By Stefanie Bross
The first week of the academic year at The Lay Centre was full of activities aimed at strengthening the residential community and providing a practical orientation about life in Rome. Under the theme, “Together: Lay Leaders in Christian Perspective,” community members journeyed together, from Sept. 25 to Oct. 1, to set the tone for the academic year.
Building on a new tradition, the community started the week with a pilgrimage and Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica. The pastor of St. Peter’s, Father Agnello Stoia, O.F.M. Conv., took the community on a private visit to the tomb of the apostle.
On that same morning, Lay Centre community members visited the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, where they learned about the work of the Church in promoting the dignity of every human being.
Lunch was offered at Trattoria degli Amici, a restaurant run by the St. Egidio Community in the Trastevere neighbourhood. The restaurant is dedicated to providing meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in a warm and inclusive atmosphere.
Subsequently, art historian Christiaan Santini – who is also The Lay Centre’s operations manager – took participants on a special visit of the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere and the underground sites of the Church of San Cosimato. On another day, he took Lay Centre community members to the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, another pillar of the Church of Rome.
Caring for others and unity in prayer
The week included a workshop session on safeguarding minors and vulnerable people, led by Dr. Angela Rinaldi, professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University’s Institute of Anthropology. She emphasized the importance of promoting safe environments in the Church and spoke about the responsibility of each individual.
Volunteers from the ecumenical Taizé community joined Lay Centre residents for a beautiful moment of prayer for unity and peace in the community and in the Church. On a separate evening, The Lay Centre opened its doors to fraternal delegates from various Christian denominations, mostly from Switzerland, who came to Rome to join the grand event of the week – an ecumenical prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30, under the theme, "Together: Gathering of the People of God."
The event gathered thousands of young Christians from diverse traditions in prayer, praise and silence. Presided over by Pope Francis, the event emphasized recognizing Christ in diversity, building fraternity and caring for creation.