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.
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.
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
“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.”