#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fuelled by social media and collaboration, and The Lay Centre is taking part!


Celebrated on the Tuesday following the U.S. celebration of Thanksgiving — and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday — #GivingTuesday kicks off the charitable season, when many Americans focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community.

Since you are part of the online community of The Lay Centre, we would like to invite you to become more active in supporting our mission and work this #GivingTuesday.

The Lay Centre depends on the generosity of our friends and benefactors, so that we may continue to form laypeople for their vocation to serve the Church and the world and to promote ecumenical and interreligious dialogue.

This November 28, join the movement and give — whether through a donation or your prayer.

For more information on how to support The Lay Centre, please click here.



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On the Peripheries: Exploring paths to nuclear zero

By Samantha Lin

ROME — From the interplanetary to the afterlife, the Vincent Pallotti Institute’s adult faith-formation series this autumn has dealt with the periphery in many unexpected ways. This past week was no different.

The Lay Centre welcomed Professor Carole Sargent and Father Drew Christiansen, SJ, for their talk, “On the Peripheries: Exploring the Paths to Nuclear Zero” on 9 November. Both guests are professors at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. They were in Rome for a Vatican summit on nuclear disarmament, entitled “Perspectives for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Development.”

The two speakers wove their talks together in discussing, from both the policy and the grassroots perspectives, the paths to end nuclear proliferation. Father Christiansen traced unwavering Vatican support to lobby countries to pass nuclear bans and to create working groups of countries that have already agreed to nuclear non-proliferation.

Father Drew Christiansen, SJ, Donna Orsuto, and Professor Carole Sargent

Dr. Sargent instead focused on the role of religious sisters in protesting nuclear weapons. She spoke of Sister Megan Rice, who committed the largest breach in U.S. nuclear security history, when she and two colleagues broke into a secure uranium-processing site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where they painted anti-nuclear weapons graffiti, prayed and broke bread. As part of the Plowshares Movement, Sister Rice was determined to bring national attention and condemnation to the nuclear weapons industry in the United States.

Father Christiansen pointed out that success in nuclear proliferation treaties, in the past, have come from highlighting the humanitarian impact that nuclear weapons and nuclear manufacturing have. This marriage of humanitarian and political concerns is a hopeful glimpse into what could have a major impact in creating worldwide anti-nuclear treaties, he said.

The said, in the many diverse and creative ways of resisting nuclear weapons, there is hope for a better, more peaceful future.

On Thursday, November 16, we will continue the series, this time “From the centre to the peripheries, from the peripheries to the centre. Jewish – Christian Relations.” To help us explore these peripheries, we will welcome Rabbi Joseph Levi, Former Head of the Jewish Community of Florence, and Philipp G. Renczes, S.J., Professor, Pontifical Gregorian University (co-sponsored by Cardinal Bea Centre for Judaic Studies, Pontifical Gregorian University).

To register for the series contact info@laycentre.org


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Interfaith Café: a look at interreligious dialogue and the EU

By Samantha Lin

ROME — The Lay Centre welcomed speakers and guests for the first Interfaith Café of the academic year on 31 October. This Lay Centre tradition is being expanded this year, thanks in part to support from the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See and the John Paul II Center for Interreligious Dialogue.

About 40 people gathered for a discussion with two activists.

Victoria Martin, a Spanish journalist working as a press officer for the Group of the Social Democrats in the European Parliament since 2008, is also the founder and chair of the interfaith association Foro Abraham, and a fellow of the UN Alliance of Civilisations. Her interest in interreligious dialogue grew out of the time she spent in Bethlehem writing an interfaith perspective on the city, a book called Viaje a la ciudad de Belén. Cuna del amor, semilla de intifada (“A Trip to Bethlehem, Cradle of Love, Seed of Intifada”).

Her interest in interfaith and intercultural dialogue continued to grow until she, along with other participants she met at a seminar in interreligious dialogue, founded Foro Abraham, an intercultural and interfaith association that organizes educational and cultural activities across different faith communities in Spain. Martin focused on the grassroots aspects of interfaith dialogue; Foro Abraham has no agenda other than to make connections across communities that would not otherwise interact with each other, she said. She spoke of iftars (dinners to break the Muslim fast during the month of Ramadan) and visits that the Foro has organized that demonstrated the power of being able to put a face to the “other”.

