By Donna Orsuto
ROME - When I first arrived in Rome 40 years ago to study at a pontifical university, I was quite a rarity. While women had already been admitted to study at pontifical universities at that time, we still were few in number and many questioned why lay women would choose to study in a mostly male, clerical and ecclesial environment.
Much has changed since then. While only a handful of pontifical universities have statistics readily available online, the percentage of lay women studying at these institutions in recent decades has visibly increased.
The paths that bring them to a pontifical university’s door are all very different, but their motivation is similar: to serve the Church and its people with compassion, integrity and profound knowledge of the faith. Like many of the men who study here in Rome, they, too, feel called.
They leave their homeland, seeking to be formed in the tradition and in the mind of the Church — and in the heart of the Church — so as to be authentic witnesses and remarkable professionals in their chosen field. Here, in Rome, they find the combination of knowledge and experience that leaves an indelible mark on their formation and, consequently, on their careers.
We at The Lay Centre are blessed to have met and even welcomed many of these women over the past 35 years. Many of them have gone on to serve the Church in wonderful and outstanding ways. Their commitment is inspiring.
For this reason, we decided to compile the series “Lay Women Study at Pontifical Universities,” which offers the testimony and experiences of 12 women who chose to study at a pontifical university and how it has impacted their professional lives.
The first interview in the series features Dr. Linda Ghisoni, who is under-secretary for the lay faithful at the Dicastery for Laity, Family and Life since 2017. Dr. Ghisoni studied and taught at the Pontifical Gregorian University. We were delighted that she accepted to be part of this series.
Over the past 35 years, there were many exceptional Lay Centre alumnae to choose from, more than we could possibly accommodate in our first go at this series. However, we tried in our selection to be representative, inviting women from various parts of the world of different ages, cultures and professions.
We hope you will enjoy this series and find their insights, experiences and service to the Church and the world both edifying and inspiring.
Photo courtesy Donna Orsuto