Roman Echoes 2015 – Volume 20, Issue 2

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Content EDITORIAL STAFF EDITOR IN CHIEF M. Casey Sanders ‘17 Archdiocese of Louisville MANAGING EDITOR Robert Duck ‘18 Diocese of Tulsa LAYOUT & DESIGN MANAGER Andrew Showers ‘17 Diocese of Madison ASSISTANT EDITORS Joseph Heschmeyer ‘18 Diocese of Kansas City, MO Joseph Scholten ‘17 Diocese of Sioux Falls LAYOUT & DESIGN EDITORS Michael Zimmerman ‘17 Archdiocese of Boston PHOTOGRAPHERS Daniel Hart ‘18 Diocese of Alexandria Leo Song ‘18 Diocese of Rockville Centre


New Rector Fr. Peter C. Harman The College joyfully announces the appointment of its 23rd Rector.



The College bids its Rector farewell.


The Global Vatican The Diplomatic Intrigue of the Holy See

Former US Ambassador Francis Rooney speaks to the College.


The Pontifical North American College

Cover Image: Msgr. Checchio kneels before the Blessed Sacrament before giving his final Rector’s Conference to the College on December 13, 2015.


Thanksgiving A Four-Day Feast From a Turkey Trot to a Spaghetti Bowl, Thanksgiving here is just like home... sort of.

5 Rector’s Corner 6 Father Peter Harman 7 Previous Rectors 8 The Year of Mercy 10 A Roman Thanksgiving 12 The Big Show 13 Faculty Changes 14 The Rector 24 ICTE 26 Sisters Come Home 28 Holy Land Pilgrimage 30 Immaculate Conception Banquet 32 News Bytes 34 The Global Vatican 36 Marian Consecration 38 Jilin City 40 Institutional Advancement


42 Economo’s Corner

In the Footsteps of Jesus Experiencing the Risen Lord Seminarian John Baumgardner ‘17 reflects on his unforgettable pilgrimage to the Holy Land with the College.




TREASURER Most Rev. Frank J. Dewane ‘88, C‘89 Bishop of Venice

VICE CHAIRMAN Most Rev. John C. Nienstedt ‘73, C‘84 Archbishop Emeritus of St. Paul and Minneapolis

SECRETARY Most Rev. William P. Callahan, OFM Conv. Bishop of La Crosse

Donald Cardinal Wuerl ‘67 Archbishop of Washington

Most Rev. William M. Mulvey ‘75 Bishop of Corpus Christi

Most Rev. Kurt R. Burnette C’07 Bishop of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Passaic

Most Rev. William F. Murphy ‘65, C‘74 Bishop of Rockville Centre

Painting of Our Lady found in the Immacolata Chapel at the North American College.



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Most Rev. Robert J. Carlson Archbishop of St. Louis Most Rev. Robert C. Evans ‘73, C‘89 Auxiliary Bishop of Providence Most Rev. Jeffrey M. Monforton ‘93, C‘02 Bishop of Steubenville

Most Rev. Thomas J. Olmsted ‘73, C’79 Bishop of Phoenix Most Rev. Joseph A. Pepe C‘76 Bishop of Las Vegas Most Rev. Glen J. Provost ‘75 Bishop of Lake Charles Most Rev. J. Peter Sartain ‘78 Archbishop of Seattle

For more information about the Pontifical North American College, subscription questions, or to learn about ways you can financially support “America’s Seminary in Rome,” please contact Mark Randall, CFRE, Executive Director, Institutional Advancement. Tel: (202) 541-5411 • Fax: (202) 722-8804 Email: • Website:


Rector’s Corner

ope Francis recently spoke at a conference here in Rome organized by the Congregation for Clergy marking the 50th anniversary of Vatican II’s decrees on the Ministry and Life of Priests and on Priestly Training. The Holy Father reminded us of the simple reality that “priests are called to make concrete God’s love for His people.” These words certainly remind us of the powerful message he gave us in his Apostolic Exhortation Evengelii Gaudium, too. For 156 years, the Pontifical North American College has been striving to form priests whose life and ministry make concrete God’s love for His people. Your generous, prayerful support makes the careful formation of seminarians and the continuing formation of priests possible. We are grateful that the Congregation for Clergy has recently named Fr. Peter Harman (’99), Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, currently our Director of Pastoral Formation and a Formation Advisor, to take over the shepherding of the ministries of this College as of February 1. No doubt, Fr. Harman will be a blessing to the College and our dear friends and benefactors, too. Father knows well the seminarians and priests of this community, and through his service as a pastor in his home diocese and his graduate studies in Rome and in Washington DC, the Lord has blessed him with experiences

