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Underground Christianity


“After studying Mark’s gospel and visiting the Catacombs of Priscilla, the main connection and overbearing Christian theme between the two becomes the resurrection and human salvation.” – Gregory Nicolai


During our recent study of St. Mark’s gospel, we visited the Catacombs of St. Priscilla.  Because of the great number of martyrs buried there and the fact that it is mentioned in the most ancient documents of Christian topography and liturgy, it is called the “regina catacumbarum” or the Queen of the Catacombs”.


There are over 50 catacomb complexes underneath Rome stretching for nearly three hundred miles. Many of them have ancient Christian inscriptions and decorations. Although there are several Christian catacombs that are open to the public, I chose Santa Priscilla because of the richness of the artwork and inscriptions.  It has the oldest image of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the so-called “Greek Chapel” is an absolute treasure trove of frescoes depicting biblical images from the Old and New Testaments.


Contrary to popular Christian imagination, the early Christians never lived in the catacombs.  In fact, it would have been dangerous even to pray publicly there as a group since it could have led to discovery and arrest during the days of the Roman persecution of the Church.  The catacombs were a place of burial and remembrance.  The fresoes and inscriptions are testimony to the faith of the early Christians and their hope of resurrection.  The tombs of the martyrs take pride of place and are usually richly decorated.


During our tour, the students were able to connect many of the motifs of the frescoes and inscriptions with theological and spiritual themes from our New Testament course.

Priscilla4“Since this Gospel was written at the time of Christian persecution by the Romans, there needed to be an emphasis on the new life that came from death and that Jesus secured that new life for us…This assurance of rebirth in Mark’s Gospel clearly had an effect on the early Christians because on their inscriptions in the catacombs they would write the death date of the deceased.  The date symbolizes the birth date of their new life with Christ.” – Kevin Gleason


“The art in the Catacombs reflects the paradox and Christian belief in an afterlife. It also replicates Mark’s story that you must die and understand suffering before you can truly live. These paintings show that life and eternal happiness is beyond the grave, which ties in with the paradox of the Catacombs that you can find such life and beauty in an area of death.” – Rainy Paul


“In Mark’s Gospel, the cross is a central symbol that is present throughout and in order to be a Christian one must take up their own cross, which connects to the sufferings of the Christians in Rome during a time of persecution…In the catacombs, the centrality of the cross is represented by the symbol of suffering and death, which is everywhere because many of the the Christians who were buried there were martyrs who fought for their faith.” Hayley White


“Christians view the cross as a sign of Jesus Christ, who gave his life for the gift of salvation and correspondingly at the catacombs the cross symbolized salvation. The Christian belief of afterlife is the idea of life after death; in the catacombs of Priscilla, a place of burial and death, the artwork represents life, which could be symbolism for afterlife.” – Hannah Struever

Go Friars!



















P.C. Admissions Comes To Rome

This week we were pleased to welcome Mr. Matt Maurano to our Rome center.  Matt is the Assistant Dean of Admissions at Providence College and was in town on a recruiting trip. Matt is an alum of the College himself – Class of 2006.  This is his first trip to Rome and he took the time to visit us and give a brief presentation on the work of P.C. Admissions abroad.


During an informal “pizza and soda pop” reception, he told us about his responsibilities in international recruiting and where he will travel on behalf of the College.  Italy, Switzerland, and England are on his itinerary over the next two weeks.


Fresh from hosting “A Day in Friartown” on the home campus, Matt told us about the activities of the Student Admission Ambassadors who work in his office.  In fact, three of our P.C.- in- Rome alumni are Ambassadors and he encouraged the current students to apply next Spring.  He said that their study abroad experience would be a great asset to the work of recruiting “future Friars”.


Matt asked the students about their decisions to study abroad and why they chose Rome as their destination.  They told him about the wonderful experience they are having and the places they have already seen in just five weeks.


At the end the students were asking him about life on campus back home.  They were curious about any changes that might have been made during the summer construction projects and any future plans that have been made to enhance the campus environment.   While a few students later admitted that his remarks made them “a little homesick”, all agreed that being in Rome was exactly where they wanted to be this semester.


