A visit to the Eternal City created a lifetime of memories for members of St. John’s University’s Catholic Scholars program, who made a pilgrimage in January to Rome and Vatican City, seats of the Catholic faith.
A dozen St. John’s juniors and seniors, led by Sr. Patricia Evanick, D.C. ’97GEd, Campus Minister for Faith Formation and Leadership, spent 10 days at the University’s Rome, Italy, campus visiting religious and historical sites, all in an effort to enhance their spiritual commitment. It was, several students said, a life-altering experience.
The pilgrimage included visits to St. Peter’s Basilica, the catacombs—ancient burial grounds used by early Christians—the Colosseum, and the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. The St. John’s contingent even joined others in an audience with Pope Francis.
“As a person of faith, it was an incredibly moving experience,” said Sarah Quispe, a senior from Richmond Hill, NY, studying Psychology at St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I gained a much deeper understanding of my faith by seeing so much of its history.”
“It was an unforgettable experience that certainly brought me closer to God,” added Carmelo Acquista, a junior from Flushing, NY, who is studying Accounting at The Peter J. Tobin College of Business.
“I was amazed to be in the papal audience, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Basilicas, along with other historic parts of my religion.”
Catholic Scholars is a multidisciplinary program designed to cultivate new generations of Catholic leaders. Students receive a $5,000 scholarship for each of their four years of study and join faculty and campus ministers in monthly meetings, lectures, retreats, and prayer experiences that integrate faith and service.
The pilgrimage to Rome is offered to members of the Catholic Scholars program to supplement their commitment to the faith. It is voluntary, but students said the itinerary made it nearly impossible to pass up.
The audience with Pope Francis, held at St. Peter’s Basilica, featured a cheer from the crowd for the St. John’s contingent and followed a visit to the Vatican Necropolis and the presumed tomb of St. Peter.
“Seeing so many religious sites and celebrating Mass in the place most pivotal to the establishment of Catholicism, I knew I would grow in my faith,” said Brooke Mosca, of White Marsh, MD, a senior studying Communication Arts at The Lesley H. and William L. Collins College of Professional Studies. “It was also a wonderful way to bond with my peers in a special way during my last semester. It truly was a life-changing experience.”
“It is important for our Catholic Scholars and future leaders to take part in this transformational experience of faith in action,” Sr. Evanick added. “What a holy and beautiful experience it was at St. Peter’s to see so many people come together to pray and sing.”
The St. John’s contingent departed January 8 and returned on January 17, just ahead of the start of spring classes. Other highlights included trips to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel, home of Michelangelo’s famous ceiling fresco designed to represent the relationship between God and man.
The cohort even visited the trendy Trastevere section of Rome and enjoyed some wonderful Italian cooking, according to Sr. Evanick. “Our days were full of learning in such a holy place for our faith,” she said, “and we had some delicious Roman dinners.”