Rome Summer Course Stirs Studentsí Perspectives
Ecumenism is to Catholicism what dialogue is to the Church. To be Catholic is to be ecumenical. That was the message students received during the three-week intensive course, “Ecumenical and Interreligious Movements from a Catholic Perspective,” at the Centro Pro Union Summer Course in Rome, Italy.
A total of 17 participants were part of the summer course: 10 of them were registered graduate students from UST, four audit students, one professor, Rev. Donald Nesti, CSSp, and Alain and Marie LeNotre, founders of the LeNotre Culinary Institute in Houston. The course was offered to graduate students for three graduate-level credits.
Father Nesti, director of the Center for Faith and Culture and professor of theology, attended all classes with the students during the course. He said he had high expectations and was not disappointed.
“I knew the courses were going to be good, but it really went far beyond my expectations,” Father Nesti said. “It not only contained the academic and theological material that our students needed, but it put them in the context of being at the center of the Church – the world Church. And also in the context of the history of the Church and all that the Second Vatican Council brought to the way the Church is today.”
In addition to the half-day classes, students were given the opportunity to see some of Rome’s most historic sites during 10 on-site excursions, and during the weekends students took advantage of their time there and went on side trips to Assisi, Florence, Montichiari, Pompei, and Brescia.
Some of the sites visited were the Basilica of St. Peter, St. Clement, a “Roman ghetto,” the Great Synagogue and the Mosque of Rome, attendance at the Pallium Mass with Pope Francis, instructions at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, a visit and Mass at the residence of the Franciscan of Atonement Friars and at the Congregation of the Holy Spirit headquarters in Rome.
Jan Skrehot, associate director of the CFC, said the greatest takeaways for students were the opportunity to experience the historical roots of the Church and to learn from expert scholars and theologians who taught the classes on ecumenism and interreligious movements in the context of the mission of the Church and New Evangelization.
The daily lectures were held in the Pamfili Palace on the Piazza Navona, in the same room where bishops of the Second Vatican Council and Protestant observers of the Council met informally on a regular basis. Here they discussed issues facing the reunification of the Church, discussions that contributed greatly to the teaching of the Council and Church documents.
“We were in the midst of the history – you could feel it – and it was absolutely wonderful,” Father Nesti said. “I think that what the course has done is given students a sense of the beauty of the Church, which is both a human and divine institution, and also given them a greater sense of their own identity as Catholics and a great desire to be a part of the dialogic nature of the Church.”
Catherine Braun, a Master of Arts in Faith and Culture student, said she was deeply moved and humbled by the experience, and realized how much of an impact the here-and-now has on the future.
“Time in history is greater than our mind,” Braun said. “Every soul offers a piece of the truth of God. Whatever we may call him. Our souls search for something greater than ourselves; there is a vast history that has gone before and will go after me.”
By Elaine Rivera