Matt Maurano’s visit made us all feel closer to the home campus and connected to the wider community of Providence College.  He also gave us some perspective of how fortunate we all are to be in Rome and to be able to bring the “Friar school spirit” wherever we go.



  Go Friars!
















Friends! Romans! Countrymen!



One of the advantages of studying the New Testament in Rome is being able to have an “up close and personal” experience of the ancient Roman Empire through the architectural and artistic remains of it that can be found throughout the city.  Walking into the Pantheon, climbing the stairs inside the Colosseum, or trekking through the Roman Forum are all ways to experience the Roman context of early Christianity.


Recently we visited the famous Roman Forum.  The format of our course, The New Testament in the Eternal Cityincludes not only classroom lectures but also site visits each week.  More than simply “fun field trips”, these site visits are an integral part of the academic component of our study abroad program.  Each week the site is to be integrated with the content of the classroom lecture.  And while we’re on site, there is even more academic input from me and the occasional guide who leads us.  So, pens, notebooks and course texts are not left behind!  Instead, the site itself becomes both our classroom and the focus of our study – our “text”.


Our lecture was on the Roman context of early Christianity and our trip to the Roman Forum gave us a feel for what it was like to live, work, shop, participate in politics, and pray in ancient Rome.  The basilicas, government buildings, temples, and areas of commerce included in the Forum helped us to understand how it functioned as the political, religious, and social center of ancient Rome.


“Just as the Bible, specifically the 4 gospels, gives us the most insight into Jesus’ life, the Roman Forum also gives us the most insight into the life of the Ancient Romans,  revealing not only their political and social life, but also their religious values and ideals.” – Danielle Cady

“It is interesting to see the archaeological remains of the Roman Forum, an example of the Roman Empire’s strength and organization. This society had no room for Christianity; a belief system that directly contradicted their pagan worship.” -Carly Lockyer


“… one of the most interesting arches in the Forum is the “Arch of Constantine”. Although this arch represents victory for Constantine, it is also a tangible object that marks one of the most important moments in Christianity, as Constantine declared Christianity as the religion throughout all of Rome at this time and fought his battle with “divine inspiration” – Devin Flood

forum6“Comparable to the literary sources used to write the Gospels, the Arch of Constantine was built using “sources” from other pieces of Roman history while still incorporating new and innovative procedures to make this one of the most well preserved ruins in the Forum”. – Caroline Carew


“…the Arch of Titus… was constructed in honor of the victories of Titus and Vespasian in the Judean War, which ended in the sack of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Interestingly enough, Jesus predicts this destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in the synoptic Gospel of Mark.” – Lauren Politi


“The Arch of Titus located at the entrance of the forum depicts the attack of Jerusalem. The imagery on this arch shows a triumphal procession bringing the war booty from Jerusalem, which includes the altar of Solomon’s Temple decorated with trumpets, and the seven-branched golden candlestick or menorah.” – Taylor Morley


Friends, Romans, Countrymen – Friars!





































Theology and Archaeology

How can the study of archaeology help us to understand the New Testament?  This is the question we asked during our recent site visit to the Basilica of San Clemente. Our course on the New Testament in the Eternal City includes not only classroom lectures, but also on site visits to particular places in Rome that are significant for Christian history, theology, and spirituality.

Interior-chapel San Clemente church 12th centBy tradition, St. Clement (92-101 AD) was a bishop in Rome who gave his life as a martyr for Christ. Fourth-century accounts speak of his forced labour in the mines during exile to the Crimea in the reign of the emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) and his missionary work there which prompted the Romans to bind him to an anchor and throw him into the Black Sea.  His relics were recovered and are under the main altar of the church.

