Lay Centre helps American student put theory into practice

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Lay Centre helps American student put theory into practice

By Olivia Bee

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Hello! I am Olivia Bee; a graduate student at Georgetown University, working towards a master’s degree in conflict resolution with focuses on interreligious dialogue, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and protecting the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

Georgetown awarded me with a fieldwork abroad fellowship, which provides me with funds to cover the majority of my living and travel expenses for a 10-week internship in a foreign country during the summer months.

I was lucky enough to land an internship with a digital media design firm in Rome that works specifically with the Vatican, Catholic religious orders, and other Catholic organizations. I worked on project management and client relations for them as the point-person between clients and the firm’s designers and developers.

Though this may seem to be an odd fit for a conflict resolution master's student, I felt that it would be important to spend time at the heart of the Catholic Church in order to better understand how the church conducts its interfaith dialogue work. I am beyond blessed to have had the opportunity to spend this time in Rome, and this internship also provided me with valuable skills to understand the complex world of digital media advocacy and project management better.

However, my time in Rome was about more than the tasks I completed during my internship. It was also about the lived experience in a different country and culture, and what I could learn about intergroup relations, culture, conflict, and peace. For these reasons, I wanted to reside at The Lay Centre.

Words cannot describe the impact The Lay Centre had on me. During my time, there I attended an ecumenical prayer service with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople and an Iftar dinner at the Istituto Tevere. I also had the honor of meeting the former Israeli ambassador to the Holy See.

It is important in my vocation not only to practice inter-religious dialogue in the office and in my research, but to also practice it in my everyday life. The Lay Centre allowed me to do this and I am extremely grateful.

Even more importantly, The Lay Centre was a family to me. My birthday happened to fall within the first week of my stay, and the community did not miss a beat. I entered the dining room to decorations, a card, a birthday hat that I wore the entire meal, and a small gift. After dinner they even rolled out a cake and popped open some prosecco. This is just one small example of their incredible generosity. Every day I lived there, I felt more and more at home. 

When studying how other people live and interact in their daily lives, it can be easy to forget that you, too, must live your life in an intentionally open and loving way.

How can one encourage others to interact with those who are different from them, to respect and love those with differences, or to protect the least among them, when one does not practice these things themselves? The Lay Centre helped to ensure that these practices permeate every aspect of my life and, for that, I am grateful.

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