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All Paths Lead to Rome

Posted by: on October 17, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

2016-10-16 21.36.42Four young seminarians from the Pontifical North American College approached the PC Rome program about doing some apostolic work.  Like our PC students, they are American students studying in Rome.  While PC still draws primarily from New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, they hail from the heartland of America:  Wisconsin, South Dakota, Oklahoma, and Minnesota.  The PC-Rome program is a semester program; students at the Pontifical North American College (PNAC) are there typically for five years.  They too struggle with learning Italian, dealing with the hustle and bustle of Rome, and coping with homesickness.  They enjoy eating pizza and watching football, the camaraderie of their classmates, and they take advantage of opportunities to travel in Italy and around Europe whenever they can.  At the same time, they have answered the call of God and are preparing for the priesthood.

Coat of Arms - Pontifical North American College

Coat of Arms – Pontifical North American College

PNAC was formally inaugurated by Pope Pius IX in 1859, on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, who is also the patroness of the United States.  The college was established on the grounds of a 16th century former monastery located at the foot of the Janiculum hill. Bishops around the US and in Australia send young men to Rome to prepare for the priesthood. The motto of the College as seen on the coat of arms to the right is Firmum Est Cor Meum (“My heart is steadfast”),and it comes from the first verse of Psalm 108. The courtyard of the campus features 48 orange trees one for each state (they’ll plant trees for the other two one of these days!) and a fountain with red, white and blue colors.  Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy both visited there.

Courtyard of PNAC

Courtyard of PNAC

The four seminarians came to introduce themselves to the students in the PC-Rome program.  They described their roads to Rome and their paths to a life dedicated to God.  It is clear from hearing their personal stories that it was not always easy, nor was it always a foregone conclusion that the priesthood was the right choice for them.  They struggled with their conscience, with trying to understand who they are and what their place is in the world.  Some actively resisted, thinking they preferred to marry and lead a different sort of life.  But the call came to them and after reflection, prayer, and personal introspection, their path became clear. Their joy is evident. They also invited the students to share in a number of programs here in Rome.

2016-10-16 20.59.53r

Third year seminarians, Colin Davis and Vince Fernandez, and Deacons Aaron Becker and Joseph Scholten

In the course of this semester and the next, PC Rome and the seminarians will work together on offering PC students in Rome English-language masses, opportunities to meet informally to discuss theology and/or questions relevant to the church in sessions known as “Theology on Tap”, and a chance to do some service in and around Rome.  Several students will participate in the 7th Annual Turkey Trot, a 5k race around the Vatican on Thanksgiving morning…it is the only race around a sovereign state!  We will also try to schedule mass or vespers on a Sunday evening, followed by live-stream football game.  There were many sandwiches leftover from that initial meeting.  The seminarians distributed these to the homeless around the Vatican.  Already, the efforts of these young men have had unexpected benefits!  Stay tuned for more!


Four young seminarians from the Pontifical North American College approached the PC Rome program about doing some apostolic work.  Like... MORE

Encounters with Papa Francisco

Posted by: on October 6, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

Pope Francis once told a group of students visiting the Vatican that he “didn’t want to be pope.”(7 June 2013, Catholic Herald).  The Catholic Church had experienced a series of sexual abuse and financial scandals and the world seemed to be devolving into sectarian violence.  During his papacy, Papa Francisco, as he is called by the Italian people, has launched a multi-pronged campaign to address some of these problems.

logo_mont_7CEA and PC-Rome organized its first colloquium of the semester this past week.  Students and faculty screened a documentary, The Cross and the Gun, directed by Jesus Garcès Lambert, investigating the relationship between the Catholic Church and organized crime in the wake of Pope Francis’s condemnation of Italian crime syndicates, such as the Mafia and ‘Ndranghetta.  The documentary has been shown in more than 40 countries and is based on the work of historian John Dickie, whose books are assigned in two of the elective classes that PC students are taking this semester. (Click here for a filmography.)


Jesus Garcès Lambert

Describing organized crime as a “permanent emergency”, Pope Francis was the first to excommunicate all Mafiosi.  The documentary traces the close relationship between the Mafia and Catholic organizations who joined forces in the early days of the cold war to prevent communist and socialist parties from taking power in Italy.  Ironically, many of the Mafiosi consider themselves men of honor and are devout Catholics who have been generous benefactors of parishes, religious festivals, and church charities.  Many priests have followed the Pope’s lead in confronting the Mafia in their parishes and in their communities, risking arson, personal attacks, and even death.  Jesus Garcès Lambert was there to take questions and answers from members of the audience.  He told a fascinating story of some of the risks involved in making such a documentary, filmed primarily in Calabria.  It was a unique opportunity for PC Friars in Rome to encounter the work of the Pope.