that will be invaluable in forming the hearts of the seminarians and priests under his good care to be more like that of the Good Shepherd’s. Serving as Rector of this community for the past ten years has certainly been a blessing! Pope Francis in a recent gathering with priests and seminarians in Ecuador spoke about the importance of gratitude in our lives; he specifically reminded them that “gratitude and service were the most important aspects of their vocation.” Likewise, when in New York at the beautifully restored St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Holy Father reminded the priests, religious, and seminarians that joy springs from a grateful heart. As I finish my service here at the College and prepare to return to my home diocese for a pastoral assignment, I certainly appreciate these words of Pope Francis. I have much joy in my heart and am grateful for the blessed years I have had here thanks to His goodness and all of you, too. I have experienced over these years the joy present in the generous seminarians and priests who have been sent to the College by their bishops. I have been so inspired by our communities here at the seminary, the Casa Santa Maria, and our priests on sabbatical. They very much appreciate the support of our bishops, faculty, staff, and our

many generous benefactors who have sustained us in our life and ministry here, and a petition of thanks to God for you is regularly in our prayers. I thank you for what you have done to make these years so blessed for me personally and our College community by your support. With your ongoing, generous and kind help, for many, many more years to come, the Pontifical North American College will continue to form priests whose lives and ministries make God’s love for His people concrete. Vergine Immacolata, aiutateci!

Rev. Msgr. James Checchio ‘92, C‘97 Diocese of Camden Rector

I have much joy in my heart and am grateful for the blessed years I have had here thanks to His goodness and all of you, too.





It is with great joy and gratitude that we announce the appointment of Fr. Peter C. Harman (’99) of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois as the 23rd Rector of the Pontifical North American College, effective February 1, 2016.


r. Harman has been on faculty here at the College for 2 ½ years in a variety of capacities, during which time he has been a model of priestly presence with his warm personality, keen sense of humor, and most of all, love of the priesthood and care of God’s people. It came as no surprise, then, that, when Archbishop Patrón Wong, Secretary for Seminaries at the Congregation for Clergy, took the lectern at lunch on November 23 and made the announcement, it was met with cheerful and resounding applause from the student body. After ordination in 1999, Fr. Harman returned to the Diocese of Springfield to begin his pastoral service at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, where he would later serve as pastor for five years, guiding it through an extensive


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restoration. Subsequently, he earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology at the Catholic University of America and then returned to Rome to serve in his current role as Director of Pastoral Formation for the College, while also serving as formation advisor for our seminarians, Director of Media Relations, and adjunct instructor in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Msgr. James Checchio has utmost confidence in his successor, saying, “[Fr. Harman] comes to the role of Rector already knowing the seminarians and priests, and I have no doubt that he will bring much wisdom and talent as well as his own personal holiness to his new responsibilities, as he strives to form ministers after the heart of the Good Shepherd.” When asked about his exciting new role, Fr. Harman stated, “I view the time I spent as a seminarian here at the College as such an important gift to me. I approach this work with a renewed gratitude for the good work of the College today and God’s never failing providence for us into tomorrow.” Indeed, we, the seminarians of the North American College, look forward to that tomorrow with Fr. Harman as our Rector and excitedly say Ad Multos Annos.

Recent North American College Rectors < 1979-84

Rev. Msgr. Charles M. Murphy ’62 (Portland, ME) Currently: St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish — Danvers, ME “One of my emphases as Rector was the importance and privilege of theological study in Rome. With the help of the American bishops more and more seminarians began to see the fifth year leading to the license degree as the norm rather than the exception. We invited the student priests in their fifth year to continue to live in the seminary as models for the other seminarians and to join the faculty on Wednesday evenings for dinner in the Red Room, a practice which still continues.”

< 1984-89

Rev. Msgr. Lawrence M. Purcell ’66, C’75 (San Diego) Currently: Retired Priest of the Diocese of San Diego “This year, we celebrate our 50th anniversary of ordination. The great majority of us gathered at a retreat center in California for a week in October. Without exception, each one of us shares the excitement and enthusiasm now under Pope Francis that we experienced more than 50 years ago. We credit the College for the blessings we received and we pray that today’s generation may be as happy as we have been.”

< 1990-94

His Eminence Edwin F. Cardinal O’Brien C’76 (New York) Currently: Grand Master of Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem “My experience in working with seminarians, vocation directors, and bishops from across the nation offered me a lasting appreciation of the rich diversity of faith in our country. That so many students in my time as Rector have gone into priestly formation work remains a deep source of my gratitude to the Lord for the unique privilege of serving as NAC Rector.”

