Katie L. Gajewski '12 Among Those Witnessing Canonization of Six Saints in Rome
January 15, 2011
by Bruce Posten
The school of experience leads to many destinations, much knowledge.
You can learn to cope, for example, if you happen to be in a northern Italian city in late fall with the usual 50-degree temperatures plummeting, followed by a December storm dumping 5 to 8 inches of snow on cobblestone streets.
Such quirky weather can force you to get stuck, sleep overnight on your birthday in an airport in one the most artistically inspiring places in the world, Florence, while longing to go home to Birdsboro.
But then you may always have Rome, a memory of a sunny October day witnessing, amidst a sea of humanity in a space the size of two football fields, Pope Benedict XVI presiding in St. Peter's Square at the canonization of saints.
It wasn't a ceremony for just two or three saints, but a half dozen of them, one each from Poland, Canada, Spain and Australia and two from Italy.
The square was filled with the countrymen of those deemed saintly and many others in a quest to celebrate spiritual goodness.
"I will never forget last semester," said Katie L. Gajewski [pictured above with Stonehill College President Rev. Mark T. Cregan, C.S.C. '78], 21, Birdsboro, a junior psychology major at the private Catholic Stonehill College, Easton, Mass., with about 2,500 students, 20 miles south of Boston.
She arrived home from Italy later than expected last month, but just before Christmas, because of wintry weather in Europe that grounded many flights for days.
Naturally, plenty of students opt for global adventures during their college education.
But Gajewski, who spent her fall semester abroad, got a bird's-eye view of the pope and thousands of the faithful who believe in the miracles attributed to those who were canonized as saints.
She saw a mass expression of faith with close friends and her college president, the Rev. Mark Cregan.
"I was raised Catholic, and attended St. Catharine of Siena (Mount Penn) from kindergarten to seventh grade and graduated from Daniel Boone High School in 2008," said Gajewski, one of four daughters of Ed and Linda Gajewski. "I'm a member of Immaculate Conception parish, Birdsboro."
There she was baptized, received first Holy Communion and confirmation.
She also helped out at the soup kitchen, served as a counselor at a vacation Bible school and volunteered at a strawberry festival and for the Special Olympics.
In high school, she served as secretary of the National Honor Society and earned varsity letters in volleyball, basketball and soccer.
At college, she holds two work-study jobs, participates in intramural sports, volunteered at the local Veterans Affairs hospital and at the local chapter of the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.
While open to new experiences and wanting to broaden her educational horizons, Gajewski confessed she never witnessed anything that rose to the level of a theologically sanctioned miracle, not at home or in Rome.
What she did experience on Oct. 17, in St. Peter's Square, was " a sacred moment," she said.
"It was absolutely amazing because there was so much faith, hope and inspiration coming from the people around me," Gajewski said. "People crying and emotional everywhere.
"I think seeing such an expression strengthened my own faith it will affect me everyday in little ways in trying to be a better person, in appreciating my upbringing and being more thankful for what I have."
Originally wanting to become a pediatrician, Gajewski said she found her chemistry courses tough, so she switched to psychology and health-care administration.
She hopes to find a role in a clinical or counseling health-care environment when she graduates.
Besides the spiritual benefits of being in Italy, Gajewski found the country intellectually and artistically stimulating.
"I don't think the courses were quite as challenging as at home, but there were many things to learn involving the language and culture," she said.
She found Italians friendly and more communal, less individualistic than Americans.
She walked everywhere, didn't rely as heavily on everyday appliances, phones or diversions such as television.
"I got closer to people and my roommates," she said. "I would love to go back to Italy sometime."
Gajewski knows, with three semesters still ahead of her at Stonehill, where New England snow is common and Roman Catholic canonizations ceremonies nonexistent, that an education is about being open to experiences, the everyday occurrences and the rarer mysteriously holy ones.
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