PC Friars at St. Peter's Square

PC Friars at St. Peter’s Square

The following day, students encountered the pope directly, attending an udienze papali (papal audience) in St. Peter’s Square. From the first moments, when the Pope circled the square in his open pope mobile, the the crowd of roughly 80,000 people was electrified!  It was a very special moment. St. Peter’s Square was packed with pilgrims from all over the world. After a short reading, the Pope talked about his recent trip to Estonia and his hopes for interfaith dialogue and ending sectarian violence in the Caucuses, the Middle East, and elsewhere in the world.14566283_10210976711838606_6283321442677332934_o (Next semester, one of the CEA/PC-Rome colloquia will include a screening of a Vatican-produced documentary made on the anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Vatican II document on interreligious dialogue.)  The reading and the pope’s message were repeated in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Russian, confirming in a tangible way for our students, the universal character of the Catholic Church. (For a Catholic News Agency recap of the Pope’s comments, click here.)



After the singing of the Our Father in Latin, the Pope bestowed an apostolic blessing on us, one which extends to our families and loved ones, and by virtue of reading this blog, to you as well. Thanks for tuning in.  Go Friars!

Pope Francis once told a group of students visiting the Vatican that he “didn’t want to be pope.”(7 June 2013,... MORE

We (heart) Roma

Posted by: on September 28, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

IMG_5897As our students have discovered,  Rome has some problems.  The hordes of Vatican tour hawkers are direct descendants of the locusts from biblical times.  There is a lot of traffic, the sirens are ear-piercingly loud, the graffiti in some neighborhoods needs to be cleaned up, and the trash and recyclables should be collected more often and more thoroughly. Despite all of this, it is a vibrant city that glows in the warm Italian sunshine.The piety and devotion of pilgrims who travel here from all over the world is striking; their awe at being where the church was founded, and their wonder as they touch the feet of the Christ on the Porta Santa is inspiring. There is a spirituality here that is palpable.  Despite all the rushing around, Romans take their time at dinner…from the chefs who cook the fresh ingredients al dente to the hospiti who converse at dinner and linger over the caffè.  The food is as tasty delicious as it is beautiful.


Roma Cityscape

Roma Cityscape

Rome is a huge city at the crossroads of the world refugee crisis, the ongoing European Union identity crisis, and deep-seated problems with corruption and economic inefficiency.  And it is a mecca for those who love the antiquities, art and architecture, history, and music.   At the same time, it is also a place where the ancient, the medieval, and the modern collide and intersect in the most fascinating ways. The Romans were masters of re-purposing: the Basilica of Saint Mary of the Angels and Martyrs, built in 1561 to honor the angels and martyrs, also serves today as a national church where Italian soldiers killed in war are buried.  While it was also the last project of Michelangelo during the Renaissance,it also happens to be built on the site of the largest public baths in the Roman empire (built during the time of the emperor Diocletian, the same emperor who ordered the persecution of the Christians that resulted in the martyrdom of St. Agnes, about whom you have already read).

Angel Castel Sant'Angelo

Angel Castel Sant’Angelo

You can go around the corner, or up a stairwell, or into a building with an unprepossessing exterior and find yet another objet d’art that is breathtaking in its beauty.


Rome never ceases to delight or to amaze, and the PC students who are lucky enough to study here, clearly recognize it. Many students use their weekends and holidays as an opportunity to travel elsewhere in Italy and Europe.  Last weekend, for example, many PC Friars went to Munich to experience Oktoberfest.  This weekend, many are staying in and around Rome.  Some will go to the beach in Ostia, a few will bike along the Appian Way, and some will attend a soccer match on Sunday night. Some are on the quest for the perfect slice of pizza, while others continue to hunt for the best gelato. Next week, students will attend both a Papal audience and our first colloquium of the semester, but in the meantime, they will continue to enjoy the sounds, sights, and tastes of Roma.


