Prayer, vocations and the pastor of St. Peter's Basilica

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Father Agnello Stoia, OFM Conv, pastor of St. Peter's Basilica, with members of The Lay Centre community
Father Agnello Stoia, OFM Conv, pastor of St. Peter’s Basilica, with members of The Lay Centre community

The third round of community evenings for the 2022-2023 academic year was dedicated to moments of dialogue with guests willing to share about their life and mission for the Church in Rome. 

Community evenings this year have been held around themes that touch on the synodal dimension of the Church. This time, among the 10 thematic nuclei proposed by the Synod, the community discussed “Dialogue in Church and Society,” “With the Other Christian Denominations” and “Authority and Participation.”

Recent guests included:

  • Father Michele Gianola, undersecretary at the Italian Bishops’ Conference, who spoke about vocational discernment.
  • Archbishop Ian Ernest and his wife, Kamala, Rev. Fr. Teodosio Roman Hren, OSBM, Rev. Matthew Laferty and Rev. Daniel Chapman, who joined an ecumenical prayer service.
  • Father Agnello Stoia, OFM Conv., the parish priest of St. Peter’s in the Vatican, who spoke about the pastoral life of this unique church.

The joys and challenges of promoting vocations
Father Gianola visited The Lay Centre on the vigil of the feast of the Immaculate Conception. Over dinner, he shared interesting aspects of and stories from his ministry and underlined the importance of sustaining lay vocations in the Church. He recalled that all Christian vocations have a common root, which is the call of baptism.

He said the different vocations in the Church are in a relationship of reciprocity in a way comparable to the multiple faces on a polyhedron. He invited everyone to constantly pray for new vocations and to be open to welcome God's presence in life through Jesus Christ. 

"Do good; seek justice." (Is 1:17)
In preparation for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (Jan. 18-25), The Lay Centre community organized an ecumenical prayer service Dec. 17, led by Archbishop Ian Ernest, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s personal representative to the Holy See and director of the Anglican Centre in Rome. It was an opportunity for a deeper reflection on the theme of the Week of Prayer, chosen by the Minnesota Council of Churches, USA, and inspired by the first chapter of the Book of Isaiah: a call for justice in the face of oppression everywhere in the world. 

Other guests included Father Teodosio Roman Hren, OSBM, vicar general of the Ukrainian Catholic Apostolic Exarchate in Italy, erected by Pope Francis in 2019, for the pastoral care of Ukrainians in Italy and San Marino. The exarchate currently has 62 priests and 170 parishes. Father Hren is a canon lawyer and invited professor at several pontifical universities in Rome.

Rev. Matthew Laferty, director of the Methodist Ecumenical Office in Rome, and Rev. Daniel Chapman, minister of the Ponte Sant'Angelo Church, were also guests in attendance. 

Being Pastor of St. Peter’s Basilica
On the first gathering of the new year, Jan. 11, The Lay Centre community had the opportunity to meet the pastor of St. Peter’s Basilica, Father Agnello Stoia, OFM Conv. He spoke about his work in building bridges between the Diocese of Rome and the Holy See.

His position is quite unique as one of the first collaborators of another Franciscan, Cardinal Mauro Gambetti, OFM Conv., who is archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, vicar general of His Holiness for Vatican City and president of the Fabric of Saint Peter. 

St. Peter’s Basilica must be recognized as a place of prayer where one can experience God at the heart of the Catholic Church, he said. One of his main projects, aimed at revitalizing the spiritual life of that local church, is the “Lectio Petri” series, which features events throughout the year related to the life and ministry of the Apostle Peter. The inauguration of the series was marked by a video mapping event, a video on the life of Peter that was projected on the façade of St. Peter’s for two weeks last October. 

While St. Peter’s parish has a very small territory – the basilica itself and the square – its mission is directed to the world, Father Stoia said, describing this mission as a heart that receives and pumps blood from and to different parts of the Church’s body.

These evenings are important for community members to strengthen their friendships and discuss issues relevant to their academic and professional journeys. 

Filip Veber

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