Lay Women Study at Pontifical Universities

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An interview with Mrs. Anna Abraham - Lay Centre alumna 2009-11

Lay Women Study at Pontifical Universities

Mrs. Anna Abraham, part-time lecturer at Vianney College, Wagga Wagga, Australia, talks to us about her "call to be involved with the formation of others in ministry" and the need today for lay people "to spend the time to study in order to be qualified to lecture in liturgy" and other theological disciplines.


What was your area of study and which pontifical university did you choose and why?

In Rome, I completed a licentiate in sacred theology specializing in liturgy. I had two options of universities. Initially, I enrolled at the Pontifical Athenaeum of St. Anselm because it is historically the place for sacramental and liturgical studies in Rome. However, once I was in Italy, I was really homesick, so I enrolled at the last minute at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross because its program was only two years long instead of three. In the end, I was very happy with my decision, as I really loved my time at "Santa Croce."

What opportunities did your studies offer and how are your studies at the pontifical university related to the work you do today?

My decision to enter into theological studies came about because I felt a call to be involved with the formation of others in ministry. I thought these studies would help me to be effective in this endeavour. It also happened that there were opportunities for me to lecture at Good Shepherd College in Auckland, New Zealand, once my studies were complete. Even though I had a job lined up, it certainly helps to have a degree from a pontifical university to secure jobs in the Church.

What advice would you give lay women who would like to study in Rome?

Rome is an incredible city to be the backdrop of one's studies. We often used to say to each other at The Lay Centre, “Do not let your studies get in the way of your education,” meaning there is so much of the Church to experience in Rome. The environment in Rome lends itself to a much more holistic experience of the faith of the Church and its history. In saying that, coming from a small town in New Zealand, Rome was a bit of a culture shock that took some adjusting to.

How did your studies help you to become more able to serve the Church and society?

My studies were helpful to be involved in the theological formation of those preparing for ordained ministry. My desire to study my faith from all angles meant that I have pursued other interests outside theology, mainly the need for catechesis in the lives of children and those participating in the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Perhaps my studies have helped to foster in me a studiousness that inspires me to keep on being open to different ways of serving in the Church.

What do you think is an area of most pressing concern in your field of study or of your profession?

What is really pressing I think is finding people who are willing to spend the time to study in order to be qualified to lecture in liturgy. Certainly my experience in New Zealand and now in Australia, where I currently live, is that people who have done those kinds of studies are small in number. I think there is a great opportunity for lay people to step up here as the number of priests sent for further studies is dropping because they are needed in parishes. I imagine other theological disciplines are also in need of more people, too.

What, in your opinion, is the importance of the role of the laity in the Church at a decisional level?

Wherever one finds oneself in the Church, I think the important focus is how one is contributing to the mission of the Church to evangelize. If you are in a position where you are making important decisions on behalf of the Church, I think it is crucial to make those decisions through that lens. Each person, ordained or lay, has a role to play.


Anna Abraham grew up in New Zealand and, after her school years, worked in youth ministry. In 2006, she began a bachelor of theology and went on to complete her licentiate in sacred theology, specializing in liturgical theology at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome from 2009 to 2011. Anna returned to New Zealand and lectured at Good Shepherd College in Auckland before moving to Canberra with her husband, Gavin. She currently works part time, lecturing at Vianney College in Wagga Wagga.

Photos courtesy Anna Abraham. We also asked our alumnae to share a special photo from their Lay Centre days. Anna shared the one below taken at the Vatican Railway Station. Anna volunteered to help with a fundraiser for Caritas Internationalis, which involved a steam train ride to Orvieto, Umbria.


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