Last week a group of fifteen Core faculty spent time in Rome reflecting on the Catholic intellectual tradition, as expressed in a variety of important sites, linked to Core texts and service. We began at the Lay Center, where an introductory talk and lunch got us started for a week of fellowship and shared experiences that I know none of us will forget.
We visited the Irish College and North American College, where we saw beautiful views of the City. We also visited the Missionaries of Charity and learned about the work they do, particularly with refugees and other migrants, a theme of the service aspect of the week. We also saw Saint Teresa of Calcutta's tiny room and bed, where she slept on her visits to Rome. The next day we had tours of the Colosseum and the Forum of Rome, led by Dr. Olivia Ercoli. Many of us had been to these sites before, but the scholarly background of our guide helped us to understand the context of sites important to understanding the early Christian and classical texts of the Core.
In the afternoon, we visited Caritas, another organization of the Catholic Church which works with refugees. Their center helps a large number of migrants. The third day was very special, as we went to Saint Peter's Basilica, where Msgr. Liddy said Mass for us in a chapel near St. Peter's Tomb. That is something that got right to the heart of what the Core is about. The huge basilica over the grave of the humble apostle, who died a foreigner's death outside the walls of Rome was very powerful to contemplate. Our tour of the basilica and museum by Dr. Sara Magister, another scholar linked to the Lay Center, was a wonderful follow-up to this experience.
A highlight for many of us, I believe, was our fourth day trip to Ostia, an important location for St. Augustine, an author we read in Core I and II. Fr. Brian Lowery, an Augustinian priest and expert on Augustine, read to us at various locations among the ruins of what was once a bustling city, where Augustine entered Rome from Africa and by which he returned there after his conversion. His mother, Monica, died there, and we saw the probable site of her funeral. Fr. Lowery's readings and wise commentary indelibly linked this site to our teaching of the Core. A visit to the beach (brief but wonderful!) and then to the beautiful Saint Paul's Outside the Walls completed the day.
Our last day was devoted to service, and we visited the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center, where Tatiana, daughter of Roseanne Mirabella, who coordinated the service aspects of our week, gave us a tour. The work there with the refugees was inspiring. That evening we visited the Sant' Egidio Community in Rome, at their center in Trastevere, next to the location where the group started fifty years ago in the tiny church of Sant' Egidio. Paulo Mancinelli, member of the community and good friend of Andrea Bartoli of Seton Hall, gave us a wonderful talk. We had a lovely meal at the community's restaurant, Trattoria degli Amici (a restaurant staffed by people with mental and developmental disabilities), which was followed by Sung Vespers of the Community of Sant' Egidio in Santa Maria in Trastevere, a much larger and beautiful church, where the community meets now.
Overall, the week was inspiring and truly unforgettable. One of the things most meaningful was the fellowship of the group, as we shared many meals and even unplanned adventures (like when six of the women visited the church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere or a group of us went to the tiny church of Santa Prassede near Santa Maria Maggiore). Many thanks to Robert White of the Lay Center, who guided us through the many activities, and thanks also to Msgr. Liddy and Catholic Studies for co-sponsoring the trip and making it so meaningful and to the Provost's Office for generously supporting it.