Fearghas O’Béara, coordinator of European Parliament’s official dialogue with churches, and Victoria Martin, Spanish journalist for Group of the Social Democrats in the European Parliament since 2008

Fearghas O’Béara, who has spent the past 20 years working for the EU in Brussels, spoke about interreligious dialogue from a political perspective. He currently coordinates the European Parliament’s official dialogue with churches, religious, and non-confessional organizations. This involves organizing regular dialogue seminars between faith actors and parliamentarians, aimed at bringing a faith perspective to EU policy making.

One of the concrete ways in which he helps to introduce a religious perspective to political questions is through the ongoing negotiations over Brexit. He worked with a group of British bishops who, because of their chaplaincy work in British prisons, are aware of the ramifications of Britain no longer participating in the European prison exchange, which allowed a non-British national, if arrested for a crime in the UK, to serve his or her prison sentence in their native country, so they could be closer to family. He helped connect the bishops with the politicians in the EU parliament in order ensure this issue is examined in the ongoing negotiations.

The Lay Centre community engaged in conversation with the speakers after their presentations, on topics ranging from their hopes for the EU and interreligious dialogue to the historical challenges and prejudice that interreligious dialogue faces.

After Mass, participants were invited to continue the conversation over dinner. It was an evening of fellowship and growth, particularly because The Lay Centre student community was joined by members of the Russell Berrie Fellowship in Interreligious Studies and by representatives from the U.S. Embassy to the Holy See. The many points of view added to the discussion of interreligious dialogue on the local and political levels.

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The Last Periphery: Death?

By Samantha Lin

ROME — Father Edmund Power, OSB, former abbot of the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, shared his reflections on death, purgatory, and the afterlife at The Lay Centre on 2 November, All Souls Day.

His presentation, entitled “The Last Periphery: Death?” was the third lecture in the six-week adult faith formation series offered this autumn at The Lay Centre.

Father Power shared with attendees his belief that death is, in fact, not a periphery but a “centre,” as “all things tend toward the centre.” He frankly, but without macabre, reminded participants that “we are all going to die.”

“Death is a door,” he posited. “We don’t know what’s behind it. Is it even a door? If so, it leads to something else, if not…it doesn’t. Will we find bliss? Will we find suffering?”

The “unknowing-ness” of death, according to Father Power, is the ultimate uncertainty that makes humans hesitant.

“I think it will be quite an adventure,” he said.

The subject was very personal for Father Power, who was diagnosed with a potentially terminal form of cancer. At the start of his chemotherapy treatment, he faced the door of death. He said he confronted this basic fact with faith.

“The only way to serenely cross that door is by gazing at the face of the risen Christ. Everything becomes relative,” he said.

After the talk, Father Power celebrated Mass for the deceased members of The Lay Centre community.

The Lay Centre’s series, “On the Peripheries,” continues today with two Georgetown University professors, Father Drew Christiansen, SJ, and Dr Carole Sargent, PhD.


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Education and the reality of migrants and refugees

by Filipe Domingues

Representatives of Catholic universities worldwide gathered at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome last week  for the international conference, “Refugees and migrants in a globalized world: responsibility and responses of universities.”

The event started on 1 November and closed on 4 November with a private audience with Pope Francis. The meetings were accompanied by the the Holy See’s Migrants and Refugees Section.

