I received a Young Scholars Grant from the University of St. Thomas to complete a 400 hour summer research project. My topic is something very dear to my heart: "Where have all the sisters gone? The Shift from Religious to Laity in 20th Century American Catholic Education." Thus most of my time has been consumed with interviews, reading articles, gathering data, and now writing a final report to synthesize and analyze everything. I have gotten the chance to meet some fabulous educators and have learned a lot about Catholic schools and the history of the Church in America. I have also squeezed in a few little excursions this summer - a road trip to Grand Forks with my dear friend Audrey to visit my sister Christine, a family vacation at Bonnie Beach resort in Otter Tail County, and a Bernardi reunion trip up to Duluth for a priestly ordination of a young man we met in Rome! God is good!
Somehow I have managed to find a few moments for reflection this summer about this unbelievable experience I had for four months. I have found myself counting my blessings and discovering many graces that the Lord poured out during my time overseas that I had not previously realized. This process won't soon be over - I think it may take the rest of my life to fully comprehend everything I did and learned in Rome. Every person the Lord placed in my path, every site that I visited, every experience of beauty, every conversation I had...yes, my worldview now is so different, having seen the sun shine on the other half of the globe, having to "do as the Romans do" for a semester.
People asked what was the worst thing about Rome...and though the lack of public restrooms was often bothersome and the crazy traffic wasn't the greatest, I always have to say, that there weren't enough hours in the day to do everything I wanted to! It was all about finding balance between my obligation as a student, the desires of my soul as a pilgrim, the travel and sightseeing opportunities as a tourist, and the relational and social activities as a friend. My love for the Church, the Holy Father, priests and religious, the saints, and the Eucharist are so much greater. My desire for silence, simplicity, and freedom in obedience have been realized. Praise God for these insights!
It is great to tell stories, to share photos, to talk about my experience with those who weren't there...yes, reliving some of these moments brings a smile to my face! The screen saver on my laptop is a photo slide show of all my photo archives, so to see pictures pop up from various parts of the semester is always a delight! I have had the chance to try my hand at a few cooking experiments over the course of the summer in the attempt to "relive" some of my new favorite cuisines - Spaghetti carbonara and pear & Gorgonzola pizza from Italia, pierogies from Polska, and even soda bread from good old Ireland. (They didn't turn out half bad...but they are also not quite the same!) Oftentimes I find myself popping into the chapel for a moment or biking up to adoration at Church to spend some time with the Eucharistic Lord...this is my connection to all the Catholics I got to meet throughout my semester. United as one Body of Christ!
It is so good to be home in America, "land that I love!" I truly am blessed to be here in this great state of Minnesota, in the land of hot dish and mosquitoes once again. There is comfort about my house, the Target and Cub Foods that I know, my home parish, and the good old quad and arches at UST. What a joy to walk "the loop" near my house or the Mississippi River walk once again. Yes, I missed the USA. But Rome, indeed the heart of the Catholic Church, will forever hold an irreplaceable spot in my heart. God-willing I will go back again someday. But to he whom much has been given, much is required. It is up to me to be a saint here in Minnesota, to allow my experience to bear much fruit in the lives of those around me.
I think it seems only appropriate to close with a quote from the wonderful G.K. Chesterson about this city: "Rome wasn't loved because it was great. It was great because it was loved."