StClementMass San Clemente churchThe church of San Clemente is like a “layered cake” of archaeological wonder.  The present basilica is from the 12th century, but underneath is a 5th century basilica and below that is a first century house, warehouse, and Mithraic temple.  These sites were excavated beginning in the 19th century under the guidance of an Irish Dominican priest, Fr. Mullooly, who was prior of San Clemente.  Indeed, the Irish Dominicans have been the custodians of San Clemente since the 17th century.  In this way, Providence College has a kind of “connection” with San Clemente since they are both Dominican institutions.

left-aisle San Clemente 4th cent churchWhat we are learning is that archaeology is imperative for the study of the New Testament. There is no chance of understanding Jesus, Peter, Paul, Mary, or the early Christians without understanding their world.  And there is no way to reconstruct their world without archaeology.  In fact, archaeology is so important in Rome, that the Vatican has an office devoted solely to its study.  The Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology coordinates both the Roman Pontifical Academy of Archaeology and the Pontifical  Institute of Christian Archaeology.

the-mithraic-schoolroom San Clemente church 1st centArchaeological artifacts can profoundly affect our understanding of the New Testament’s message.  And visiting some of the most important archaeological sites in Rome this semester will teach us much about the lives and beliefs of the early Christians.

tufa-block-building San Clemente church 1st centHere are a few quotes from the papers the students wrote after our site visit:

“From the art displayed within the twelfth century Basilica, to the underground archeological sites of an old Christian Church and Mithraic temple, the overall structure is a three-dimensional history lesson about theology and the expansion of Christianity throughout ten centuries.”  - Caroline Lockyer.

“By following the evidence in and underneath the church, one can obtain an understanding of the people and life of early Rome—mainly in this circumstance, what their beliefs were.  The basilica is a self-contained history book following Roman society’s beliefs tracing from 1st century till the 12th century C.E.”  - Beau Frank

right-aisle San Clemente 4th cent church

“The Basilica of San Clemente consists of three layers: the upper church, which was restored in the 18th century, the lower church from the 4th century, and the first-century buildings where a Mithraic temple exists.  Ascending from the 1st century buildings through the 4th century lower church, and finally to the upper church Jesus slowly reveals himself to us.” Camille Dottore

“What they found in the deepest layer of the basilica was a pagan temple, also known as mithraeum.The discovery of this temple shows the triumph of Christianity following Constantine.  Churches from then on would then be built upon these pagan temples and other holy sites.” Emileigh Gaeta

altar-of-mithras San Clemente church 1st cent

“Revelation… presents itself through the recovered artifacts discovered by archeologists and strengthens the faith of individuals by linking the truths of the New Testament.”  - Brynne Murphy

“Through the excavation of San Clemente, one can conclude that the discoveries and excavations of archaeologists have revolutionized and confirmed our understanding of God’s revelation in the New Testament.” Sarah Davis

alleyway San Clemente church 1st cent

Go Friars!
































New Beginnings

New BeginningsPosted: 02 Sep 2014 07:52 AM PDTProvidence College in Rome has gone live!  Our Program has begun its fourth year of transforming lives with the study abroad experience at the heart of the Church.



Last week, 19 students from Providence College and I arrived in the Eternal City for a semester abroad.  The CEA Rome Team welcomed us with open arms and big smiles upon our arrival and then gave us an intense three day Orientation Program that helped our entry into the Italian way of life and our academic study program.




This week we started classes and Tuesday morning we began our New Testament in the Eternal City course, which is central to our PC in Rome experience.  The course consists of classroom lectures and site visits around the city so that Rome becomes a “classroom” for us.






During this first week of introductions, orientations, and fresh beginnings, I’ve asked the students what they were hoping for from their study abroad experience in Rome.  We talked about why they chose Rome as a destination and what they expected from our Program.  Here’s what some of them said:

“This semester I am hoping to immerse myself in the history and art of Rome, putting visuals to what I have learned thus far at PC…”  Caroline Carew, Marketing Major, Sociology Minor

“After taking four years of Latin throughout high school I have learned so much about Rome and am excited to finally see it for myself!” Chad Britnell, Finance Major


“This semester abroad I hope to become even more independent and to submerge myself into the Italian culture…The opportunity for us to learn on site in this incredible city is going to be a once in a lifetime experience.” Emily DiRenzo, Marketing Major, Film Minor

“I hope to learn more about different societies in Europe because I would love to get a career in foreign policy!” Brynne Murphy, Political Science Major


“For my study abroad experience, I am hoping to better understand myself and the the heritage of my family; which is predominantly from Italy and very much who I think I am.”  Daniel McAvoy,  Finance Major, Economics Minor




“I am hoping that this semester abroad allows me to have a more open mind towards the way other people live.  Camille Dottore, Marketing and Sociology Majors



 Go Friars!





























