As is tradition, Wednesdays at The Lay Centre offer moments of dialogue on topics that reinforce the spirit of hospitality and community. Esteemed guests help the resident community in laying the foundation for a year characterized by unity, dialogue and meaningful encounters.
“Together” is the theme that will accompany the community throughout the 2023-2024 academic year. The theme was inspired by the ecumenical vigil in St. Peter's Square with Pope Francis, held Sept. 30 to pray for the works of the first general assembly of the Synod on Synodality, and to pray for Christian unity and peace among peoples.
The themes of the many workshops organized in Rome that day before the vigil will inspire the Wednesday gatherings this academic year.
In October, we addressed the following themes: “Together, welcoming each other across borders for a life which is more beautiful and more just”; “Together with believers from throughout the centuries through cultural journeys in Rome”; “Together, seeking the source of communion in God in prayer”; “Together, let us build Europe,” and “Together, announcing Christ at the new frontiers of mission.”
At the inaugural community evening of the academic year, Father Vivian Boland, O.P., a respected expert in Thomas Aquinas and professor at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), presided over Mass. After dinner, spoke about how Dominicans build a strong community, emphasizing the significance of fellowship and the importance of sharing spiritual growth among members. Nurturing a fruitful community life depends on sharing silent prayer, but also intentional shared moments of conviviality and leisure.
On a separate evening, Bishop Paul Tighe, secretary of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, spoke about how Christians can engage in fruitful dialogue with contemporary culture, which is not always welcoming to messages from the institutional Church. He also shared insights on the dicastery's work, emphasizing cultural initiatives that promote encounter among people from diverse backgrounds.
On the feast of St. Luke, Cardinal Joseph Tobin, archbishop of Newark, New Jersey, and a member of The Lay Centre’s board of directors, joined the community for Mass and dinner. A member of the synodal assembly of the Synod on Synodality that month, Cardinal Tobin spoke about the movements of the Holy Spirit within the Church, promoting unity in diversity among Church members. He invited Christians to become good and attentive listeners.
In the last community evening of October, The Lay Centre discussed Christianity and the Church in Italy. Father Rocco D'Ambrosio, a professor of political philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and Prof. Isabella Santini, PhD, an economist, statistician and professor emeritus professor of both the Gregorian and La Sapienza universities, spoke about their pastoral experiences in the country. She is a lay woman who has served the Church for more than 30 years in different instances, particularly in charity initiatives and as a teacher.
He shared the statistics on Catholicism in the country and listed some challenges the Church faces in the secular age. He said even though Catholic culture is very integrated into Italian culture, fewer people have been attending Church services. On the other hand, he expressed optimism about the fact that many – even if they are not Christians – still search for God and wish for a deep spiritual life.
Contributed: Stefanie Bross
Photo: Evelyn Blacklock