As our students have discovered,  Rome has some problems.  The hordes of Vatican tour hawkers are direct descendants of the locusts... MORE

Friars and Saints, Old and New

Posted by: on September 19, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized
Ruins of the walls of Domitian's Stadium

Ruins of the walls of Domitian’s Stadium

Students of the New Testament in the Eternal City class visited Domitian’s Stadium, a huge arena where spectators in the first century could watch footraces and other athletic contests.  The Romans were the first to use concrete, and today, the concrete and brick walls of that stadium first dedicated in 86 AD continue to support the buildings that line the perimeter of the Piazza Navona that was built directly over it centuries later.  Between races, the Romans sometimes staged public executions of convicted criminals as a sort of half-time show.  For roughly two hundred years, Christianity was illegal in the Roman Empire, and periodically, Christians were persecuted. St. Agnes, a young Christian born into a patrician Roman family in the 3rd century, was executed there in the stadium during one of these periods of persecution.

St. Agnes of Agone on the Piazza Navona

St. Agness of Agone on the Piazza Navona

Later, the church of Sant’Agnese in Agone was built in the piazza Navona, using sheets of marble taken from the stadium as part of its interior decoration. Many today mistakenly translate this to mean St. Agnes in Agony—since it is located over the site of her martyrdom.  In fact, agone is the Greek word meaning “in the site of competitions” and it was the original name of the huge square.

Students had the opportunity to visit a side chapel in the church that contains her skull—(her body is located in the catacombs).  Later in the semester, they will learn about the cult of relics in the early Christian church. Walking from the ruins of the stadium far below the piazza to the Church of St. Agnes on the piazza was a physical way to connect the past and the present.

Some of the students studying in Rome this semester also had the chance to witness the canonization of another saint, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, a way to connect the past with the future.  In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis proclaimed her a saint, as another woman who had lived her faith and sacrificed for her beliefs.

Pope Francis Proclaims Mother Theresa a Saint

On a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon, several of our students participated in this historic event.  Ryan W. McSweeney said he felt “uniquely lucky” to have been present to celebrate the life of someone whom he had learned about since he was little.  He added the whole experience was almost surreal. If you are interested, click here to read the full text of the homily.


Pope Francis Proclaims Mother Theresa a Saint

Bridgette Clarke, Jennifer Dorn, and Thomas Nee in St. Peter's Square

Bridgette Clarke, Jennifer Dorn, and Thomas Nee in St. Peter’s Square



Several other students from Providence College were also lucky enough to have received tickets to the canonization and joined a crowd estimated at 120,000.  They were impressed with both the solemnity and the joy of the occasion. They counted themselves blessed.  Next month, all of the PC students will attend a papal audience, another one of the unique opportunities of the PC in Rome program.  Thanks to our student photographers for their contributions to this posting.  To be continued.

Go Friars!

Students of the New Testament in the Eternal City class visited Domitian’s Stadium, a huge arena where spectators in the... MORE

Campania and the Travelling Seminar

Posted by: on September 15, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

01d378747a9f1113cca0b8a58d47758dOne of the great benefits of spending a semester abroad is the opportunity for students to travel independently, exploring sites in Italy and around Europe.  Rome is centrally located and there are many discount airlines that make it possible (and economical) for students to explore.  The PC-Rome program also works closely with the CEA to sponsor trips of interest and related to the course work that students do.  This past weekend, for example, PC Friars participated in a weekend trip to Campania, organized by the staff at CEA. They spent time in the bustling city of Naples, the seaside town of Sorrento, the historic ruins at Pompei, and enjoyed the beaches of the Isle of Capri. Some students particularly liked Naples, noting its vibrance and the energy in the streets, while some were intrigued by the history of Pompeii.  Others preferred the beauty of the rocky shoreline around Capri.

Students and CEA staff at the beautiful cloisters of Santa Chiara

Students and CEA staff at the beautiful cloisters of Santa Chiara




Enjoying the coffee bar

Enjoying the coffee bar






Enjoying the beach in Sorrento

Enjoying the beach in Sorrento

This year, in addition to the cultural and historical experiences, they added an academic component, hence the name “Travelling Seminar”.  Every student signed up for one of three seminars:  History of the Mafia, Food and Wine, or Photography.

At the Fresh Fish Market

At the Fresh Fish Market

On Friday afternoon, they had a 3-hour seminar with their professors.  The program was designed to promote reflection and to enable students to be more purposeful in getting to know about Italian history and culture.  So for example, students in the Food and Wine seminar accompanied their professor to the fresh food market, where he explained about local delicacies, such as tripe.

