The songs were all in Gaelic, so while I must admit I didn’t understand the words, I can still say that it was quite beautiful. The songs were sung by a group of students from Ireland who had come to Rome on a sort of tour.
After the concert there were a variety of traditional Irish refreshments and foods. All in all, it was a great celebration. I am very grateful to have such opportunities to learn and share different cultures first hand, they are truly enriching experiences.
In addition to our studies, prayer and community responsibilities, seminarians also engage in apostolic works. I’ve written about this in the past as for the better part of my first two years in Rome I served as tour guide for St. Peter’s Basilica and assisted in the Office of US Visitors to the Vatican.
This year I have received a new assignment. I now assist with campus ministry at the John Felice Rome Center, the Rome based campus of Loyola University Chicago. It has been a great privilege and learning opportunity to accompany these students on the journeys. In particular studying abroad provides a new set of challenges and opportunities.
On Sundays we join the students for Mass in the evening and a few times a month we have fellowship with pizza after Mass as well. Additionally, during the week we host and organize a variety of activities these range from Praise and Worship to a vocations night and instead of “Theology on Tap” we have “Theology Uncorked.” Once a semester we also take the students on a pilgrimage to Assisi.
Today is March 13, 2014. A year ago I stood in the Piazza di San Pietro as Pope Francis walked out onto the balcony to greet the world. What an exciting year it has been to see all that has taken place in the Church. I feel very fortunate to be here with a “front row seat” to all that is going on in the life of the Church.
The last few days have provided ample opportunity to reflect on the incredible experiences a year ago as the Church transitioned from Pope Benedict XVI to Pope Francis. Last night, Cardinal O’Brien and Greg Burke visited the college to share some of their reflections.
Here are some of the reflections I wrote a year ago as everything was taking place.
One thing I’ve learned this year among many is that the 3rd year of theology is definitely the most challenging year in seminary. Insofar as this is the last year before, God-willing, ordination to the diaconate, our responsibilities in the community are considerably increased.
One of the things that has been keeping me quite occupied this year is serving as the Editor-in-Chief of our magazine, Roman Echoes. Working on this magazine the past two years has given me the opportunity to put to use some of the skills I learned and developed in while working as a journalist and studying at the university.
So far this year we have published two issues. They are available at the following links:
I’m already hard at work on the next issue which will be published later in the spring.
Just before leaving the diocese to return to Rome, I was able to serve our annual diocesan Hispanic Heritage Mass. This is an opportunity for all those of hispanic origin to come together at our Cathedral for Mass with the Bishop and a meal. It is really beautiful to see so many come together from all over different parts of the diocese to join together in prayer. As one of the three hispanic seminarians for the diocese, and the only not in school at that point, it was a pleasure for me to serve. I finally came across a photo from the event, so that’s why I’ve waited until now to share.
Last week was the week known as “diaconate week” here at the NAC. That’s because forty-one of our 4th year men were ordained to the diaconate last Thursday. The celebration is absolutely stunning and the week is a lot of fun for the ordinandi. The rest of the house help pitch in to make sure its a memorable week for the men getting ordained. I helped by taking photos at many of the events. To see the photos be sure to check out our flickr page. My photos are the ones with “GB” in the file name. You’ll notice that there are photos by the other three photographers as well. I was blessed to be able to work alongside some really talented men.
Despite being back in Rome for a month, this week is our first week of “regular classes” at the university. We spent the month of September engaging in relevant pastoral workshops on preaching, pastoral counseling, hispanic ministry, and a week of silent retreat.
As previously mentioned in various posts, last year I served the College by working as the managing editor of our student magazine, Roman Echoes.
We finished the fourth edition over the summer and it is now available online by clicking here.
This year I will be serving as the editor-in-chief, so look for more links in the future.
Working on the magazine has a been a fun way to use my journalism experience in the seminary.