< 1994-01

His Eminence Timothy M. Cardinal Dolan ’76 (St. Louis) Currently: Cardinal Archbishop of New York “My seven happy years as Rector helped return me to the basis of the priesthood, deepening my love for Jesus and His Church which, as Pope St. John Paul II often told us, “must be the passion of our lives.” Service at the College also reminded me daily that a parish priest had to be accomplished in the virtue of hospitality, as we constantly welcome people into our home. What bolsters my own apostolic ministry now, though, is seeing the men who were on the Janiculum in my years serving as such radiantly effective priests wherever I travel!”

< 2001-06

Rev. Msgr. Kevin C. McCoy ’81, C’86 (Sioux City) Currently: Pastor at Holy Trinity Parish – Fort Dodge, IA “In my time on the PNAC staff in Rome from 1998 to 2006, I always considered it a great joy to be involved in forming candidates for the priesthood after the heart of Jesus Christ. It was not a ministry that I ever dreamed of becoming involved with, but I was pleased to give my efforts in service of the Church Universal, and ... I am particularly pleased that I was able to introduce the College and its mission to so many laity whom I pray remain true friends of priestly formation in Rome.” ROMAN ECHOES 2016 • VOLUME 20: ISSUE 2


The Year of Mercy

Participants at the Opening Mass of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy at the Vatican.

Merciful like the Father


• • • •

M A R K M L E Z I VA ‘ 1 7, D I O C E S E O F G R E E N BAY

esus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” These are the opening words used by Pope Francis in his Papal Bull Misericordiae Vultus to introduce the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, which began on December 8 and will conclude on November 20, 2016, the Solemnity of Christ the King. This is certainly a special time for the whole Church, as the Holy Father has called on all of us to graciously receive and embrace the mercy God the Father extends to us


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daily, and to then, in turn, extend that mercy to all those we meet. We are further called to be “credible witnesses to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The seminarians at the Pontifical North American College are taking these words to heart and seeking to be messengers of mercy through different initiatives both inside the College and out in the Eternal City. The focus for this year is twofold. The first has been to highlight the

• • • •

We are further called to be “credible witnesses to mercy, professing it and living it as the core of the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The seminarians at the Pontifical North American College are taking these words to heart.

works of mercy that we already do through the different apostolates we are involved in throughout the city. These include both the corporal works of mercy, which focus on the material and physical needs of our brothers and sisters, as well as the spiritual works of mercy, which focus on their emotional and spiritual needs. When it comes to the corporal works of mercy, the seminarians on a weekly basis feed the hungry and give drink to the thirsty through the Sant’Egidio Soup Kitchen, visit the sick at Salvator Mundi hospital, and visit the imprisoned at Regina Coeli Prison, just to name a few. For the spiritual works of mercy, members of the Legion of Mary apostolate instruct those who are unfamiliar with the faith on a weekly basis in St. Peter’s Square, while those who help out with the Santa Dorotea Home Visitation comfort those who are afflicted. The second focus for the Year of Mercy is to keep mercy at the forefront of our minds. The aim is not so much to add many different activities to our schedule, but, rather, to daily draw attention to this great gift of mercy that God the Father graciously offers to us. We thus chose four saints to help us with this: Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, St. Padre Pio, St. Faustina Kowalska, and Venerable Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, who serve at the College in both the Visitor’s Office and our infirmary. Each month, a quote from one of these apostles of mercy will be posted on the main bulletin board. We are also praying the prayer for the Year of Mercy on Wednesdays during lunch, as well as periodically praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, which was received by St. Faustina Kowalska through visions and conversations with Jesus. As the motto for the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis chose the Scripture verse “merciful like the Father.” During this Jubilee Year, that is what we hope and strive by God’s grace to become. n

Pope Francis opens the Holy Door at the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican to begin the Year of Mercy on December 8, 2015.

The College’s committee for the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy: Fr. John Cush (Brooklyn, ‘98, C ‘15), John Gancarz (Hartford, ‘19), Kevin Leaver (Boston, ‘17), Mark Mleziva (Green Bay, ‘17), Scott Foley (Davenport, ‘18), Tom Gramc (Pittsburgh, ‘17), Deacon Stephen Gadberry (Little Rock, ‘16).



A Roman Thanksgiving:



J E F F H E B E RT ‘ 1 8, D I O C E S E O F L I T T L E R O C K

hris Boyle, the New Man Spaghetti Bowl Coach, and his assistant, Zach Rodriguez were walking down the hallway. “We’re gonna use two different zones…” Zach’s voice got lower as they passed my room. They didn’t want me to have the inside information. I responded with a smile.

