Pilgrims in the Eternal City
“CAN WE GO TO ROME?” It’s a daring question for a student to ask a staff member, yet Laura Crepeau ’16 was inspired to pose it to Director of Campus Ministry Laurie Svatek last year after watching the election of Pope Francis online.
Crepeau’s desire to connect more deeply with her Catholic faith led to months of discussion and planning, especially between Svatek and St. Catherine President Andrea Lee, IHM. Both had traveled to Italy and knew what the country could offer a pilgrim. In March, Crepeau, a biochemistry major, was among the 28 students selected for the eight-day “Roamin’ in Rome . . . a Catholic Rome Pilgrimage.”
The memory of being in the papal audience of 50,000 in St. Peter’s Square, waving and listening to Pope Francis — in the rain, with umbrellas — is one the pilgrims won’t forget. (Seven of the students had never traveled outside the United States.) Memorable, too, is the sight of President Obama for those who caught a glimpse of him. The pontiff and the U.S. president met for the first time in Vatican City on March 27, midway through the pilgrimage.
In addition to the Vatican, the students explored other key places and studied four female saints who have shaped the Catholic faith. Their journey included the Church of San Clemente (to learn more about Catherine of Alexandria, the patron saint of the University), the church of Santa Maria de la Vittoria (Saint Teresa of Avila), and the towns of Assisi (Claire of Assisi) and Siena (Catherine of Siena). Opportunities to pray and attend liturgical services were plentiful, in legendary churches such as Trinita dei Monti, Il Gesu and San Ignacio.
“We could have focused on any number of female saints, but these four had a central role in the geographic region we were traveling to,” explains Svatek. “They were great leaders who stood up against adversity and who responded creatively to different needs in the community. These women represent the qualities we are teaching our students at St. Kate’s.”
Photo by Laurie Svatek
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In their voices...
“Seeing Pope Francis was surreal. Even when he was riding around on the Popemobile, I got a sense of his humility and the joy he feels interacting with people.”
— Ashley de los Reyes ’15, English/theology
“Since I’ve been back, I talk about how Rome works as a city. There are no sidewalks, just streets up to the buildings.”
— Wesley Pivec ’14, theology
“In Assisi, I kept getting a feeling like I belonged there.”
— Erin Leu ’14, English
“Coming back, and going to Mass now, I am so filled with the Holy Spirit.”
— Katlyn Dusek ’15, international business/economics
“It was interesting to see how universal the Catholic Church is. You can feel at peace even though the Mass is in Italian.”
— Alyssa Fogarty ’17, public health/pre-OT
“I noticed the way the cross is different in different places.”
— Justine DeJesus ’15, nursing
“It was life changing.”
— Edith Sanchez ’14, psychology
“My uncle taught me to look at churches, and so in Italy, I looked at churches. They had frescoes and paintings, and were very much alive.”
— Lorena Ramirez ’14, exercise and sport science
“Siena was one of my favorite places. I’m going to move there someday.”
— Jennifer Rocha ’15, political science