This past March, he and I took advantage of a small window of time to visit the “hub” of our Pauline Family, with the specific desire to meet and get to know more of our Pauline brothers and sisters in the various congregations. And that we did! Hosted at the resident house and offices of the delegates to the Institute of Jesus the Priest and the Holy Family Institute, we enjoyed the delightful hospitality of Fr. Emilio Cicconi, the National Delegate of IJP, and Fr. Roberto Roveran, co-delegate for the Holy Family Institute (HFI). Though our Italian was minimal ... OK, nada ... we “conversed” as best we could with them, as well as with a married couple of the HFI, Carlo and Immacolata Vollaro, who volunteer to maintain the house for one month a year.
|Sr. Emi Magnificat is in the center.|
The lack of space here makes it impossible to even highlight our stay. Let me at least whet your appetite for when you might experience the breadth of our Pauline Family! We began our first full day Monday visiting St. Paul Outside-the-Walls so as to “consecrate” our pilgrimage visits with the Pauline Family. No doubt he came through!
On Tuesday, Sr. Germana Santos, FSP, drove us out to Tor San Lorenzo to spend much of the day with 24 professed Daughters from numerous countries around the world preparing for their final vows. That number includes Sr. Emi Magnificat Bratt, an American. This beautiful retreat house on the Mediterranean Sea outside of Rome became the perfect backdrop to meet and listen to Don Guido Gondolfo, SSP. Sr. Germana became our voice and ears for this mini-retreat of sorts. To our delight, all of the professed sisters spoke English. We were treated later that day to a tour of the generalate of the Daughters.
On Wednesday, we visited the Ariccia Retreat House that Blessed James Alberione built on Lake Albano, where Pope Francis has made his last two Lenten retreats with the Roman Curia. After a delightful visit, we travelled around the lake to Castel Gandolfo where the Vatican has the summer home for the popes. Pretty good neighbors to have! The highlight that afternoon and evening was visiting with the Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles, or Apostoline.
Theirs is the youngest, or last, congregation founded by Blessed James in 1957. These beautiful Apostoline Sisters dedicate their lives to working with young people in numerous ways, and assisting them in learning about and discerning their vocation in life: married, single consecrated, religious or ordained. What a wonderful visit we had with a dozen sisters and the superior general, Sr. Marina Beretti, AP, as they shared with us their life and apostolate. Everything was translated by one of their own postulants. The evening ended with a beautiful liturgy with joyful music (must run in the Pauline Family!) Even Fr. Michael’s homily was simultaneously translated into Italian.
Thursday was another full day, as Sr. Bernadette Reis, FSP, kindly gave us her whole day. She began by translating a great conversation with Don Giuseppe Forlai, a diocesan priest and member of the IJP, who teaches at the Pontifical Lateran University. It’s only when you get to Rome that you realize how connected and well respected all of the Pauline congregations, institutes and Cooperators really are.
Sr. Bernadette then took us both to the personal rooms of Venerable Mother Thecla Merlo, who co-founded the Daughters with Blessed James. She lived a very simple life, but one very rich in the Pauline spirituality and apostolate. At the provincial house of the Daughters of St. Paul, we enjoyed a wonderful visit and lunch. Afterward we toured the tremendous Queen of Apostles Basilica, where both Mother Thecla and Blessed James Alberione are buried. Then we visited the generalate of the Society of St. Paul, where we were able to celebrate Mass in the chapel of Blessed James and visit his personal rooms. There the Pope, Blessed Paul VI, visited the Founder shortly before his death.
Saturday saw our last day of visits assisted by Sr. Karen Marie Anderson, FSP. She accompanied us to a beautiful general house not far from the Daughters of St. Paul—that of the Sisters of Jesus the Good Shepherd (SJBP), who work in parishes alongside parish priests. Our conversation with these Pastorelle drew us into a deeper appreciation and love for the sisters and their apostolate.
Ever too brief, our visit with all of the Paulines convinced us that we truly are of one founder, one mission, and one family. So much more do I now look forward to getting to know more of our sisters and brothers around the world and especially in my own back yard!
*********Join us for a Pauline pilgrimage to Rome and Piedmont during the Daughters of St. Paul Centenary Year! Details at http://bit.ly/1ePpmMU.
Fr. Edward M. Riley, a priest with the archdiocese of Boston, is a novice with the Institute of Jesus the Priest. He serves as Dean of Men at St. John's Seminary, Boston.