Students who chose Dr. Alexandra Massini’s seminar had the unique opportunity to meet with the Deputy Mayor of Naples, Raffaele Del Guidice,  where they learnt about Del Giudice’s personal and public fight against the Mafia, specifically the Camorra and “La Terra dei Fuochi” (the land of fires) which defines the industrial toxic waste disposal happening around Naples. The students were also free to ask questions and by the end of the meeting Del Giudice was very impressed with their preparation and genuine interest. This was a great honor, and the local television station featured the story on the evening news.  The video clip is included for your enjoyment.

It was a jam-packed weekend, but students were enthusiastic about their experiences, whether checking out the historic ruins of Pompeii, or playing volleyball on the beach, or appreciating the local cuisine.  A good time was had by all!  Thanks for tuning in.

Go Friars!

One of the great benefits of spending a semester abroad is the opportunity for students to travel independently, exploring sites... MORE

In search of symbols of human sustenance

Posted by: on September 7, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized
Fontana del Pantheon (detail)

Fontana del Pantheon (detail)

One of the most special features of studying in Rome for PC students is being in the place where the history they are learning about actually happened.  Students had their first site visit of the semester and along the way, they passed the church that contains the body of  St. Catherine of Siena, a tertiary of the Dominican order.  All students are required to take New Testament in the Eternal City, a course that satisfies a theology requirement for the core.  According to the course description, the course consists of classroom lectures and discussions, as well as onsite study that utilizes the city of Rome as a classroom. Onsite visits include the major archaeological sites of ancient Rome, early Christian cemeteries, shrines, and basilicas, and the Renaissance churches of Rome. The visits have a twofold purpose: 1) to introduce students to the topography of the ancient city; and 2) to expose students to the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the city of Rome through the ages, concentrating on the New Testament in art. Many of the other courses offered by PC and the CEA, such as the Art History course, Angels and Demons, and photography,  also include site regular site visits, so students have additional opportunities to deepen their familiarity with Rome. This week the theme was on symbols of sustaining human life:  water, the sun, and tree (the symbol for food).

Exterior view of Pantheon rotunda

Exterior view of Pantheon rotunda

We started at the Ara Pacis, both a Roman temple and a sacred mausoleum  for Caesar Augustus who established the Pax Romana.  Next to the site is a sundial built at precisely the point on the north/south axis where the original Latins came from.  Our next stop, the Pantheon, was built on this axis to mark the movement of the sun.  The fountain in front of the site, has an obelisk, another symbol for the sun.  And the Pantheon itself is built in such a way that at high noon during the summer solstice, the sun’s rays hit precise points on the floor located immediately below the oculus.  Although the Pantheon was intended as a temple for all the gods, historians speculate that Hadrian intended to dedicate the edifice to the sun god, as evidence of his divinely orchestrated reign.

Our final stop for the morning was a return to the Fountain of the Four Rivers, sculpted by Bernini and located in the Piazza Navona. It is located on an ancient site commissioned by the Emperor Domitian and  a powerful work representative of the four rivers on the four continents where papal authority extended.  The fountain is topped by another obelisk, again representing the sun.  So we came full circle.  The groundwork has been set for further study and future site visits.  IMG_5677

More to follow.

Go Friars!


One of the most special features of studying in Rome for PC students is being in the place where the... MORE

PC in Rome

Posted by: on September 5, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized

Classes began at CEA.  I remind our students that this is PC in Rome.  That means that while they are acclimating to living in Rome, they must also begin their studies, with much the same expectations as if they were studying in Providence.  All of the students are required to study Italian.  This will enable them to communicate with the locals more easily and feel more immersed in the culture and life of Rome. In addition, studying a foreign language contributes to our goal of preparing students for a more diverse and increasingly globalized world.   Thomas Nee, a Theology and Political Science double-major, notes,  “I would say the first week of classes has shown that this is abroad experience is more than some trip to a foreign country for three months, but a new life experience entirely.”  He adds that he already feels more independent and that studying and living here will enable him to experience Rome more authentically.

Most students take most of their classes at the CEA campus at Via GG Belli 122.  We occupy the 2nd and 3rd floors of the building.  In addition to administrative and faculty offices and classrooms, students can use the study lounges and computer labs.  The center has extended hours Mondays through Thursdays to provide a quiet place for students to do their work.