Last year, I was in their shoes. Why were American seminarians talking about flag football in Rome? It could only mean one thing: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving at the North American College is not a single day. Over the years, we seminarians have developed an extended weekend of Thanksgiving which includes our nation’s most distinguishing gifts. Do you want to celebrate our American heritage of running, jogging, or walking an arbitrary distance? Well, that is how our Thanksgiving kicks off. Need a costume competition? You can run as a centurion. Or not at all. Sleep in if you’d like because our Rector has dispensed us from classes. Eat ravioli, turkey, and pumpkin pie all in the same meal, and then rap about it for US Ambassador, Ken Hackett, and former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. And why not? For many of us, Thanksgiving in Rome is four days which the Lord has made. This is how we rejoice in them.


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The New Men make some Half Time adjustments to mount a comeback.

Following the Turkey Trot (the Thanksgiving day 5K/costume competition), Deacon Tony Hollowell, the Old Man team coach, is finding it hard to fully rejoice. He is sharing breakfast with the men on his particular hallway before Thanksgiving Mass. We all do the same, but something weighs heavy on this deacon’s mind. “Jeff, this is the key to winning the Spaghetti Bowl, and I just can’t decide.” His dilemma? Which movie

better captures his vision of the Spaghetti Bowl: Heavyweights or The Mighty Ducks. These are both Disney comedies set in the context of exercise and ice hockey. The sensus humor of the Old Man team, however, would choose for him. We call our coach “Uncle Tony” (i.e., the comically delusional villain from Heavyweights). So on Thursday, we feast and give thanks and laugh and nap, but Uncle Tony knows that the Spaghetti Bowl

is only a few days away. He knows that he had better start to think of non-theatrical flag football strategy… that is, after he stops thinking about the theatrical comedy of Saturday’s New Man/Old Man show. Friday brings a brief rest, and Friday evening belongs to the New Men. They have a self-prepared dinner as a class celebrating their continued transition to life lived half a world away from family and familiarity. Most of the New Men are enjoying great food and fraternity, but Chris Boyle, the New Man coach, has touchdowns on his mind. Chris had actually coached an actual football team before his seminary days. “I miss the days when I had questions about personnel and film review. It seems like every time I talk to a New Man, they ask me questions like, ‘Which touchdown dance is best?’ and ‘Are cleats a moral obligation?’” I see Chris’s concerns melt away on Saturday night as we all laugh at each other’s skits in the New Man/Old Man show. Maybe he’s got this Spaghetti Bowl thing figured out. We would all sleep well that Saturday night. We had run. We had feasted (several times). We had napped and joked and laughed. The morning would bring the First Sunday of Advent, a new liturgical year, and a renewed vision of our coming Lord. But who can know what the afternoon will bring when Chris Boyle’s spritely New Men take on Uncle Tony’s Heavyweights in our Thanksgiving weekend finale? Whatever happens, we’ll be sure to praise the Lord for teaching us how to thank Him in our own little ways. n Editor’s Note: The New Men fought hard and made Coach Boyle proud, but Uncle Tony’s team won the day. To celebrate, Uncle Tony spent Sunday evening watching Mighty Ducks 1, 2, 3, and 4.

Deacon Tony Hollowell ‘16 (Indianapolis) coaches the Old Men to victory.

Nearly 200 brave souls ran this year’s 5K Turkey Trot around Vatican City.

Fr. William Slattery ‘15 (Fargo) with special delivery of homemade pumpkin pie.



New Men

The Big Show T Y L E R J O H N S O N ‘ 1 9, A R C H D I O C E S E O F S E AT T L E


or the New Man class of 2019, it has been quite a rollercoaster ride here in the Eternal City. Right away we battled the intense summer heat, participated in various tours of Rome, welcome dinners, and NAC traditions, all while trying to adapt to a new language and foreign culture. In the midst of all of the study, conferences, meetings, and the continual transitioning to life in Rome, we’ve always appreciated when we’ve had a break, no matter how small, to come together as New Men.

Brandon Wolf ‘19 (Bismarck) and Joseph Boustany ‘19 (Lafayette) attempt to find the Economo’s office.

Consisting of 71 seminarians from all over the United States and Australia, it’s not very easy to get everyone together as a class. For this year’s New Man show, however, we were immediately ready to gather in the excitement of presenting our talents to the rest of the seminary community. Coming from a diverse set of backgrounds, cultures, and, for many, past careers, our New Man 12

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for us during our preparation for the show’s big debut. St. Thomas Aquinas himself said that the greatest thing to be prized on earth is true friendship, and I know that the friendships we have formed while creating the various skits and videos will certainly be prized by us for the many years to come.