One of the main objectives of this event was to discuss what universities have been doing to counter mistaken notions on the issue of global migrants and refugees. 
According to Stephane Jaquemet, regional representative for Southern Europe of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), there are currently 65.6 million forcedly displaced persons in the world. Two-thirds of them are displaced in their own countries and one-third are considered refugees in a foreign country. Among all refugees in the world, 84 per cent are hosted in low- and middle-income countries, not in rich countries.
“Less than 1 per cent of refugees worldwide attend a university course,” said Willi Weisflog, manager of curriculum development at the NGO Kiron Open Higher Education, a social start-up, whose mission is to eliminate barriers for refugees to access formal education. According to the German independent initiative, the Silent University, the path to integration of migrants and refugees in a host society is, first, to help them learn the local languages, then to make sure they have all the documents they need and, finally, to lead those who are capable to study in higher education and to help them with job placement.
The public conferences were available online: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEJbrZR90KVSWs0vrUqGTtw 
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Scientific and planetary exploration is an act of worship

by Samantha Lin

ROME — Brother Guy Consolmagno, SJ, director of the Vatican Observatory, offered the second lecture of the Vincent Pallotti Institute’s autumn lecture series last week, titled “The Peripheries in the Sky.”

Before joining the Society of Jesus, Brother Consolmagno earned his doctorate in planetary science and served with the Peace Corps in Kenya for two years. Soon after taking his vows as a Jesuit brother, he was assigned in 1993 to the Vatican Observatory, where he was named director by Pope Francis in 2015.

Brother Consolmagno said most people must work at “pulling ourselves out of the universe” they think they know. He projected photos and videos of outer space — windswept, sun-beaten, forbidden-looking places, that nevertheless proclaim the glory of God.

As participants looked at images of the moons of Jupiter, the strangeness of the Arctic, the surface of Mars, Brother Consolmagno read excerpts from his favorite psalm, Psalm 139, and St. Francis of Assisi’s “Canticle of the Creatures.”

Brother Consolomagno said scientific and planetary exploration is for him “an act of worship,” a way of getting close to the Creator by marveling in his works.

He then spoke about the evolution of science and its relationship with religion. As science develops, there is a tendency to label everything humans do not understand as “God.” He called this “the god of the gaps.”

Br. Guy Consolmagno, SJ, during his lecture “Peripheries in the Sky”

But, as science evolves and the gaps disappear, God is pushed further away by some scientists and theorists, such as Stephen Hawkings, who, in his writings, replaces the notion of a Creator with the human person and theorizes that people could re-create the Big Bang.

Ultimately, Bother Consolmagno explained, faith tells us that there is reason behind creation.

“God made the universe, the Big Bang is the best description of it. Ultimately it is because the will of God,” he said.

And, when people look for an explanation of the universe, both religion and science tell equally important things.

“Why is there a Universe? Because God wanted a universe. Why is there a Universe? Because the Big Bang happened. Both are equally true and don’t contradict each other,” he said.

For those of you who were unable to attend the lecture, click here: First Part  ; Second Part

The next lecture in this fall series is Nov. 2. For information, go to www.laycentre.org.




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The “Peripheries” series continues

We are delighted that Abbot Edmund Power, OSB will join us for our third morning in the VPI Series “Peripheries in Our Lives”. Abbot Edmund served as Abbot of Saint Paul Outside the Walls from 2005-2015, and Prior at Sant’Anselm from 1997-2004.  Among his writings are Blessed be God: Hymns of St. Paul. On Thursday, November 2nd, Abbot Edmund Power will talk to us about “The Last Periphery: Death?”.   The topic is something that we may all think about at some point in our lives. It is apt that Abbot Edmund will be speaking on this topic on the day we will be remembering our dearly departed brothers and sisters at Mass.

The morning  will begin at 09.30, with a coffee break at 10.15. Abbot Edmund will conclude his talk after the coffee break and there will be time for questions and dialogue before the celebration of Mass at 11.20 in memory of all the faithful departed. We look forward to welcoming you for this morning of reflection and prayer.

On Thursday November 9th, we will continue the series, this time “On the Peripheries: Exploring the Paths to Nuclear Zero.”  To help us explore these peripheries, we will welcome Drew Christiansen, S.J., Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Global Human Development, Senior Research Fellow, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, Georgetown University and Carole Sargent, Ph.D., Founding Director, Office of Scholarly Publications, Georgetown University (Scholar of early-modern Women Political Writers, currently engaging Catholic Women Religious and Nuclear Disarmament).

Drew Christiansen, S.J., and Carole Sargent, Pd.D.

To register for the series contact info@laycentre.org



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