Lay Centre community learns from outstanding storytellers

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The theme for these evenings this academic year, "Together," was inspired by the ecumenical vigil with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square in September

Lay Centre community learns from outstanding storytellers

By Stefanie Bross

Outstanding storytellers were among the invited guests at The Lay Centre’s Wednesday evening gatherings in November and December.

The theme for these evenings this academic year, “Together,” was inspired by the ecumenical vigil with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square in September, where participants prayed for the first general assembly of the Synod on Synodality, for Christian unity and for peace among peoples.

At the first gathering in November at The Lay Centre, Cristiane Murray, vice director of the Holy See Press Office since 2019, engaged attendees in a dialogue on the intricacies of church communications. She is a business graduate and was a longstanding contributor to Vatican Radio’s Brazilian section. One of her responsibilities at the Holy See Press Office is journalist accreditation.

Murray - who brought her mother along for dinner  - explained with joy that her task is to be a bridge builder between journalists and the message of the pope. On that same evening, Mass was presided over by Father Douglas W. Marcouiller, SJ, General Counselor and regional assistant for the USA Assistancy at the Jesuit Curia in Rome.

Gerardo Ferrara, an expert in Middle Eastern history and a member of the student advisory office at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, enriched the conversation with his thoughts on communications and storytelling. In his short talk, he explained how important it is to observe in order to tell a good story. Ferrara settled in Rome after varied international experiences in Spain, France, Argentina, Tunisia, Lebanon and Israel.

At another evening gathering, well-known journalist Austen Ivereigh drew from his biography of the pope, “Wounded Shepherd: Pope Francis and His Struggle to Convert the Catholic Church,” to describe how this pope is leading the Church toward a more missionary and evangelizing era and fostering a culture where all members are called to be witnesses to hope. He said Pope Francis has been a polarizing leader, but a one who sees potential for growth in every crisis. On that same evening, Mass was presided over by Father Andreas Lind, SJ.

The month culminated in a festive Thanksgiving celebration, which included traditions observed in the United States and Canada. Attendees gathered in a spirit of gratitude for a shared meal. 

In December, Father Michael Rossmann, SJ, currently a doctoral student at the Pontifical Gregorian University, shared his insights and the joy he experienced from his time as editor-in-chief of The Jesuit Post and creator of the "One-Minute Homily" series. 

The Lay Centre also observed the feast of St. Nicholas. The festivities began with a heartwarming Christmas prayer, the "Nine Lessons and Carols," a cherished Christian worship service that includes nine short Bible readings  and soul-stirring Christmas hymns. The service, traditionally celebrated on or near Christmas Eve, led attendees closer to the profound narrative of the Fall, the promise of the Messiah, and the miraculous birth of Jesus.

Following the prayer, the community gathered for a brief but delightful aperitif. The highlight of the evening was the much-anticipated visit from St. Nicholas, a cherished tradition upheld at The Lay Centre, since the days of the Ladies of Bethany. The beloved saint, known for his generosity and kindness, made a special appearance, delighting attendees of all ages. St. Nicholas distributed small gifts and treats, bringing smiles to the faces of those present. 

As the December evenings at The Lay Centre drew to a close, there was a palpable sense of gratitude and joy among the student community. It was a wonderful prelude to bidding farewell to the old year and welcoming the new one with open hearts. 

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