Chris Boyle ‘19 (Boston) and Ben Rahimi ‘19 (Chicago) read some letters from home.

class possesses a wide range of skills ready to be employed. It wasn’t hard to discover the many gifts we were blessed with, including singers, musicians, stage performers, filmographers, and a variety of other creative minds. There is certainly no shortage of talent in our class and definitely no shortage of eager men ready to showcase what they can do. Working on the New Man Show has without a doubt required a lot of time and effort, but ultimately has been a truly rewarding experience. The opportunity to work together on this annual production has given our class a real chance to get to know each other better and to discover and witness the countless abilities we each have. The greatest thing I think this project has taught us is the true meaning of Christian brotherhood. Learning how to share our gifts and be present to one another has been very significant

In the end, after the stage lights have gone down and the show is long over, the important lessons of fraternity will still remain. We have not only come to understand brotherhood in the context of seminary life, but really in the context of the greater Christian life. We are all certainly grateful for this opportunity to bond and grow together as a class, but we hope to ultimately share our zeal for this Christian fellowship with the entire Church. As actress Jane Wyman said, “the opportunity for brotherhood presents itself every time you meet a human being,” and that is certainly an opportunity I know none of us wants to miss. n

Worn-out New Men lament the Roman heat on stage.

NAC Faculty

Faculty Changes at the College Welcome to New Faculty The North American College is pleased to welcome three new members of the faculty. Sr. Judith Zoebelin, FSE, who hails from Long Island, New York, will serve as the Assistant to the Director of Apostolic Formation. Sister entered the community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist in 1979, after university studies and service in the Peace Corp. She has served around the world, from Mexico to Thailand to Jerusalem to Tehran to Africa. Sister has worked with Catholic Relief Services and established the Internet Office of the Holy See, helping to design the Vatican’s website, among many other projects. Currently, Sister serves at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, as well as her new apostolate at the College. Fr. Walter “Tad” Oxley ’03, C’09, is a priest of the Diocese of Toledo and will serve as an adjunct spiritual director, while working as an English speaking official at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Fr. Oxley has served as a parochial vicar and last served as the Vice-Rector of the Pontifical

College Josephinum. He holds STB, STL (Dogmatic Theology), and STD (Dogmatic Theology) degrees, all from the Pontifical Gregorian University. Fr. Joshua Ehli ’09, C’15, is a priest of the Diocese of Bismark and a current Vicar General there. His bishop has generously released him to serve as the coordinator of the newly ordained priests at the Casa Santa Maria, while working at the Propaganda Fide. Fr. Ehli has also served as a parochial vicar and a high school teacher in his diocese. He holds STB and JCL degrees from the Angelicum. To all our new faculty, we say, Ad Multos Annos.

Farewell to Faculty We are saddened to bid farewell to two members of our faculty who are returning to their dioceses. Msgr. Thomas Powers ’97, a priest of the Diocese of Bridgeport, served as an adjunct Spiritual Director here at the College for ten years, while serving as an official at the Congregation of Bishops. An alumnus

of Notre Dame University, Msgr. Powers attended the Pontifical Gregorian University for first cycle and earned his STL from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family Life. In his diocese, he served as a parochial vicar, high school chaplain, and as spiritual director of Saint John Fisher House of Formation. Msgr. Powers will return to his diocese to serve as Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia. Msgr. Edward Lohse C’02, a priest of the Diocese of Erie, has served as an adjunct spiritual director here at the College while working as an official at the Congregation of Clergy. An alumnus of St. Mark’s College Seminary, Gannon University, and St. Vincent’s Seminary in Latrobe, he earned his JCL and is finishing his JCD at the Pontifical Gregorian University. In his diocese, Msgr. Lohse has served as Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor, Vocation Director, high school chaplain and teacher, university chaplain, and parochial vicar. He will return to his diocese to serve in chancery work. We are grateful to God for their priestly example and for the wise guidance they have shown to all of us in their gentle ways. May God bless their future ministries. n





RECTOR Left to Right: Deacon Jack Berard ‘16 (Washington, DC), Msgr. James Checchio ‘92, C’97 (Camden), and John LoCoco ‘18 (Milwaukee) enjoying a laugh during the Opening Banquet.


aint John Paul II, in his apostolic exhortation, Pastores Dabo Vobis, writes, “God promises the Church not just any sort of shepherds, but shepherds ‘after his own heart.’ And God’s ‘heart’ has revealed itself to us fully in the heart of Christ the Good Shepherd.” Forming new shepherds after the heart of Jesus Christ requires men – priests – who already know and live a life which reflects that beautiful and Sacred Heart of our Lord. Ministry in the seminary demands nothing less, and it all begins with the Rector.

“Among the many accomplishments of Msgr. James Checchio during his term as

“Msgr. Checchio always seemed to be present at

Rector has been his ability to inspire

all of the important events of each seminarian’s

confidence in the priestly formation program

life - especially his call to Orders, personal family

of the College to such an extent that the

tragedies, and more happily, celebration of student

seminary is now filled.”

life and sporting events.”