CEA on Via GG Belli 122

CEA on Via GG Belli 122

All of the courses available to students undergo an in-depth review process.  For example, courses that are approved for credit in a major, such as Business Finance or History of the Modern Middle East, must first be approved by their respective departments.  Department chairs consider the syllabus, the readings, assessments, and the qualifications of the instructor to insure the course meets the same academic standards as those offered at home.  Secondly, courses are reviewed by the Advisory Committee for International Studies.  Finally, the courses go through a similar review process at the University of New Haven, which is the official school of record.  Additionally, courses that are approved to satisfy core requirements, e.g. the Fine Arts core, must be approved by the appropriate academic department and the Core Curriculum Review committee in addition to the review at UNH.  Ryan McSweeney, a marketing major, is equally excited about his international marketing class which “has already introduced me to a whole other side of my major” as he is about taking a photography class that will take him out and about Rome for photo shoots.  These two classes will enable Ryan to keep up with the requirements for his major and also satisfy a core fine arts requirement.

Brynn Gilligan is a Sociology and Business major.  Her favorite class so far is Italian, but she is also excited about the fact that many of her classes include site visits that will take her out and about in the city and its environs.  All PC students also take a theology class entitled, The New Testament in the Eternal City.  Students will participate in their first site visit  to the “Scavi” beneath the Church of Santa Maria.  Stay tuned for more.

Go Friars!

Classes began at CEA.  I remind our students that this is PC in Rome.  That means that while they are... MORE


Posted by: on August 26, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized



View of the Castel Sant'Angelo from the Tiber

View of the Castel Sant’Angelo from the Tiber

After a full day of travel and checking into their homes for the semester, orientation began this week organized by the capable staff at CEA-Rome.  Late August in Rome tends to be hot and humid. Students are simultaneously dealing with the weather, jet lag, culture shock, excitement, and trepidation.  For Abigail Post, (Marketing)the language barrier is the biggest challenge,  while Brenna Farley, a Management major, sees acclimating to the culture and lifestyle that is so different from her routine at home as her greatest personal challenge.  IMG_5601All of this is normal, and the staff at CEA are trained and experienced in helping students acclimate to their new surroundings, responding to their concerns, and insuring that students are safe and happy in order to make the most of their experience.  This week, central Italy was stricken with a 6.2 earthquake that left entire towns in Umbria devastated.  This highlighted the importance of precautionary measures the CEA and PC have in place when natural or man-made disasters occur.  Luckily, no on in our group was harmed in any way, but it certainly underscored the importance of knowing where our students are and how to contact them (and their families) in the event of an emergency.

Some highlights of the first orientation day included a frank discussion by the CEA staff and an Italian police detective on how to stay safe. The first day also included neighborhood tours that incorporated many practical suggestions such how to read a bus sign and use bus passes, how to shop in a grocery store, and where to find ATM’s, post offices, and other services.

Andrea Masini, CEA-Rome Housing Director, leading neighborhood tour

Andrea Masini, CEA-Rome Housing Director, leading neighborhood tour

PC students live in apartments in the Prati neighborhood of Rome.  Rather than living segregated in dorms, they live in buildings with Italian neighbors—in some ways, this immersion experience—taking out the garbage, walking to class, shopping in local markets, eating at local restaurants and cafes– can be one of the most transformative aspects of study abroad.  These are learning experiences in and of themselves.

Several students identified becoming immersed in Italian culture as one of their “fondest hopes” for the upcoming semester. Chris Chiocco, a Finance major, hopes he will “come away with a proficiency along with a true appreciation of their culture,” while others expressed the hope they could become “cultural sponges.”  Andrew McLaughlin hopes he will feel at home and not want to leave.  As participants of the PC-Rome program, students are not just visitors; they become inhabitants of the local community.  Long after they may have forgotten what they learned in a particular class, they will have vivid memories of their daily lives in Rome.

On the "Bridge of Angels"

On the “Bridge of Angels”

During our first PC orientation session, we reviewed many of the policies and procedures, recognizing that jet lag can be debilitating, particularly in the first few days.  More importantly, I also asked students to identify their personal challenges and goals for this semester.   Daintry Calnan, (Marketing) hopes she will be able to make the most of the opportunities, and “to learn more about myself.”  Katlin Foster (Finance) aspires to enhance her “ability to communicate with many different people internationally.”  Bridgette Clarke, a Theology major, hopes her study abroad will enhance her “love and knowledge of the Church’s history and provide me with insight and tools to continue to serve the Church later on in life.” Jennifer Dorn, an English and Theater Arts double major, hopes to “enhance my artistic and cultural knowledge and awareness.”  Nicholas Sweeney (Finance and Management) hopes to learn more about foreign policies, and Jake Karas (Finance) aspires to enhance his understanding of the global economy.

