Akiko Bremar, Contributing Writer
Most University of Dallas undergraduates who have spent a semester in Rome can reminisce about the beautiful Due Santi Campus and its vineyard in the backyard, and about visiting Castel Gandolfo 10 minutes away, walking inside the Sistine Chapel for the first time or simply eating gelato at Old Bridge.
This summer, graduate students will also have a chance to gain such memories.
The School of Ministry will take a group of students to Rome for its summer program from June 12-22 this year. In this very condensed 10-day program, students have the opportunity to take one of two courses offered.
This year, the two course options are “Theological Reflection” with Dr. Dan Luby and “Vatican II” with Dr. Marti Jewell. Complementing the courses, associate professor of theology Dr. John Norris will be giving tours of various sites in Rome.
Because the program is so compressed, students typically read for the course before leaving for Rome, stay in class for long hours each day, receive lectures on tours and do additional work after the program is over. Professors make sure to spend the same amount of time working with their students in the Rome program as they would spend with their students in Irving.
Though the time is short and the workload demanding, students find the program to be all the more enriching and rewarding.
“The Rome experience is three-dimensional,” Luby said. “It’s hearing about things and, in many cases, being in the site where these things have happened. It’s also about being in the thick of Catholic ecclesial life. There is a kind of unique intensity to being a Catholic in Rome.”
Graduate students first started going to Rome in the summer of 1990. Sr. Catherine McIntyre, RJM, director of the SOM at the time, brought a few students to the first Rome Campus in Vitinia. Two years later, Dr. Luby and his wife brought another group of students with them.
It was not until around 2000 that the SOM began taking students on a more regular basis. Since then, trips have been made almost every summer with groups ranging from 10-18 students.
“Many students have been to Rome before; some are in their 40s and 50s and have traveled before,” Luby said. “But if they have, they stayed in hotels in the city where it is noisy, crowded and ‘Roman.’ Being out in the beautiful setting with the ground and the groves has a contemplative aspect to balance the intensity and excitement of touring in the city. The campus is so idealistic and pastoral, which is a surprise to a lot of our students.”
Geralyn Rea, SOM student and coordinator of graduate enrollment and student services, agrees that having a program in Rome is beneficial.
“Rome is an incredible experience no matter who you are,” Rea said. “I think the instructors here would agree that our study of ministry and study of theology is particularly appropriate in Rome.”
According to Norris, who will be leading tours to complement Luby’s and Jewell’s courses, spending time in Rome also offers these graduate students an opportunity to experience the universality of their faith, both among all believers today and with those who came long before.
“Following in the steps of St. Peter and Paul, we also become pilgrims, as we leave the Due Santi campus and head along the Appia into the heart of Rome itself, passing the still-magnificent remains of the ancient aqueducts, passing the church of Quo Vadis, where Peter turned back to Rome to face his martyrdom,” Norris said, describing the trip from Due Santi to the first Mass at St. Peter’s.
“The beauty and light and color [of the church] is almost too much for everyone to take in. Singing and praying and hearing the Word of God, and then celebrating the Eucharist at the living heart of the Church is an unforgettable experience.”
This is the first year that the undergraduate and graduate programs will overlap with one another. Classes and tours will be kept separate, but all students will share the Due Santi Campus.
“I think it is a great opportunity for us to be connected to the larger University of Dallas experience,” Luby said. “Being in Rome is such an important part of most people’s experience of going to UD. It is great for the graduates to be able to have that opportunity.
“As an American who studied in Rome, Sister Catherine understood how even a fairly small dose of Rome can really be transformative. It is so important for our theological tradition and pastoral tradition. There are just so many elements of our tradition that have Roman roots or connections. This is why we all go to Rome.”