When scholars start the application process to reside at The Lay Centre, sometimes they are simply looking for a nice place to stay, centrally located, good food and a short commute to their chosen university. But The Lay Centre package offers so much more. It opens up a window of opportunity unlike any other available in Rome. The scholars take part in a dialogue of life where encountering the other, prayer and action are important facets of their daily lives.
In the words of one of our students, Gabriele Calista: “At The Lay Centre I feel at home, I can talk about my life, my experience, and my goals because people actually listen. I feel part of a great family with people from all over the world. This year in our house there are four different religions and we look at the different creeds as an opportunity to create friendship and build bridges."
The dialogue of life that happens at The Lay Centre is not confined to conversations. The scholars actively participate at various levels in what happens, from being part of a team that assists in setting up for events, welcoming people and generally acting as hosts. Such events range from public conferences, panel discussions and retreats, to welcoming university groups. Another team takes care of overseeing the smooth running of the community spaces.
Another innovation this year, to promote dialogue and to learn from each other’s cultural traditions, has been the inclusion of evenings entitled Taste of the World – a typical national dish is prepared by The Lay Centre catering team and the scholar whose nation is represented that evening has an opportunity to tell the community about different aspects of their own culture and traditions.
Birthdays are another great source of fun and community-building. Nobody feels forgotten at The Lay Centre! Birthdays are celebrated in style. A birthday buddy organizes the evening, special decorations are put up, a card is signed by everyone and there is always a small gift, and a big birthday cake!
Finally, prayer: in addition to a weekly community evening including Holy Mass, the scholars organize opportunities to pray together. Prayer moments are often ecumenical and interreligious; they can take the form of meditation and reflection.
The scholars themselves are coming up with new ideas for 2019. We will continue to keep you posted on what is happening!