Three Weeks and Counting!


The Fall 2014 P.C./CEA Rome Study Abroad adventure is about to begin!

Dr. Hagstrom and 18 students from P.C. are packing suitcases, applying for Italian VISAS, organizing passports and brushing up on Italian vocabulary for their one semester adventure.




While the rest of campus is focused on finishing up construction projects or readying the dorms for the onslaught of freshmen in just a few weeks, the Rome Study Abroad students are looking forward to piazzas, museums, ancient churches, and Roman Ruins as their “new campus”. And instead of opening the school year with Academic Convocation in the P.C. gym, the Rome students will perhaps begin their school year with a papal audience in St. Peter’s Square with Pope Francis. And while the food in Raymond Cafeteria is no doubt tasty and nutritious, the acclaimed Italian cuisine (including gelato!) is what awaits Dr. Hagstrom and 18 P.C. friars.


Preparing for a semester abroad can be exciting, but also daunting, and sometimes scary. Like Abraham who was called to leave behind his land, his security, and his way of life for a new journey with the Lord (Genesis 12:1-3), so too our Rome students and faculty will leave behind the familiar and embark on a life-changing sojourn. Through study and lectures, site visits and even the simple daily experiences of street life in Rome, students will discover more about themselves, the world, and their place in it.

Let the adventure begin! Go Friars!


Vatican Ambassador Ken Hackett Visits P.C. In Rome

This week the Providence College Center for Theology and Religious Studies held its Spring Academic Colloquium.


We were pleased to welcome His Excellency Mr. Kenneth Hackett , who graciously accepted our invitation to visit and address our student body. Mr. Hackett is the current United States Ambassador to the Holy See. He was nominated to the post by President Barack Obama in June 2013, confirmed by the Senate in August 2013, and he presented his Credentials to Pope Francis on 21 October 2013.


Ambassador Hackett, originally of West Roxbury, Massachusetts, earned his undergraduate degree from Boston College. He then joined the Peace Corps, and served in Ghana. Afterwards, he joined Catholic Relief Services, an international humanitarian agency supported by the U.S. Catholic community, serving in Africa and Asia. He became president of Catholic Relief Services in 1993.  And as President, Ambassador Hackett led 5,000 CRS employees in over 100 countries.


It was under his leadership that CRS responded to recovery efforts such as those following the Rwanda genocide, the Bosnian and Kosovo emergencies, the Asian tsunami, and the Haiti earthquake. Equally notable during his tenure as President was CRS’s work on behalf of people living with HIV/AIDS.  Mr. Hackett retired from that post in 2012.


His Excellency and Mrs. Hackett have two children and most recently have been residents of Maryland and Florida.  But now, of course, they are residents of the Eternal City.  The Hackett’s more than 40 year history of working in the field of international human development brings a unique dimension to the service of diplomacy to the Vatican.




I asked the Ambassador to speak to us about his former work in developing countries and his new service in diplomacy here in Rome.  The title for his presentation was: “From Charity Work to Diplomatic Service: A Personal View”.


He spoke to us of his personal journey beginning from his days at Boston college as an undergraduate trying to decide on a career.  Joining the Peace Corps was a somewhat spontaneous decision, but one which proved to set a course for the rest of his life.  He spoke passionately about how “service to others” is the most rewarding life.  He challenged our students not to decide on a job “just because it pays a lot of money”.  But, rather to do “‘something which makes you happy” and “stretches you and your imagination”.


At the heart of his presentation was his explanation of his commitment to Catholic social teaching and how his work at Catholic Relief Services was shaped by it every step of the way.  He explained how as President of C.R.S., his goal was always to implement Catholic social teaching from “top to bottom” in the organization of over 5,000 people – many of whom were not Catholic.