- Cardinal Donald Wuerl ‘67 14

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- Greg Jewell, long-time friend of the College

The Rector offering a closing prayer of thanksgiving after the 2015 Spaghetti Bowl.

(Pictured Standing) Monsignor welcomes the New Men to the North American College.

R E V. B R I A N P. C H R I ST E N S E N ‘ 9 9, D I O C E S E O F RA P I D C I T Y In their directives on priestly formation, the bishops of the United States write, “The Rector, always a priest, serves as the pastor of the seminary community. He sets the direction and tone of the seminary program.” During his 10-year tenure as Rector, Msgr. James Checchio has done just that: served as a model pastor – a good shepherd – of both the faculty and students entrusted to his care. He has been, as the bishops ask of him, “the leader of the internal life of the seminary both as pastor and priestly model.” What the Rector asks of the seminarians, he first models in his own life: commitment to prayer, ongoing study, priestly fraternity, selfless dedication to the Church and others. Without fanfare or flourish, Msgr. Checchio cares for the needs of his faculty and students – spiritually, emotionally, physically, and financially. Pope Francis called for pastors and priests to have the smell of the sheep. The Rector is out and among his men.

“Msgr. Checchio enjoys spending time with seminarians,” notes Fr. Luke Ballman (’99), the director of apostolic formation. “He follows the sporting events daily with his afternoon cigar. He walks the hallways and checks in on the men, especially those who may be experiencing some difficulty of which he is aware. He remembers details about the seminarians, often times years after the event. To me all of these examples would not be possible for someone who does not have a deep affection and fatherly care for the men.” “The Rector should be a model of priestly virtue, able to live himself the qualities he encourages in students. A man of sound and prudent judgment, the Rector should give evidence to a love of and dedication to the Church’s service.” Both faculty and seminarians recognize the many virtues manifested in Msgr. Checchio’s life. One faculty member says, “Msgr. Checchio’s most endearing quality to me is

his compassion. When faced with a difficult situation he always considers the people involved, and treats each person with dignity and respect.” Students regularly note the ways that the Rector lives and encourages responsibility, accountability, and priestly fraternity. The ministry of Rector is one which requires many skills and talents – personal, social, financial, spiritual – but, above all, the ministry of Rector requires that a priest have a heart for Jesus Christ, a heart for the Church. If the Church is going to form priests after the heart of Jesus, then she needs priests to serve in seminary formation who already have such a heart. Msgr. James Checchio is that man – that priest – who reveals the heart of Christ in all he does. n





Msgr. Checchio celebrating Mass in the crypt chapel of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter with brother priests concelebrating. INSET Left to Right: Fr. Brian Christensen ‘99 (Rapid City), the Rector, Fr. Peter Harman ’99 (Springfield, IL), and Fr. Austin Vetter ’93 (Bismarck) expressing their gratitude for another successful New Men orientation in the Casa Santa Maria’s courtyard. 16

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R E V. JA M E S Q U I G L E Y, O P, P R OV I N C E O F ST. J OS E P H n the spring of 2005, Msgr. Kevin McCoy, then Rector, and Msgr. James Checchio, treasurer, visited me at Providence College where I had been teaching for many years to invite me to come to the North American College to be the Fr. Carl J. Peter Chair of Homiletics. I accepted and arrived a few months later in August. Shortly afterwards, though, Msgr. McCoy returned in December to the US to direct a successful capital campaign for the College and Msgr. Checchio was named Rector. That was almost eleven years ago, and I have been here with him most of those years. I have many memories of the Checchio Decade. With the help of economos Msgr. Daniel Mueggenborg and later Msgr. Michael Farmer, Msgr. Checchio rebuilt the infrastructure of both the College on the Janiculum Hill and the Casa Santa Maria. He built a convent, a new academic tower, and a sports field, and also redid the Casa O’Toole for the ICTE program. He also established a significant development office in Washington, DC. Through the years, he travelled widely, raising

funds to accomplish these projects. Generous donors, of course, made all the plans and dreams a reality. Msgr. Checchio is a young man, wise beyond his years. He has great administrative skills, a warm personality, and a great sense of humor. Students see some of this when he sits by the soccer field or basketball court watching games, teasing the players, and smoking his cigar. Jim Checchio has a deeply spiritual and pastoral vision of priesthood. He shares that with students and faculty in his very articulate Rector’s Conferences, in his homilies, in his “pastoral rounds” visiting students in their rooms, in his conversations, and in meetings with groups and individuals. Perhaps one of his greatest gifts has been his ability to create a culture of trust here at NAC. Monsignor has always understood the NAC formation program as a program for adults. Consequently his role was/is that of a spiritual father. Seminarians are adults and responsible for their formation and do not need to be watched or policed. They are to be trusted by the Rector and faculty. That