During the next several months, we will, at our monthly meetings, PC Friday excursions, and other times together,  ask them to be mindful of how their understanding of Italian and/or European culture has changed and grown, how their own sense of identity as Americans has developed, and finally how their personal sense of self has been changed as a result of their experiences, both academic and cultural.


Classes begin on Monday.  Academic work in a foreign setting has its own sets of challenges.

A prossimo (Until the next time)

Go Friars!

    After a full day of travel and checking into their homes for the semester, orientation began this week... MORE

Preparativi (preparations)

Posted by: on August 7, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized


At the Piazza Navona

At the Piazza Navona

Bongiorno, mi chiamo Margaret Manchester!  I am honored and privileged to have been chosen as the next Faculty Resident Director for the PC-Rome program.  I am a historian who has been teaching at Providence College for many years, teaching in the Development of Civilization  and the American Studies programs, and offering  a variety of American history courses. My area of specialization is American diplomatic history and the history of the Cold War.  As a historian and the first non-theologian to be directing the program, I am, just like our students, preparing for the semester ahead.

As an undergraduate at Georgetown University, I spent a year studying at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland.  I well remember both the excitement and the feelings of trepidation as I prepared for my study abroad those long years ago.  It was a transformative experience that continues to affect my life profoundly.

Our director at the time was a retired Jesuit priest, Fr. George Dunne.  Fr. Dunne had served in China as a young priest where he spoke out against oppression and the violation of human rights. In the US,  he spoke out against racism, injustice, and the Vietnam War–sometimes challenging his own Catholic institutions.  He was also a poet, playwright, and scholar.  We were young and rambunctious, some of us experiencing both independence and being away from the US for the first time.  He was patient, knowledgeable, and had a wry sense of humor.  I hope and pray that I may carry out my responsibilities with the same grace as he did.  If you are interested in reading more about this remarkable person, click here.

The CEA staff in Rome are capable, well-organized, and work together to insure the well-being and safety of the students.  They and I will do everything in our power to help our students make the most of this immersion experience in Rome and contribute to their lifelong passion.

Fino alla prossima volta (Until the next time!)
Go Friars!

  Bongiorno, mi chiamo Margaret Manchester!  I am honored and privileged to have been chosen as the next Faculty Resident... MORE

Arrivederci Roma!

Posted by: on April 30, 2016   |Comments (0)|Uncategorized


It’s hard to believe that the students and I have finished our four months in Rome.  Tempus fugit, time flies, as the ancient Romans said.  This past week was final exam period and our lives were full of exams, papers, presentations, and final projects.  We enjoyed a festive CEA farewell dinner to end our academic semester last night and today most of the students are flying back home.

I like to say that “Rome is not a city, it’s a drug!”  And all of us have become addicted!  Already some of the students are planning a return trip to the Eternal City as soon as their bank accounts allow.  The Italians believe that one way to assure a return to Rome is by throwing a coin in the Trevi Fountain.  During the semester, all of us have thrown at least a few coins in that famous place.

Trevi fountain

For me, personally, this is more than just the end of another semester, but rather the end of my three year term as Faculty Resident Director here.  I will be returning to the home campus in Providence after six wonderful semesters of having the blessing and the privilege of teaching Theology at the heart of the Church.  Since the days of my doctoral studies in Rome at the Angelicum, I always dreamt of being able to teach in “the city of apostles, martyrs, and saints”.  And these three years have been a dream come true.

New Testament textbook

During our last week together, I asked the students to share their thoughts about their experience with PC/CEA in Rome. I asked them to reflect on their time here in Rome and their experience of studying Theology. What they would say to a student back home who is considering studying abroad next year?  What advice might they give to someone who was considering spending a semester in the Eternal City?  Is there any reason why Rome should be the preferred place for studying Theology?