Speaking of his diplomatic service as U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican, he talked about the “new approach” of Pope Francis to the papacy and his hope that the United States and the Holy See can work together on many “issues that affect human dignity, the poor, and people who are marginalized”. “There are many things that we can come together on – particularly peace.”


After his lecture, we gave him a Providence College tie as a token of our appreciation.  Of course, I joked that he should wear this “Dominican tie” when he goes to his Jesuit alma mater, Boston College.











The Colloquium ended with a light reception during which His Excellency was able to mingle with the students as well as the CEA Rome Team, who worked so hard on the logistics of the event. Mr. Hackett ask the students about our program and their time in Rome, and even stayed to pose for a few photos.




Perhaps the best reaction I heard afterward was from a student who said: “I was expecting a much more formal lecture.  But his talk was very personal and down to earth and I felt like he was speaking right to me.  He spoke from the heart”.


  Go Friars!


































Why Study Theology in Rome?

“There is no better city to study Theology than in Rome.  The ability to see many of the world’s most famous churches during class time made the decision easy for me.” Riley Dowd


Why Study Theology in Rome?

This week it has finally begun to sink in that we have less than a month left of our Roman adventure.  I asked the students to reflect on their time here in Rome and their experience of studying Theology. I asked them 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:

“Studying theology in Rome offers an experience unlike any other.  Rome is the center of our Christian theology and the sites and history provide a whole new experience.  I think being able to visit the 4 major basilicas and a few other Catholic sites has had an impact on me and has gotten me to think about theology in a whole new way.  I think in order to fully understand and appreciate the Church this is a must.”  Daniel DeFilippo

“Studying theology in Rome brings the New Testament to life. Being able to go to all of the locations that you read about makes your faith stronger.” Erin Mullane

apse-mosaic San Clemente church 12th cent

“Everyone should study theology in Rome because of the vast amount of history in this city. Rome has so much to offer and I have enjoyed every second of exploring it.” Nicole Patrina

“One may first approach studying theology while being abroad in a negative manner, but I believe it is one of the greatest choices I have made. Studying theology in Rome allows us as students to gain first hand knowledge and gives us a better understanding by living and seeing what we learn about in places other than a text-book.” Veronika Abkarian


“As somebody who is not religious, I knew taking my theology requirements in Rome would help situate religious stories in a historical and social context that I could connect with more. These classes have brought me to places in Rome that I never would have visited or critically understood on my own, which is something I really appreciate.” Leanne Falzon

St Paul 10

“Rome is truly one of the greatest places to study theology. You can only read so much in books, and in Rome there are so many prominent basilicas and Christian sites to help one to truly understand the history of the Christian religion. It brings the class to a whole new level and you get to experience many places in Rome you may never have visited otherwise during your semester here.” Sophia Bolt 

Mary Major3

“Studying theology in Rome is the way to go because of all the magnificent basilicas and sites that the city has to offer. Since the Vatican is placed in Rome’s center, the city alone holds extreme theological meaning.” Paige Lee

“Studying Theology in Rome has been a truly incredible experience. Looking back on my time here, I can say that I feel truly blessed to have had the opportunity to study here and experience places like the Vatican and the Roman Forum.” Tim Evans


“Studying theology in Rome has allowed me to experience theological events in a completely different way. You have a better appreciation and understanding for theology when you are present in the city where every important event occurred. It is enlightening and truly amazing to be exposed to this history in such an extraordinary way.” Gianna Fournier


“Studying theology in Rome creates opportunities to see a vast number of churches, some of which you would not have known to visit without taking a course in theology.” Kerrie Lynch


“By studying Theology in Rome, your identity as a Roman Catholic really becomes transformed. Instead of viewing Catholicism as just going to mass every Sunday and occasionally praying, you are able to experience firsthand the significant sites of Roman Church history in your Theology class every week, which is a constant reminder of this incredible faith relationship that God desires to have with us and it definitely brings you closer to Him.” Catherine McLean


Go Friars!