has been Monsignor’s great gift to all of us. Almost every student feels that he can go to the Rector with any issue, concern, problem, or worry. While he is not always the “answer man,” he can offer advice and a perspective that often is just what the doctor ordered. He can also make some very difficult decisions, when for the good of the community, it is better for an individual to leave the College. When he has done that, confidentiality has always been maintained out of respect for the man. I said earlier that Msgr. Checchio is a young man. He became Rector at the age of thirty-nine. I am the same age as his parents. I told him once that he had better treat me well or I would call his mother. He has treated me better than I deserve during these ten years. My time at NAC has been a wonderful ministry as I have moved into the “winter” of my priesthood. I am very grateful to so many faculty, students, alumni, and others for their support and friendship. But especially I am grateful to Jim Checchio for his priestly example and for all the many kindnesses he has done for me. I never had to call his mother! n

“His greatest legacy is the priests who received their formation under his leadership as Rector. That is nearly 500 priests from the seminary and Casa Santa Maria communities.”

- Msgr. Daniel Mueggenborg ’89




FATHER Msgr. James Checchio preaching to the New Men during Mass in the Crypt of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter. INSET: The Rector celebrates Mass in the Immaculate Conception Chapel with Deacon Matthew Tatyrek ‘16 (Fort Worth) serving as Deacon of the Eucharist. 18

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R E V. M R . ST E P H E N J. GA D B E R RY ‘ 1 6, D I O C E S E O F L I T T L E R O C K s I write this short article, the Church is celebrating the Feast of St. Andrew and meditating on the call of the first disciples: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). It is fitting to contemplate on the initial response of these Fathers of our Catholic faith as we reflect on the ministry of our outgoing spiritual father. For more than 10 years, Msgr. James Checchio has devoted his life and ministry to the formation of men who are responding to that same personal invitation to public ministry, “Follow me…” Indeed, for the seminarians of the North American College, the incarnate response to this summons is found in faithfully following this father of formation that the Father in heaven has given us. The day before the diaconate ordinations of 2015, Msgr. Checchio celebrated Mass for the ordinandi. In his homily, he emphasized two essential aspects of holy and wholesome pastoral ministry: a heart and will that are “all-in” and a gaze fixed intently on Christ.

When either of these aspects falter, spiritual fecundity wanes. Monsignor has not only preached these words, he lives them out daily, providing all of his spiritual sons with a great example of faithful servanthood. With 23 years of priesthood and 13 in Rome on the formation staff, he knows what it means to be “all-in.” In this time at NAC, he has pastored many spiritual sons into the priesthood, where they too have returned to their respective dioceses as holy, healthy, happy priests and spiritual fathers. He can form men to be “all-in” because he himself is a man who is “all-in.” There are no partial investments in seminary formation and priestly ministry, much less the Christian life. Monsignor has taught me and all of my seminarian brothers how to write the necessary blank check of true Christian discipleship to the Lord. This sort of radical investment is only possible when one’s gaze is fixed intently on Christ, the second axiom given to the to-be deacons. Msgr. Checchio regularly emphasizes

the importance of sound, spiritual formation, especially Mass, regular confession, transparency with one’s spiritual director, and dedicated daily prayer. He gives this direction as a man who follows it himself, and I believe this to be the reason that he is such a sound spiritual father. One can proclaim Christ only if he knows Him first. One can live by the Spirit only when he allows the Spirit to dwell within. One can lead another to the Father only if he is first a beloved son. Monsignor’s upstanding spiritual fatherhood is firmly rooted in his identity as a beloved son of the Father, faithful friend of Christ, and docile servant to the Spirit. Having lost my biological father when I was only 8 years-old, the reality of spiritual fatherhood takes on a particular gravity for me. In all humility and in great love and admiration, I consider Msgr. James Checchio one of the most important men in my life. For my part and on behalf of the entire NAC community, I thank you Monsignor for teaching us how to be “all-in” and how to keep our gaze fixed intently on Christ. n

“Msgr. Checchio’s greatest achievement is that he keeps ‘love for Jesus and His Church’ as the driving force of the house.”

- Cardinal Timothy Dolan ‘76





Msgr. Checchio welcomes Pope Francis upon his arrival to the North American College for the Pope’s first visit to a Roman seminary. INSET: Monsignor showing His Holiness the plans for our new tower at the North American College during a private audience.


