The Colgate Scene
September 2000
Table of contents
A Roman Holiday
by Father John Donovan
Catholic Chaplain

St. Peter's Square from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
Often an idea comes forward that seems fanciful.

     Brendan Donahue '00 and Melanie Randall '00 were sophomores when they suggested that the Newman Community should go to Rome their senior year for spring break since it would be during the Jubilee 2000 celebration. I thought I was humoring them, but the idea began to develop and the students charged me with making it happen. They wanted to meet the Pope, too!

     By January 1999, through Bishop James Moynihan of the Diocese of Syracuse, we had obtained 30 tickets for the General Audience with the Pope for March 15, 2000. Unfortunately, two weeks prior to leaving we were informed that the audience would be canceled because the Papal Curia spends the first week of Lent on retreat. However, through the assistance of Trustee Chair Emeritus Van Smith '50, the trip did include visits to the three dicasteries (Vatican offices) -- Congregation for the Causes of Saints, Congregation for Catholic Education and the Congregation for Evangelization of the Peoples and for the Propagation of the Faith -- and the Scavi, the archaeological excavation underneath the Basilica of Saint Peter.

     Twenty-four students (Matthew Anastasi '02, Melissa Andrews '02, Nicole Baker '03, Janet Baran '01, Michelle Caler '02, Matthew Coseo '01, Johnna D'Aurora '00, Melissa Decker '02, Brendan Donahue '00, Sean Duffy '02, Courtney Ellis '02, Erica Giers '02, Courtney Gilder-sleeve '02, Andrew Gillick '00, Christopher Gillick '03, Alexander Grabowski '03, Alicia Newton '02, Kathleen Palm '01, Angela Puliafico '02, Melanie Randall '00, Catherine Rideaux '02, Christina Sandoe '00, Mauro Tucci Jr. '02, and Christopher Wolyniak '01), along with Joe and Patricia Caprio, director of development programs, traveled with me to the Eternal City, in celebration of the Jubilee.


His Holiness photographed by Andrew Gillick '00
     At the Congregation for the Causes for Saints the group was enthralled by the energetic and knowledgeable Msgr. Robert Sarno, who told how a saint is made, a detailed and bureaucratic process that was nonetheless intriguing since it debunked many myths. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and for the Propagation of the Faith was wonderful. We received a tour by Rev. Joseph McCabe, MM, of the archives and restoration processes, and sat on Napoleon's furniture, which left many speechless -- quite a feat, given our crowd. Viewing the oldest map of Australia in existence was not only amazing but also became a battle cry!

     The week was an interesting progression. Many in the group started with sight-seeing tours, sporting events and, since it was "Spring Break Y2K," experiencing the nightlife with Rome resident Bill Deni '99. By Tuesday, after the Propagation of the Faith and then the Scavi, where we saw the very credible evidence of the tomb of Peter in the surroundings of the necropolis, the mood changed entire-ly and the trip became a pilgrimage. The group realized two important things; that they were being given unique access to the Vatican and more, and that the Catholic Church is bigger than their experience, historically, culturally and globally.

     One day was also spent visiting Castello Banfi, the winery owned by Harry Mariani '59. We were shown the winemaking process but had to forgo the lesson on wine tasting, due to our tardiness from having been lost on the winding roads of Tuscany. We did, however, relish in a feast of wild boar with several cheeses and varieties of the vineyard's products. The return trip to Rome was eased by an alternate route along the coast, with tremendous vistas of the Mediterranean.

     We did not forget the events of home while traveling. As our men's hockey team was playing in Lake Placid, nine of us listened intently in an Internet café. In the shadow of the Coliseum our enthusiasm left some Romans confused as we sang "O Canada" and "The Star Spangled Banner" just before face-off.


The group at Castello Banfi, the winery owned by Harry Mariani '59 [Zoom]
     At the Congregation for Catholic Education our meeting with Msgr. Robert Zapfel was brief since there was a "surprise" audience about to begin in St. Peter's Square. While no one was able to meet him, we did make it outside just in time to hear Pope John Paul II welcome the American students from Colgate University!

     The week ended with Mass at St. Peter's on the Vigil of St. Joseph's Day. The liturgy was moving through its music and diversity and ended with a Eucharistic Procession for Veneration; most of the group had never seen anything like it before. It was presided over by the Archbishop of Syracuse, Sicily.

     Overall, it was a remarkable experience having unique access to the Holy See and to enjoy the sights and tastes of Rome. Our hope is to offer the opportunity again in 2002, since it was not only fun, but also developed a deeper understanding of the relationship of the church to the global community. Finally, for those who did not understand it before, hearing a welcome from the Pontiff certainly made them aware of the magnitude of access that their Colgate education offers.

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