Apostle to the Gentiles

“Paul is a figure of monumental significance. He expanded the church and instituted small but vibrant Christian communities wherever he went.” -Maria McLaughlin

St Paul 3

Recently, our New Testament in the Eternal City class visited the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls. This basilica, built over the tomb of the apostle Paul, enshrines the witness of martyrdom for the sake of the Gospel. As the patristic writer Tertullian stated, “…the apostles poured forth their whole teaching, along with their blood into the Church of Rome…” Like St. Peter, the apostle Paul culminates his ministry of the Word with the spiritual victory of winning the crown of martyrdom.  As he states in II Timothy, “… the time for my departure is near, even now my life is being poured out as an offering.  I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and now what awaits me is a crown of glory that will never fade, life on high in Christ Jesus..” (4:6-8)

Although St. Paul’s martyrdom, like St. Peter’s, is not mentioned in the New Testament, the evidence of Patristic writers testifies to his execution outside of the walls of Rome on the road leading to the port city of Ostia.  St. Paul was beheaded and his body was buried, according to tradition, by a pious Roman matron named Lucina, in a nearby pagan cemetery. Today the magnificent basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls stands over the site of his grave.

St Paul 9

St. Paul’s tomb is below the altar, behind a grill, where a small red light burns constantly. If peered at through the grill, it is possible to see the marble cover of the sarcophagus with the inscription: “To Paul, Apostle and Martyr”. The cover has holes, made for direct contact with the inside of the tomb. Through these holes, in ancient times, pilgrims were able to lower down objects to touch the sarcophagus of the Apostle. And these pieces of cloth became prized relics for the ancient pilgrims.

St Paul 6

After our visit, the students wrote papers connecting our lectures on St. Paul and his apostleship to the Gentiles with the art and architecture of the basilica.  In this way, they are being trained to “read” a church and its artistic program from a theological and biblical point of view.

St Paul 5

“During our site visit, we saw two cities in the mural: Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Bethlehem represents the Gentile community and Jerusalem represents the Jewish community. Also, Bethlehem can represents Jesus’ birthplace and Jerusalem can represent Jesus’ place of death. It is important that both cities are on the mural because it shows that both are equally important to God. Both the Gentiles and the Jews are equally important in God’s eyes.” -Francesca Coughlin

“All of this important work is honored and displayed in the basilica. From the outside, the detailed façade has much to say about Paul. Peter and Paul are both standing next to Jesus who is seated in a throne of victory and judgment. Peter is often displayed in this  basilica alongside Paul as they are often seen as a duo, the founders of the Church.” – Sophia Bolt

St Paul 8

” There are also a series of mosaics throughout the basilica that each illustrate a scene from the life of Saint Paul, where the viewer enters into a narrative of his life. The artwork shows how he fits in with both Peter and Christ with his apostolic mission.” – Catherine McLean

St Paul 4

“In the basilica Saint Paul outside the walls, the triumphal arch has a unique portrait of Jesus… It portrays Jesus as seated on a throne. His face is stern… This facial expression is not common among images of Jesus. This is because it represents his attitude towards his second coming . At that time, he will sit as Judge over all of the living and dead. God gave him the power of deciding who will make it into heaven and who will not.” -Zach Jensen

“Another interesting point to note about the triumphal arch in Saint Paul’s basilica is its location. According the Catholic tradition, triumphal arches are always placed over the tomb of a martyr. The reason is because this specific location represents a spiritual victory.  Just as Paul found God and preached his word by founding Christian communities, we too are invited to do the same and experience God’s word for ourselves.” – Tim Evans

St Paul 1

“Surrounding the portrait of Jesus Christ, draped in white linen, as described in the Book  of Revelation, are “the twenty-four elders on the throne, [who] will worship  Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne,”  (Revelation 4:10). These elders have washed their robes in the blood of the  lamb, being Jesus Christ, and they are therefore privileged to sit with Jesus. They are offering their crowns of martyrdom to Jesus to illustrate  their adoration and gratitude for the Lord and his salvation.” -Jacqueline Condon   St Paul 10

“In the front of the church, the quadriportico is home to an enormous statue of St. Paul that was erected to honor him. This statue alone can tell one the whole story of who Paul was and the work he did. Starting from his clothing, he is wearing cloth over his head to denote that he is a traveler and pilgrim. He travels to other nations to teach and preach to gentiles, or non-Jews. St. Paul is carrying a sword because it represents his martyrdom for Christianity. Also, the word of God is believed to be like “a two edged sword.” In Paul’s other hand, he is a carrying a book. These represent his teachings to the gentiles.” – Ben Hochberger

 Go Friars!





















