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Christendom’s Semester in Rome is one of the most popular features at the college, with junior students traveling abroad each fall and spring to study and live in the Eternal City.

Christendom’s Semester in Rome is one of the most popular features at the college, with junior students traveling abroad each fall and spring to study and live in the Eternal City. This spring, Christendom students finally returned to Rome for the first time in nearly a year due to COVID-19 restrictions — making them some of the only American students still studying abroad. For those who made the journey, the semester turned into an opportunity to grow in faith in the Heart of the Church, resulting in a transformative experience for all involved.

Christendom last sent students to study abroad in the spring of 2021, before having to unfortunately cancel the fall 2021 Semester in Rome due to COVID-19 restrictions. With those restrictions easing in the spring of 2022, juniors made the trip to Rome for the semester back in February. The group was smaller than usual, and the situation in Rome remained unique from past years. Nevertheless, the beauty and history of Rome still shone as brightly as ever.

“I’ve always loved my faith, but the history of it always seemed so far away,” says junior Sebastian Ghering. “That all changed for me in Rome, having been given the gift of directly encountering the ancient Church, not simply as tourists, but actually living among these places.”

Their very first day in Rome, students entered St. Peter’s Basilica and had a private Mass in front of the tomb of St. Peter. For the entirety of that Mass, the students had the first Pope all to themselves, making the history of the Church feel palpable in a way none of them had experienced before. For Ghering’s classmate Isabel Cleary, the overall feeling was one of being welcomed home.

Students praying before the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi.

Students praying before the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi.

“Being in Rome as a Catholic is an experience like none other,” says Cleary. “Here, all the childhood stories of the heroic witnesses of martyrs and protectors of the faith suddenly cease to feel like stories. I had been told by previous Rome students that being in the city feels like being welcomed home, and I must agree.”

Over the course of the semester, students took four classes: Italian, philosophy, theology, and art and architecture. Studying in the middle of Rome meant that students were able to visit the sites they were learning about in their classes, making something that before seemed abstract become concrete.

“The courses for the Rome semester are set up to complement each other, much like the regular classes on campus,” says Cleary. “Here in Rome, we are living and walking in the same places as what we are studying, and it’s a very humbling experience. In our art and architecture class, which is primarily given in the form of lectures and on-site tours, we can retrace the steps of the great minds of the church and stand witness to masterpieces in their intended contexts.”

Christendom's Semester in Rome Chaplain Fr. Michael Baggot traveled with students during their pilgrimage to Assisi.

Christendom’s Semester in Rome Chaplain Fr. Michael Baggot traveled with students during their pilgrimage to Assisi.

While there were some restrictions still in place, they did not hinder students from opportunities to learn and live in Rome, and especially to travel outside of the city. Students took a pilgrimage to Siena and Assisi, visiting the holy sites of St. Francis, St. Clare, and St. Catherine of Siena, and to Florence as well. In addition to these school-sponsored trips, students had the opportunity to travel on free weekends, taking in even more of the culture and history of Italy and beyond. From Greece to England, from Venice to Ischia, students learned about the cultures and histories of these places, growing in their knowledge.

As they near the end of their semester abroad, Ghering, Cleary, and the rest of the students in Rome are beginning to look back on their semester abroad during such a unique time in the world’s history. For Cleary, one of the many highlights has been the ability to see the world’s most famous works of art in person.

“In Rome and Florence, we were able to visit a few notable museums and see works of art by masters such as Boticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio,” recalls Cleary. “I had previously studied masterpieces such as Raphael’s Transfiguration and Boticelli’s Allegory of Spring, but after seeing them in person I’ve realized how dull and flat they are in photos and copies. These masterpieces were made to be seen in person and in their proper place.”

For Ghering, nothing will be able to top the experience of walking into St. Peter’s Square for the first time.

“Walking into Saint Peter’s for the first time, I was awestruck,” says Ghering. “It was so grand and beautiful, there were so many different colors of marbles and metals and precious stones. Afterward, all I can remember is having this desire to call all my friends and family and tell them about it.”

This year's spring Semester in Rome students.

This year’s spring Semester in Rome students.

The Semester in Rome exists in order to bring Christendom students into contact with the rich history of the Catholic Church. From walking in the footsteps of the saints, to seeing great works of art in person, to experiencing even more of the world, students had the opportunity to grow in knowledge and faith during their time abroad this spring. After nearly a year of being away from Rome, Christendom was finally back in the Eternal City — a fact that filled the participants with gratitude at what they received.

“The proximity to where these saints—these real people—lived and worked and always gave their everything for Christ, deepened my faith more than any book I’ve read or class I’ve taken,” concludes Ghering.

For more information on the Semester in Rome, visit here.

Christendom’s Semester in Rome is one of the most popular features at the college, with junior students traveling abroad each fall and spring to study and live in the Eternal City.
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