Here’s what some of them said:

“Rome might actually be the best place in the world to study theology, especially Catholic theology because of the historical and present relevance. You can’t go three blocks without passing some important church or site, with the biggest site, of course, being the Vatican.” Bryan Blum

“Studying theology in Rome is a unique experience because we have been able to learn not only from lectures and textbooks, but from the city itself. I have gained so much more insight about theology and also about my faith through the incredible sites that we have visited throughout the semester.” Alex Brady


“I think Rome is one of the most important places in the world to study theology. I have found that studying so close to the Vatican has given me so many opportunities to broaden my faith and learn more about Christianity than I ever could in a classroom in the states.” Abby Chave

“Rome is the ideal picture book to use to teach Catholics about the historical, political, and religious significance of their religion.” Caragh Corcoran

“The city of Rome is a visual theology in itself…” Lacey Sullivan


“Rome is the center for the theology of the Catholic religion and the heart of the Papacy. There is no better city to explore the beliefs of Catholicism than Rome…” Peter DiCenso

“The sites that we have visited this semester in the eternal city of Rome have brought theology to light in a whole new way that is unmatched by any other city.” Erin Wallace

“My experience of studying theology in Rome is much more than learning the history of the papacy or learning the different Christologies of the Gospels. Having the opportunity to study theology in Rome has brought me to a greater understanding of the values that Providence College stands for and how these values create such a strong sense of community.” Haley Grant McHugh


“Everyone knows that Rome is the center of the Catholic Church. However, it is not until you visit all the basilicas, catacombs, and historical sites firsthand while learning about the New Testament and its history that you truly understand what this entails. With every site you visit in Rome, you get a little better sense of the history and foundation of the Catholic Church and how it is still relevant in your life today.” Jamie Russo

“Rome holds the threshold of the apostles, over 500 churches, and an undeniable spiritual richness that attracts pilgrims worldwide. Studying in Rome and studying theology go hand in hand, complimenting each other in a way that allows the pilgrim to see both in a new and invaluable way, that has the potential to reshape from the inside out.” Alley Harbour


“The amount of Christian history that is available in our backyard is amazing… Rome is filled with historic sites that have shaped the foundations of Christianity. I would not want to study theology anywhere else.” Griffin Colpitts

“Studying theology in Rome is a fantastic opportunity because Rome is the center of the Catholic faith.  There is no better way to learn about Peter, Paul, and their teachings on which the Church was built than doing so minutes from their burial sites.” Marco Scozzari


“To study theology in Rome has been truly an incredible experience. It has given me the opportunity to really learn about and understand my faith in an entirely new and enlightening way… through the visual theology we were so lucky to be able to witness on our weekly site visits here in Rome, the center of the Catholic faith.” Nick Berardi

“Studying prominent figures in the Bible has been an incredible learning experience, but there is definitely  something special that happens when you get to see what you are learning come to life through the visual theology.  Studying in Rome has enhanced my understanding of Theology because of our site-visits.” Paige Silengo


“I believe that it is important to study theology in Rome because of the rich spiritual history that lies deep in the roots of Roman history.”  Grace King

“I really feel that there is no better place to learn about Christianity that here in Rome.  In just about four months, we’ve visited so many locations that are important to Christianity.  We’ve walked through the holy doors, gone to the Papal Audience, visited the basilicas of Peter and Paul, and seen some of the oldest frescoes including images of Mary and the infant Jesus.  We would not have been to experience these things in any other country!” Gianna Luciano

Santa Priscilla Madonna image

“In college, it is easy to forget the foundations of your faith that you were taught when you were younger. Being in Rome and not only learning about the beginnings of Christianity, but also being able to see the places where they happened, or great churches erected in honor of saints and martyrs, it gives it such a deeper meaning.” Lilly Steeves


Student quotes like these – and many others in past Blogs during these six semesters – say more than I ever could in an executive summary or an administrative report about my time here.  I’m convinced that the PC in Rome Program flows from the very heart of the Catholic, Dominican mission of the College.  And each year student testimonies have confirmed that.

I would like to end my final Blog with one more quotation.  It’s a well-known quote from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow concerning Rome and it expresses quite well my thoughts and feelings during my bittersweet departure from this beautiful city.

“There is the centre to which all gravitates.

One finds no rest elsewhere than here.

There may be other cities that please us for a while,

but Rome alone completely satisfies.

It becomes to all a second native land by predilection,

and not by accident of birth alone.”


Go Friars!



It’s hard to believe that the students and I have finished our four months in Rome.  Tempus fugit, time flies,... MORE