“Viva il Papa!” An Audience with Francis



“Pope Francis has a truly magnetic and uplifting energy; it is truly inspiring to witness how people from all corners of the globe react to this man and what he represents!” Brittany Ricci

“Getting to participate in the papal audience this Wednesday definitely felt like a blessed experience. It was amazing to be aware of the hundreds of pilgrims that traveled from around the world and came together all in the name of God.” Nikki Mullins


Last week the P.C. in Rome program went to the weekly Wednesday papal audience with Pope Francis.  I contacted Bishop Tobin’s office in Providence at the beginning of the semester for help in obtaining tickets for the students and myself.  The weather was supposed to be cold and rainy, but instead it was warm and sunny.  The students called this the “Pope Francis effect”.  The crowd numbered close to 50,000 according to the Vatican news later that day.  We were thrilled to hear “Providence College” formally welcomed during the introduction when various pilgrim groups and visiting dignitaries are introduced at the beginning of the Audience. (Thanks Bishop Tobin!)  Go Friars!
Pope Francis has recently been using his talks at the weekly audience to offer some catechesis on the sacraments.  The talk he gave to us was about the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.  He urged that this sacrament be used for the sick, and not just the dying.  He said that in a special way the sick are in need of the experience of the presence of Jesus with them in their illness.
I asked the students to share their photos and their impressions of the experience.
“Wow! Felt like I was at a NFL football game in America. I could not believe how many people were there to see the Pope speak, it was definitely a celebration. I thought his emphasis on the anointing of the sick was interesting, as people have said this Pope is very concerned with the less fortunate and suffering people of the world. It was definitely an experience I will remember forever and now am trying to plan a visit for my family to see Pope Francis when they come to Rome.” Nathan Rosadini
“The papal audience was an incredible experience. The reaction that Pope Francis got from the entire crowd blew my mind. It was like a soccer game with different countries waving flags and scarves each time a prayer was read in their respective languages. I’m really glad I went and if there was one thing I take away from this is that Pope Francis really is a rockstar here.” Danny DeFilippo


“It’s pretty incredible to think that thousands of people from all around the world were gathered in one place to hear someone speak. It goes to show just how prominent Pope Francis is and how much he is respected throughout the world.” Tim Evans


“While attending the Papal Audience it was a powerful site to witness the love people have for Papa Francis and the immensity of their faith. When he came out into the crowd, Papa Francis’ smile was very infectious” Sophia Bolt
“My experience at the papal audience was both exhilarating, and overwhelming. Seeing the Pope for the first time that close to me is something that I will never forget. I was taken back by the amount of people that attended, and their excitement and energy was admirable. I am so blessed to be able to say I was that close to papa Francesco!” Gianna Fournier
“It was an amazing experience finally being able to see Papa Francesco in person after hearing so much about him! He was smiling the entire time and waving at the crowd!” Francesca Coughlin

“Today, I attended my third papal audience of the semester and still got chills when Pope Francis passed by in his Popemobile. I witnessed a young child who was right next to me get blessed by Papa Francis and saw her parents begin to cry tears of joy.  It is incredible how one individual can inspire and touch the lives of so many people.” Sarah Wacik
“My reaction to seeing Papa Francis at the papal audience last Wednesday was one of complete awe. He was such an incredibly humble person when meeting everyone. Everytime I saw him bless a child and kiss their forehead on screen my heart just melted a little. I felt so blessed to have this amazing opportunity.” Catherine McLean
“It was really cool to see how excited Italians get about Pope Francis, he’s like a celebrity here. There was a group of elementary school students chanting “Papa Francesco!” at the top of their lungs and it was just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. It was nice to see how affectionate he was with all of the children in the audience.” Leanne Falzon
Go Friars!















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