By Elena Dini
ROME ó At the end of her stay in Rome, Adeline Diaz, 21, shared a few thoughts about her time at The Lay Centre. Diaz is working towards a degree at St. Mary's College of California with a double major in theology and psychology, and a minor in ethnic studies. She came to Rome for one term at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).
Why did you decide to come to Rome and stay at The Lay Centre?
I am very close to a priest who regularly brings students from St. Maryís University here for the January term program. Iím the second student from my university to stay at The Lay Centre for a longer period. Students who come usually decide to go to John Cabotís University and are usually placed in apartments with other Americans. But I chose to come here because I didnít want to experience America outside of America. On the one hand, I wanted a very immersive experience, and on the other hand, the classes available at John Cabot for my degree were in psychology. It did not make sense for me to take courses in psychology in Rome since Rome is the best place to learn theology, so I connected with the Angelicum.
Your degree sounds really interesting. Could you tell us more?
The three subjects I focus on ó theology, psychology and ethnic studies ó are really different from each other. Nobody would think to study such different subjects (at the same time), but this helps me with what I want to do after college, that is, work for faith-based nonprofit organizations. Ethnic studies will help me with minority populations. Psychology will be a help to work with the homeless population and orphanages, and theology because I want my work to be centred in God.
Did your time in Rome and at The Lay Centre meet your expectations?
It definitely exceeded it. I didnít think that my experience would have been extremely immersive because I didnít think I had enough time to learn Italian. But here I have been immersed in different cultures that I would have never known about if I werenít living at The Lay Centre. Having to deal with stereotypes was an interesting experience, too: I identify myself as an Asian American, my surname sounds Spanish but I sound American, though I donít look American, and people do not immediately understand that. Furthermore, being the youngest, both in the community here and at school, was not something I was expecting. I was also one of the few lay people at the Angelicum.
Did the experience of being in a different context have an impact on the way you live your faith?
I think it definitely did. Before coming here I had some problems with the Church because of all the scandals happening in the United States, not only in Philadelphia but also in Sacramento, California, close to where I live. My experience in Rome has really dissolved that fear and distress because, by learning with seminarians, who are future priests, I realize that they are in good hands and learn good theology. Moreover, the guests we had here at The Lay Centre were so interesting and helpful in that regard. Once we had a priest who works as a canon lawyer at the Vatican and to hear that there is progress, even if we donít see that in the media, is encouraging. This is the best place to learn theology and to grow in oneís faith because it is the heart of the Church. I have been really blessed to go to so many events because of The Lay Centre, which I wouldnít have even imagined if I werenít living here.
Is there any memory of these months you particularly treasure?
I celebrated my 21st birthday here with the community and it was my favourite experience. I felt so loved and that I belonged to the community. It was so affirming to be part of it, and the idea that I am leaving soon made me feel sad. I hope I will see everyone again.
What will you do once you are back home?
I will take new courses at the university and I am planning to join as a volunteer St. Anthony, a Catholic organization. Itís a well known organization that provides a number of services: they have a dining hall, where I already interned, they provide medical services and organize meetings with high school students so that they better understand poverty. I want to work in that department, organizing bigger groups to educate them about poverty and the importance of being in solidarity with people in need. Hopefully, after I graduate in one yearís time, I plan to move to Calcutta for a few months to serve with the Missionaries of Charity.
Any final thoughts youíd like to share?
I think this experience is really rewarding with everything going on in the United States and the racial divide. People are closed-minded about other peopleís cultures and values. It is so nice to come to The Lay Centre, where there is such a diversity of cultures, languages and religious beliefs that you cannot find in many other places. I have never experienced anything like this. Everybody needs to experience this so that they could be more open-minded and respectful of others. I wish more Americans would study abroad. I guess that would fix a lot of problems.