Student Shares Experience From Saint Andre's Canonization

October 22, 2010


On Sunday, October 17, the Congregation of Holy Cross along with several members of the Stonehill community, including Katie Gajewski '12, celebrated the canonization of Saint André Bessette, C.S.C. at Saint Peter's Square in Rome.

The first saint from the Congregation of Holy Cross, André was formally canonized by Pope Benedict XVI.

Gajewski, along with several other Stonehill students who are studying in Europe this semester, met up with President Mark Cregan, C.S.C. at his request in Rome to witness the canonization ceremony.

Gajewski is a psychology major, studying in Florence this Fall.

When I received the initial e-mail about President Mark Cregan's visit and the Canonization of Blessed Brother André at the Vatican, I knew I had to make it to Rome. Despite the already planned weekend in Venice, two of my roommates from Stonehill agreed that going to Rome was an opportunity we couldn't pass up.

After a short train ride from Florence, Father Mark was waiting for us in Rome. Accompanying him were Chemistry Professor Marilena Hall, Peg Silver from the Controller's Office and their two guests. Other students joined us, several of whom were studying in Rome, along with a student studying in London, and another studying in Scotland. We enjoyed a delicious Italian meal and discussed the many aspects of Stonehill life. Sitting with my college president, along with faculty and other students, and discussing everything from education to religion on the eve of such a special event was a thrill.

The next morning, we had an early start and a quick cappuccino before heading to St Peter's Square. During an elaborate ceremony under a beautiful autumn sky in Italy, six new Catholic saints were canonized. There were thousands of people surrounding us cheering and chanting waving their native flags in support and pride.

I was half a world away from home in Birdsboro, Pennsylvania, celebrating Mass with the Pope at the Vatican. Never would I have thought that my life would take me to that moment. I was amazed and taken back at the beauty of the ceremony. Despite the mixture of emotions, I have never felt so at peace and had such clarity. In a world where you can't turn on the evening news or flip through paper without discovering some act of turmoil, it truly was a breathtaking experience to witness thousands of people uniting in faith.

Following the service in St Peter's square, we enjoyed lunch and we were joined by Rev. Tom Looney, C.S.C., provincial Superior of the Congregation of Holy Cross. After an unforgettable yet exhausting day, we headed back to Florence.

The next afternoon, Father Mark and Stonehill faculty members arrived in Florence. I was privileged to greet them and give a short tour of my home for the past two months. We saw the historical and cultural sites including the popular Firenze Duomo and we spent some time in the well-know San Lorenzo markets, home of some of the best Italian leather!

To sum up the Italian adventure, we enjoyed yet another delicious meal. What better place to eat than Italy! Over fifteen Stonehill students studying in Florence attended the dinner. As the night came to an end, Father Mark treated us all to some renowned Italian gelato. After a short walk back to the train station, we said our goodbyes and thanks for his tremendous hospitality in hosting us at such an historical and spiritual occasion. No words could explain the gratitude we have for the kindness and generosity Father Cregan, Peg Silver and Professor Hall showed to us.

I knew the weekend would be unforgettable, but I never anticipated the impact it would have. Having the opportunity to celebrate mass with the Pope and others from the Stonehill community not only increased my abroad experience but strengthened my appreciation for going to a school that helped make it possible.

The Mass as the Vatican was something I will never forget. It was truely an eye-opening experience. The sight of thousands of people from all over the world praying together will never cease to amaze me.

Our philosophy statement reads, "a Stonehill education encourages students to develop a lifelong desire for self-discovery and commitment to service that will lead to truly purposeful and rewarding lives."

Building on that, from my experience, a Stonehill education is one where the world is the classroom and lessons come not only from textbooks but experiences such as being a witness to one of the most significant ceremonies with the Catholic Church.

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