Anglican friends visit us at The Lay Centre


Sebastian Harries, Ruth, Donna Orsuto, Jean Chiswell, Giles Frampton

Congratulations to the Anglican Centre in Rome that celebrated its fiftieth anniversary on October, 5th.

By Donna Orsuto

The various celebrations culminated with vespers at San Gregorio presided by Pope Francis with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, taking an active part in the service.  It was a beautiful moment of prayer together and also a call to go out to the world and serve others side by side.  During the Homily Pope Francis said:

“To work always and everywhere as instruments of communion is a great calling.  It involves working for the unity of both the Christian family and the human family.  These two goals are not only not opposed, but are mutually enriching.  When, as disciples of Jesus, we serve together side by side, when we promote openness and encounter, and reject the temptation to narrow-mindedness and isolation, we are working both for the unity of Christians and for the unity of the human family.”

At the end of the Vespers, in his reflection, the Archbishop of Canterbury reminded us that “While we rejoice that our Good Shepherd is the one who rescues, we also know that we – each of us, all of us, every Christian – is called to be his feet and hands and mouth. We are the mouth that calls, the hands that pick up, the feet that cross any obstacle to find the lost sheep and bring it home.”

We at The Lay Centre appreciate the strong bond of friendship that we have with the Anglican Centre and are grateful for the opportunities we have had in the past to collaborate and we look forward to serving others side by side into the future.

During these days, it was also a special joy to have five Anglican friends visit us at The Lay Centre visit:  Clare Broadent, a longtime friend, joined us for an evening to meet the new community.  Staying with us in these days were Jean Chiswell, a retired diplomat who volunteered at The Lay Centre for several years, Sebastian Harries, recently ordained a deacon and now serving at The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Lingfield, Surrey, England, Rev. Ruth Frampton and her husband Giles. Ruth was ordained in September and now serves as Assistant Curate in the Benefice of Salcombe and Malborough with South Huish, Devon, England.

Sebastian and Ruth stayed at The Lay Centre as part of an Anglican exchange program, where Anglican ordinands come to Rome for a period of study and Ecumenical Placement.

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A time to reflect on the present and to recalibrate for the future

Inaugural Commun

Inaugural Community 1986-1987

Thirty years in Rome, the “Eternal City,” does not seem like a long time, and yet we at The Lay Centre are taking time to mark this anniversary. For us, it is an opportunity to remember the past, to reflect on the present with discernment, and to recalibrate our mission for the future.

We remember the past with gratitude, especially the nearly 200 people from 60 countries who called The Lay Centre home for their Roman sojourn; the 12,000 people who participate in our local and international programs; and the many men and women who took part in our more than 220 international programs over the years.

As we launch into the next decade, we have come to the conclusion that, more than ever, the Church and society need well-trained leaders, as well as men and women committed to dialogue. As Pope Francis recently remarked, “the Holy Spirit acts in and with” the laity, who are “the real protagonists of history” (taken from the Pope’s letter to Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, made public April 26).

Donna Orsuto, Director of The Lay Centre

Over the years, the programs and scope of formation offered by The Lay Centre have expanded. The resident community remains relatively small, compared with the number of lay students in Rome, but the impact of the centre is extensive.

To know more about our history, please go to our Anniversary Page and join us in this happy moment.

Anniversary Page


Lay Centre Students 2015-2016

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Visit from the Australian Catholic University

On Thursday evening, 22 September, The Lay Centre hosted a study group of 18 people from the Faculty of Theology and Philosophy, Australian Catholic University (ACU). The participants were mainly lay postgraduate students, doing a master’s degree in theological studies.  They are from various cities in Australia, as ACU  is a multi-campus university and they work mainly in the field of education.  The group is in Rome for two weeks and the unit title is “Spiritualty in the Christian Tradition.” The study group is led by Professors Jo Laffin and Maeve Heaney. Professor Heaney is a consecrated member of the Verbum Dei Missionary Fraternity.  The Lay Centre hosted a short talk by its director, Donna Orsuto, followed by dinner and evening prayer for peace in the garden.


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The Lay Centre ‘became our university, too’

As The Lay Centre prepares to welcome a new group of students for the start of the academic year, we are pleased to share with you the reflection of Emil Anton, one of our former residents from Finland, who resided and studied at The Lay Centre this past year.

By Emil Anton

ROME — The Second Vatican Council describes the nature and mission of the Church as being like a sacrament, a sign and instrument of union with God and the unity of the human race (Lumen Gentium 1). I found The Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas to be the perfect embodiment of precisely that. The Lay Centre is doing exactly what the Church is supposed to be doing. It is Catholic, but it is also ecumenical and interreligious, and it was the perfect place for me and my wife, Beata, to live in while in Rome, the heart of the Church.

The Second Vatican Council also talks about the universal call to holiness (LG chapter 5): not only priests, nuns and monks but also ordinary laypeople are called to sanctity. Although people in the community were obviously very different, we felt that at The Lay Centre we were surrounded by saints, ordinary holy people, beautiful examples of both Christian and human virtues: joy, humility, generosity, etc.

Emil Anton

Emil Anton and his wife, Beata, in front of the Coliseum

As one of the winners of the Karl-Schlecht-Stipend, I was able to spend four months in Rome in order to work on my doctoral dissertation on Pope Benedict XVI and interreligious dialogue. My academic contact in Rome was Father Felix Körner, S.J., a professor of the Pontifical Gregorian University, a great friend of The Lay Centre. Both he and the only other Finn to have lived at The Lay Centre, Katri Tenhunen, recommended the place to me, and both my wife and I were very happy to live in this multinational community.

