By Donna Orsuto
ROME - Isaias Marcano from Mozambique and Zhe Hui (Joey) Wang from China keep fit and jog through the gardens at The Lay Centre, passing a Roman aqueduct on the way, and head out into the city. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, they are “on the move,” an example for us all as we launch into this new academic year.
Amid the uncertainties connected with the pandemic, we at The Lay Centre are convinced that it is important to keep moving. Yes, we will be prudent and cautious, and we will follow carefully the government protocol, but move we must.
Community is key
As our community forms for the new academic year, nearly a full house, with women and men from China, Croatia, Greece, France, Ireland, Italy, Mozambique, Syria, Ukraine, the United Kingdom and the United States, we commit ourselves to study, prayer, community and dialogue.
Dr. Isaias Marcano, Lay Centre Alumnus, will join us for this academic year as Community Life Coordinator. Marcano received his PhD in Social Sciences just one year ago from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) and in the meantime has spent six months at St. Mary’s College of California, USA, in the role of Resident Mentor at the college, and Assistant Professor at the School of Economics and Business Administration.
His experience, and especially his capacity to build up community life, will be of immense value to The Lay Centre during this challenging year.
Of course, our joy is also tinged with sadness, since a few of our community members cannot return to Rome this fall due to travel restrictions. We hope they will join us by the second semester. We are also aware of those people around the world who are still in vulnerable situations, and we hold them in our hearts and in our prayer.
Back to university
We are excited about going back to class at the pontifical universities, which in turn are eager to welcome their international scholars. Without a doubt, the situation is complex, but the decision is a courageous one and was taken after careful discernment by the university authorities. For safety reasons, we may need to teach and to study using a variety of pedagogical methods. This current crisis has stretched us and also encourages us to greater creativity and flexibility.
Staying in touch online
To our many friends around the world, we look forward to hosting you virtually this October for our second online series, “Nurturing Resilience.” It will offer written reflections in a Christian key that will help us to discover resilience by clinging to a loving God and embracing a life shared in community. The series will conclude with a webinar with some of the contributors and other speakers.
In the weeks and months to come, we will move forward with courage and perseverance, continuing to do what must be done to protect the health and safety of our community members and others. This means, wearing a mask sometimes, for example, as when attending the outdoor mass organized in the courtyard of the Basilica of Santi Quattro Coronati by the Augustinian community of nuns (see photogallery below).
We are creating safe spaces at The Lay Centre to help build community, as we did, for example recently at our socially distanced picnic in the garden (see photogallery below).
Hospitality, in the spirit of Foyer Unitas, is really at the heart of our mission, defining who we are as an institution. We pray for you all and look forward to eventually welcoming our friends back to The Lay Centre once again.