by Guillermo Treviño
As a Roman Catholic, I have always wanted to go to Rome to see St. Peter’s and the pope. My mother is a widow and we could never
afford such a trip. It was just a dream until I approached diocesan vocations director Father Thom Hennen about a program that seminarian Kevin Anstey from Ottumwa participated in last year called the Rome Experience. Kevin recommended that I should go. The summer program was started with the intention of giving seminarians from U.S. dioceses an opportunity to study and see Rome.
There was an application process through Midwest Theological Forum which organized the trip and accepted 30 seminarians from all over the United States. I was blessed to be accepted — the only seminarian from an Iowa diocese. The trip began May 20 and we arrived first in Barcelona, Spain. We visited the place where St. Ignatius of Loyola wrote the spiritual exercises and Montserrat, Spain, where St. Ignatius laid down his sword.
What a memorable first day in Europe for me! Ignatius is my confirmation name. I was thinking to myself, “How could this trip get any better?”
We spent two days over the Memorial Day weekend in Lourdes, France, and saw military bands from all over the world. I met Supreme Grand Knight Carl Anderson of the Knights of Columbus and the military archbishop for the United States, Archbishop Timothy Broglio, who asked what diocese I was from. Usually I have to explain to people where Davenport is, but not Archbishop Broglio. He told me he was from the Cleveland Diocese just like Bishop Martin Amos, our diocesan bishop. What a small world.
On Sunday, May 26, we began a five-day silent retreat at Ars, France, which is home to St. John Vianney, the patron saint of priests. Ars had a powerful impression on me because it was very peaceful, out in the country. On Saturday, June 1, we left for Rome and arrived at the CIAM (International Center for Missionary Lands) on the campus of the Pontifical Urban University. I was able to see St. Peter’s Basilica from the dining room and classroom. We are taking four classes: Papacy and Patronage of the Arts, History and Theology of the papacy class, Vatican II: Historical Context, and biblical theology of the priesthood.
The main theme of the classes is that people’s lives are most touched through holy men and women, the saints and through the beauty of the arts. It’s amazing to see so many saints buried here and the beautiful artwork. On Sunday, June 2, along with three other Rome Experience seminarians, I was able to be three rows from the Holy Father’s chair for the worldwide eucharistic adoration. I was humbled to be there and amazed at seeing the new pope so close up.
I visited the Pontifical North American College in Rome and saw our diocesan logo there. The college has a great view of the city of Rome, but it is not as close to St. Peter’s as I am. I had dinner with some of my Conception Seminary College classmates who are now studying at the North American College. It was great to see those guys after three years. The weather is really hot, so gelato (Italian ice cream) is very popular. Of course, it’s not as good as Whitey’s (a Quad-City specialty).
On a typical day we have three hours of prayer, three hours of classes, an hour of study and spiritual direction and sightseeing in the afternoon. I was able to visit the Gesu, where St. Ignatius is buried, and was shocked at the beauty of the altar in the church. Even after being here in Rome for three weeks, there’s no way I can see it all, but I’ve seen a lot: the four major basilicas, the Roman coliseum, the Sistine Chapel, and the tombs of many saints such as St. Monica, St. Gregory the Great and St. Cecilia.
We were able to attend the Holy Father’s Mass on the feast day of Saints Peter and Paul. We concluded our trip with a stop at Nurcia and Assisi. We were scheduled to fly back July 2, just in time for the Fourth of July.
I feel truly grateful for having been given this opportunity to come and study in Rome and want to thank the people of the diocese for their support. Know of my prayers for all of you there, please pray for me.
Ciao as the Romans say.
(Guillermo Treviño is a seminarian for the Diocese of Davenport, 3rd Theology, Mundelein Seminary, Mundelein, Ill.)