As we did not have to attend any lectures at the university, The Lay Centre became our university, too: we spent most days in our room reading and writing, and we also took part in events organized by The Lay Centre, such as the Vincent Pallotti Institute lectures, “Scriptural reasoning” and “Interfaith café”. We were also able to borrow many interesting books from other Lay Centre residents, as well as The Lay Centre library, and we learned many new and inspiring things from the various visiting priests and speakers on Wednesday evenings.

For me The Lay Centre served as a means of “connecting people”. Through The Lay Centre, I was able to meet some well-known Catholic writers such as Father James Martin, S.J., from America and John L. Allen Jr. from Crux. Furthermore, without The Lay Centre I would not have known of many interesting events in Rome, such as lectures at pontifical institutes and special liturgies around Easter.

In sum, our experience at The Lay Centre was overwhelmingly positive, and we will miss many things: the beautiful music and interesting homilies at the Wednesday evening Masses, the views to the Palatine Hill and the Colosseum from the garden, the good food and the good laughs we had at our common meals. At the same time, I do not want to overromanticize our time at The Lay Centre, either: there were also challenges and some difficult moments, such as when Finland lost to Canada in the ice hockey world championship final.

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Autumn Lecture Series – 2016

Praying the psalms in troubled times


We are pleased to invite you for the Vincent Pallotti Institute’s Autumn Lecture Series. This year we will welcome Abbot Edmund Power, OSB, who will be our speaker.

For more information and for those who want to participate, please contact us:

Tel.: +39 06 772 6761


VPI 2016

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For me, life means Christ, and death is gain

Today is the Feast of St. John Chrysostom (349-407),  one of the great preachers (his name literally means “golden mouthed”) of the early Church.


A sermon by St John Chrysostom

The waters have risen and severe storms are upon us, but we do not fear drowning, for we stand firmly upon a rock. Let the sea rage, it cannot break the rock. Let the waves rise, they cannot sink the boat of Jesus. What are we to fear? Death? Life to me means Christ, and death is gain. Exile? ‘The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord. The confiscation of goods? We brought nothing into this world, and we shall surely take nothing from it. I have only contempt for the world’s threats, I find its blessings laughable. I have no fear of poverty, no desire for wealth. I am not afraid of death nor do I long to live, except for your good. I concentrate therefore on the present situation, and I urge you, my friends, to have confidence.

Do you not hear the Lord saying: Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst? Will he be absent, then, when so many people united in love are gathered together? I have his promise; I am surely not going to rely on my own strength! I have what he has written; that is my staff, my security, my peaceful harbour. Let the world be in upheaval. I hold to his promise and read his message; that is my protecting wall and garrison. What message? Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world!

If Christ is with me, whom shall I fear? Though the waves and the sea and the anger of princes are roused against me, they are less to me than a spider’s web. Indeed, unless you, my brothers, had detained me, I would have left this very day. For I always say “Lord, your will be done”; not what this fellow or that would have me do, but what you want me to do. That is my strong tower, my immovable rock, my staff that never gives way. If God wants something, let it be done! If he wants me to stay here, I am grateful. But wherever he wants me to be, I am no less grateful.

Yet where I am, there you are too, and where you are, I am. For we are a single body, and the body cannot be separated from the head nor the head from the body. Distance separates us, but love unites us, and death itself cannot divide us. For though my body die, my soul will live and be mindful of my people.

You are my fellow citizens, my fathers, my brothers, my sons, my limbs, my body. You are my light, sweeter to me than the visible light. For what can the rays of the sun bestow on me that is comparable to your love? The sun’s light is useful in my earthly life, but your love is fashioning a crown for me in the life to come.  (taken from Universalis).

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My wonderful life in Rome

Hi, everybody. My name is Minsu Li-Ching Chang in Taipei, Taiwan.

Thanks to the scholarship from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and its Nostra Aetate Foundation, I had a great opportunity to live at The Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas and to study at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome, Italy, for five months from 28 January to 29 June, 2016. It was a wonderful experience and now a sweet memory.


Minsu (at left) and The Lay Centre students at a general audience with the pope

I’m a follower of the T’ienti (God) Teachings (a new 36-year-old religion) in Taiwan, the Republic of China, and the first Nostra Aetate Foundation fellow in my community. I was very lucky to stay at The Lay Centre.

The Lay Centre is situated on Rome’s Cealian Hill, near the famous Colosseum. It is in one of the buildings inside the monastery of the Passionists. It’s very quiet and beautiful, and we can watch the beautiful sunset from its terrace.

My housemates came from different religions and countries. There were Catholics from the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mozambique, Poland, Finland and Italy; an Anglican from England; a Jew from Israel; a Unitarian and Universalist from Canada; Orthodox followers from Egypt and Greece; a monk from Myanmar; and Muslims from Indonesia, Germany and Pakistan. We had interreligious conversation all the time. I learned a lot at The Lay Centre.

There were many religious and academic activities sponsored by The Lay Centre. I joined some of them. They were terrific. I attended the regular Scriptural Reasoning Forum and Interfaith Café. We learned about different religions and shared personal viewpoints on certain topics and texts. I even made my first visits to Catholic basilicas and churches, a Jewish synagogue, a Greek Orthodox church, and an Islamic mosque, and attended their prayers. It was amazing and I was touched.

The Lay Centre also organized sightseeing, such as a trip to Tivoli, a visit to Castel Sant’Angelo, and an open bus tour around Rome at night.

We had great chefs to make delicious meals and desserts every day. I miss them very much.

Everybody staying at The Lay Centre needs to contribute to community life. My responsibility was to get the fresh bread at the front door every morning and to bring it to the student kitchen upstairs for everybody’s breakfast. It was a difficult job for me because I had to set my alarm clock and wake up early. But I’m free of that now!

The Lay Centre had a great team, which is why I could enjoy my life there. To the dear staff in the office: Thank you very much. I miss you.

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