By A.J. Boyd
ROME — As part of The Lay Centre’s 30th-anniversary celebrations during this Holy Year of Mercy, three interwoven events in July — an alumni reunion, an academic seminar and a pilgrimage — highlighted the past, present, and future of The Lay Centre.
The Alumni Reunion, from 3 to 5 July, gathered 20 current and former Lay Centre community members. They visited the current and previous Lay Centre residences in Rome, shared stories from the past, and engaged in dialogue about the future of the community.
The alumni first visited the Collegio Innocenziano and the Palazzo Pamphilj on Piazza Navona, where The Lay Centre opened in 1986, under the protective oversight of the Ladies of Bethany, who operated their ecumenical guesthouse, Foyer Unitas, there.
Continuing the historical tour, alumni visited the Pontifical Irish College, where The Lay Centre community resided, from 2001 to 2009, in what is now the Villa Irlanda guesthouse. The current rector, Msgr. Ciarán O’Carroll, presided at a Eucharistic liturgy in the college chapel and offered a generous reception to welcome the alumni back to their previous home.
After an introduction to the Caelian Hill site on the grounds of the Passionist monastery — the current Lay Centre location — the heart of the reunion got underway with storytelling, sharing about the strengths and weaknesses of the community and its programs, and visioning for the future.
What emerged is that alumni with the strongest connection to The Lay Centre have often been those who came expressly looking for intentional community — a home in Rome — and gave the most to community life, whether officially or unofficially. In every case, the theme of community as the very essence of The Lay Centre repeatedly came forward, even in calls to consider more lasting ties and identity beyond the normal student experience.
The heart of The Lay Centre’s mission and identity has always been to offer an intentional Catholic Christian community of prayer, fellowship, and formation for scholars and students engaged at the Roman pontifical universities. Marked by a charism of ecumenical and interreligious hospitality learned from the Ladies of Bethany during the years at Foyer Unitas, nearly 270 people have called The Lay Centre “home” in the past 30 years.
Immediately following, from 6 to 9 July, most of the alumni remained to participate in an academic seminar, “Full, Conscious, and Active: Lay Participation in the Church’s Dialogue with the World,” co-sponsored by the College Theology Society. Read more about the seminar here.
The third part of the anniversary series was a pilgrimage through Rome on the theme “God’s Mercy Endures Forever,” from 10 to 15 July. Read more about the pilgrimage here.
Participants at the Alumni Reunion included:
Donna Orsuto, 1986-2016
Riekie van Velzen, 1986-2016
Lynda Robitaille, 1986-1989; 1991-1992
Claudia Kock, 1991-2001; 2009-2010
Jim Keating, 1993-1995
Sandra Keating, 1993-1995
Dianne Traflet, 1993; 1995-1997
Catherine Stevenson, 1994-1995
Lisa Buratti, 1996-1997; 2001
Stephan Kampowski, 2000-2006
Robert White, 2003-2012
Andrew (A.J.) Boyd, 2009-2013; 2016
Anna Surrey, 2009-2011
Doyen Nguyen, 2010-2011
Filipe Domingues, 2012-2016
Linda Taggart, 2012-2013
Rebecca Cohen, 2013-2016
Hansol Goo, 2014-2016
Michael Canaris, 2014-2015
Visiting around the reunion:
Stian Heggedal, 2009
Eveline van der Ham, 2009-2010