Studies in Rome by Michal Kruszewski, CR
In most of Europe, unlike in the U.S. and in Canada, university classes begin in October and finish at the end of June. So it is in Italy, at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where I'm studying. The beginning of the Academic Year 2010/2011 began last month, and so I have returned from my summer internship in Canada and a vacation in my hometown in Poland, and I am now back in Rome to take my last semester of Theology. People ask me often how it is to study at a Pontifical University, somewhere away from home and in foreign language. I want to share with you some of my experiences.
Certainly, studying in any foreign country and language is not easy. But it also is not impossible. There are thousands and thousands of foreign students in Rome who are living proofs of that, and I am one of them. It has certainly given me countless new experiences and challenged me positively many times. Italy, and Rome in particular, is mesmerizing. Italian culture, history and art are amazing, and it is simply impossible to experience them all at once. I’ve been living in Rome for more than three and a half years now, and there is still so much to see, to hear, to visit… and to eat! Anybody who has ever savoured a genuine Italian cuisine will agree with me on that one. So many pastas and sauces, incredible pizzas and gelatos, uncountable varieties of cheese and wine…
Obviously, these aren’t the only reasons why I’m enjoying my studies in Rome. Apart from the beautiful landscapes, great people, delicious cuisine and a beautiful melodic language, the academic value of theological studies in Rome is to be mentioned, too. I have a great grace and privilege to study at the Gregorian which is the university at which to study Theology among many other pontifical and lay universities in Rome and in Italy. Its library alone possesses more than 900 000 volumes. It was founded in 1551 by St. Ignatius of Loyola, and since then it has educated 23 saints, 51 blessed, 16 popes, countless cardinals, bishops, clergy, religious women and men, as well as lay students.
At the moment, one third of all the cardinals and more than one fifth of all the bishops in the world are Gregorian’s alumni. It is still being run by the Jesuits and one third of the professors are members of this particular order from all over the world; there are also many other international diocesan and religious priests, sisters and lay people teaching there. The Gregorian used to be called “Universitas Nationum” (“University of the Nations”), and this particular characteristic continues to be true today: there are 405 professors coming from more than 50 nations teaching here, and more than 2800 students from more than 130 countries and all continents studying here at the moment. Among these, there are almost 900 diocesan priests, 600 diocesan seminarians, 400 religious priests and 250 religious seminarians, 200 religious sisters and some 500 lay women and men. The vast majority of the courses are being taught in Italian; however, there are six official modern languages of the University (Italian, English, Spanish, French, German and Portuguese) in which one can submit essays or take an exam.
All these numbers and facts clearly show another great advantage that the Gregorian and all the other pontifical universities have to offer. It is the experience of the universality, the diversity, within the unity of the Church. This is, in my opinion, one of the most uplifting and faith strengthening experiences that a Catholic university can offer. In no class or textbook would I ever have a chance to get to know all the many different faces of the same Roman Catholic Church. In my class there are some 140 students from all over the world, representing many various nations, languages, cultures and Church traditions. All of us young people, whether sisters or brothers, seminarians and lay students, share our various different experiences of the Church we all belong to.
I’ve been enriched by so many testimonies of those who suffer, who are being persecuted because of their faith or orders; I’ve seen many faces of the rich and prosperous Church, and of the poor one, too; I’ve heard and seen old and the young Church communities, as well as communities that dying and those where the churches and seminaries are full. Our Church is so rich in traditions, cultures and races and it speaks countless languages that I would never have had the slightest chance to experience any of it, if I stayed in my home parish. And this, I believe, together with the high quality theology courses, are the main advantages of studying in Rome.
Obviously, life in a foreign country is not always easy and one has to adapt to its culture and customs, otherwise life may be too demanding. I have to admit that life in Italy has its “dark sides” too, but these are only a few and certainly have no power to overwhelm its many colourful sides. I thank God who gave me this particular and unmerited possibility of studying at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and I try hard not to disappoint Him and my community.
Hopefully, this current semester will be as life-giving and challenging as the other ones have been; it’s my last one here in Rome at this point in my life. On December 8, 2010, God willing, I will profess my final vows with the Congregation of the Resurrection and later on be ordained a transitional deacon, so please keep me in your prayers – I will certainly need them. I will also continue to pray to God that I might serve His people, the Church and our Congregation well, and I will continue to thank God for my Roman studies that enriched and prepared me to do so in so many different ways. May God bless you all! And don’t be afraid to say YES to whatever way of life He calls you!