LINCOLN (SNR) – A Mass in the Clementine Chapel beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, close to the Apostle’s remains, a tour of the Apostolic Palace and an 8-mile midnight pilgrimage to the Shrine of Divina Amore were among the highlights of the first international trip for the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture.
Three Newman Institute students accompanied director Dr. John Freeh for the 12-day pilgrimage, which capped the first full year of the new venture. The Institute offers undergraduates interdisciplinary classes in the Great Books, along with hosting speakers on topics related to Catholic thought and culture.
“It is always a great privilege to be close to Peter and close to the heart of the Church,” Freeh said. “And it’s always a joy to introduce our students to all that Rome has to teach us through its history, art and architecture.” The Newman Institute will alternate annual trips between Rome and other places, such as the Holy Land, Poland and Panama, the site of the next World Youth Day, Freeh said.
The Apostolic Palace adjoins St. Peter’s Basilica and houses the papal apartments and chapels, including the formal reception areas painted by Michelangelo, Raphael and other Italian Renaissance masters. Lincoln priests, Msgr. Richard Gyhra and Msgr. Thomas Fucinaro, who serve as Vatican officials, had arranged for the tour, which was given by Msgr. William Millea, from Bridgeport, Conn., who works for the Holy See’s Secretariat of State.
“We were treated royally by the Lincoln priests and seminarians,” Freeh said. “They showed us wonderful fellowship and hospitality even at this busy time of year for all of them.”
The Newman Institute students attended Sunday Mass at the North American College and had an Italian meal with Msgr. Gyhra, Lincoln priests Father Matthew Rolling and Father Jim Morin, and diocesan seminarians Andrew Schwenka and Joseph Wahlmeier.
The students also attended the general papal audience May 17, and took part in the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Mary at Fatima. That celebration included a rosary procession from the station church of Santa Croce to Saint John Lateran Basilica, where a Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the vicar general of Rome.
Students Anna Meduna, who graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln this semester, and UNL undergraduates Rowena Owen and Elizabeth Geren were among those who attended the Newman Institute’s spring course, “The Literature of Mercy, Compassion and Forgiveness.”
“The trip to Rome revealed to me anew how great God’s love is for the human race,” said Meduna, who graduated from UNL with a degree in agronomy. “He did not create us simply to exist or to fill a need. He has created us in his image and from the beginning he has desired beauty and unity for us.”
According to Geren, who was received into the Church this Easter at the Newman Center, “This trip made real to me that Jesus is truly present everywhere. No matter what masterpiece of beauty or architecture we saw, it paled in comparison to being in the presence of Christ in the Eucharist.”
Freeh said the annual trips are intended to teach students about Catholic thought and culture and to complement what they learn in class. The trips will be a regular part of the program, he said, along with speakers, social events and opportunities for service.
The Newman Institute plans two undergraduate courses in the fall semester: “Introduction to the Great Books I: Seekers, Sojourners and Pilgrims,” which was offered for the first time last fall; and “Love and Friendship,” a new seminar that will include the study of works by Aristotle, Augustine, Shakespeare and Willa Cather, among others. Students may earn three credits for the courses through St. Gregory the Great Seminary and then transfer those credits to UNL or other area institutions.