By Paige Pagan
As the Lay Centre’s 30th-anniversary alumni reunion comes to a close, I realize I have learned many lessons. Of course, I met all new faces, as this is my first summer interning at The Lay Centre. Therefore, I didn’t expect to learn so much about The Lay Centre and the community that makes it up, and then to hold these lessons so close to my heart.
In these few days I have captured many moments in my mind. I can only hope that one day in the long future I will come back to Rome and visit The Lay Centre. Whether it will be in the same location or run by familiar faces, I know that I will still be able to call it home as all these alumni do. The biggest and most valuable lesson I have learned from the alumni reunion is community.
It was so interesting and heartwarming to see where The Lay Centre was located previously, such as at Piazza Navona and the Irish College. What was particularly touching about these visits was hearing the memories associated with the locations from the vast group of alumni. I saw one woman’s eyes brim with tears as she remembered for the first time in a long time her beautiful bedroom view of St. Peter’s Basilica. I saw the smile on another woman’s face as she described the hall where the nuns lived at the Piazza Navona location. I heard the laughter of a small group of alumni reliving the memory of someone who had fallen into the pool at the Irish College location. As I visited both previous locations and learned about The Lay Centre’s history, I realized that it took an entire community to start it and then to make it flourish. It started with a dream and it blossomed into a bright reality.
At the end of the day, when we had our 4th of July dinner, my lesson of community was very apparent. At this moment I allowed my own memories of the past few days to pass through me. I remembered carefully planning out the duties of the days to come with Hansol, A.J., and Filipe, setting up for the first alumni dinner with Rebecca, Anastasia, Sam, and Jamal, reading at mass with Linda Taggart, given the opportunity by Donna to present the orchids to the ambassador, and my short conversations with all the alumni. I know that I will hold these wonderful memories for a lifetime.
The alumni had come together and, even if they had not all lived at The Lay Centre at the same time, they still conversed like old friends. They were all willing to help and ready to share their past with others. I feel blessed and honored to have been given the opportunity to meet such a diverse and nice group of people. Unknowingly, they taught me the significance of a close community that identifies as a family.
As the 30th-anniversary alumni reunion comes to a close, I have discovered that though the alumni will go, their spirits carry The Lay Centre toward continued success. Likewise, The Lay Centre will always exist in the hearts of the alumni because it was such a big part of their lives.
Photos by Paige Pagan