By Monica Prandi (Lay Centre leadership scholar) & Lay Centre staff
ROME — Life is never dull at The Lay Centre — even during a pandemic — with our Leadership Scholars’ creativity in organizing stimulating programs for our 2020-2021 resident community. The latest — “Dies Academicus” — is a weekly gathering where residents can share their academic or cultural interests with the community.
Nicknamed “The Lay Centre’s Got Talent,” after the well-known TV program, the Dies Academicus has one Lay Centre resident “taking the chair” for 30 minutes before dinner on Fridays to teach, share or inspire the rest of the community with a topic of their choice, followed by a Q&A.
The idea hatched during the first lockdown of 2020, when all public activities were cancelled, and formation opportunities diminished. The residents still wanted to interact and share with each other their various charisms, knowledge and experience. These regular appointments allow the students to learn more about and from each other. In addition, these sessions serve as a good training ground for residents to practice presenting and public speaking.
Mirticeli Dias de Medeiros, a doctoral student at the Pontifical Gregorian University, gave the first session Dec. 4 on Zoom. She presented on the topic, “Francis and the Sultan. A historical analysis, starting from ‘Fratelli tutti.’” Medeiros shared her historical research and reflections on the historic meeting between St. Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil in 1219, which marked a fundamental stage in the dialogue between believers of different religions. She linked historical facts to the present time and underlined how Pope Francis is inspired by the saint and his historic interreligious meeting, not only in the title of his 2020 encyclical, “Fratelli tutti, on Fraternity and Social Friendship,” but in his hope that such events can replicate today and become an everyday occurrence.
The next week, Marianna Beltrami, an intern at the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, offered a presentation on “Ecology, Politics & COVID.” She spoke about the immediate and long-term effects of COVID. She drew from the teachings of Pope Francis in “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” to highlight that care for the planet is fundamental to counter the rise of disease and to secure the well-being of mankind. There are choices to be made, explained Beltrami, which involve politics, policies, economy and ecology.
Loredana Fabijanic, a doctoral candidate in social sciences at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, presented the subsequent week on the theme “A Cross, Local Politics and Historical Research.” Her starting point combined a childhood memory and the right dose of curiosity. Nearby her grandparents’ house in her native Croatia is a stone cross that was built by a local resident who emigrated to the United States. No one seemed to know why the cross had been erected and no one seemed to care. When the mayor declared that he wanted to knock it down or move it to free up the land for new buildings, Fabijanic’s simple curiosity turned into a thorough historical investigation — or rather a “manhunt.” She located the heirs of the man who built the cross and learned that the benefactor had wanted the cross built to thank God for having been among the very few American soldiers who had survived the D-Day landing in Normandy. Historical research highlighted the important testimony of the monument and it was saved. A plaque was installed that explains the story of the cross.
Photo courtesy Lay Centre scholars
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