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J OS E P H H E S C H M E Y E R ’ 1 8, A R C H D I O C E S E O F K A N SA S C I T Y I N K A N SA S he year 2005 was a time for fresh starts. January saw the swearing in of President George W. Bush for his second term. The next month marked the launch of YouTube, now the world’s third-most visited website. In April, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected as the 265th pope, Benedict XVI. And in November, a new beginning was announced within the North American College itself: effective January 16 of the following year, rector Msgr. Kevin McCoy would be taking over the capital campaign stateside, and his stead would be filled by the College’s 39-year-old vice rector, Msgr. James Checchio of Camden, New Jersey. That, as they say, was then. The intervening ten years have seen new occupants in both the Oval Office and the See of Peter, while the explosion of websites like YouTube have changed the way we interact, fundamentally altering the experience of being 5,000 miles from home. The economy has been unpredictable and at times troubling. When Msgr. Checchio became rector, a U.S. dollar got you 83 Euro cents. By summer 2008, it was worth only 63 cents. (These days, the situation is far sunnier, the dollar

approaching parity with the Euro.) All of this has occurred amidst two American wars, one of which has already drawn to a close, along with a whole host of geopolitical crises. These global changes mean that the experience of everything from calling home to exchanging money to travelling abroad have changed dramatically for NAC seminarians over the past decade, and Msgr. Checchio has seen us through it all. But it’s not just the world outside that’s been changing. Both internally and externally, the College bears the lasting impression of Msgr. Checchio’s tenure. Externally, it’s hard to miss Msgr. Checcio’s most apparent legacy: the renovation and expansion of the building itself, crowned with a new ten-story tower, formally dedicated by the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in January 2015. Four months later, the newly renovated College received an even more noteworthy guest, becoming the first seminary in Rome to be visited by Pope Francis. That papal visit arose out of a personal invitation from Msgr. Checchio, at the close of a private audience with Pope Francis in December 2014. This renewal within the NAC is also

evidenced by improved finances and a burgeoning seminary population. Enrollment has grown by an astonishing two-thirds during Msgr. Checchio’s tenure, bringing us to 252 today, including the 72 members of this year’s New Man class. The College currently faces a most welcome problem: having to turn away applicants, since for the fourth year in a row she is at housing capacity. But Msgr. Checchio’s most important contribution to the house isn’t observable on the Roman skyline, the balance sheet, or the number of occupied tables in the refectory, however important each of those things may be. Rather, his chief legacy will be in the men themselves, due to his role as a spiritual father. Given the size of the NAC and the length of Msgr. Checchio’s tenure, the College’s Economo, Fr. Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv., points out that perhaps no other living American has helped “to provide the Church with so many priests.” Likewise, Assistant Vice Rector Fr. John Cush describes the rector’s biggest achievement as the formation of “happy, healthy, holy priests, not just as seminarians, but even with his faculty.” Or as Will Nyce ’19 puts it, “He’s just such a fatherly presence,” adding, “he knew my name before I knew his!” n

“…the wonderful spirit of communio which Msgr. Checchio has left the College truly is his greatest accomplishment.”

- Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio ROMAN ECHOES 2016 • VOLUME 20: ISSUE 2




INSET: Msgr. James Checchio greeting then Pope Benedict XVI during an audience for the 150th Anniversary of the North American College.


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Left to Right: Msgr. Checchio, Mr. and Mrs. James and Miriam Mulva, Archbishop John Myers ’67, Chairman of the Board, Mr. and Mrs. Jonathan and Gaby Mulva, and Cardinal Edwin O’Brien C‘76 breaking ground for the new tower.

Under the initiative of Msgr. Checchio, the Casa O’Toole was renovated in 2010 to provide a residence for the ICTE Program.

F R O M F R I E N DS O F T H E CO L L EG E “… What stands out in my observation has been Msgr. Checchio’s ongoing success (in Pope Francis’ patented expression) in absorbing the smell of the sheep - no offence to our seminarians! Ever present on corridors, in refectory, and recreational areas, his fatherly interest and availability have consistently accounted for a rare level of trust and collaboration among students and between the student body and a united faculty...”

- Cardinal Edwin O’Brien C’86 “The first descriptive adjective that comes to my mind when I think of Msgr. Checchio … is the word ‘competent.’ Given the wide variety of tasks which the Rector of the College is expected to perform – the human,

spiritual, and pastoral formation of the seminarians, vigilant attention to the needs of the priests at the Casa Santa Maria, recruitment and careful selection of the faculty, responsible management of financial resources… - he has been most successful in doing all of them with exemplary competence. The current students at the College, as well as alumni, young and old, owe him an immense debt of gratitude.”

- Cardinal James Harvey ‘75 “Msgr. Checchio’s lasting legacy will be that he has improved the ‘temporal’ aspects of the College – financial, security, and physical plant – and increased the number of students, without compromising the substance and quality of the program. My favorite

memory is to watch as Msgr. Checchio walks with the students or faculty, around the campo sportivo, coming to know them and encourage them.

- Cardinal Timothy Dolan ‘76 “Among the many positive memories I have of Msgr. Checchio, one that always quickly comes to mind is his cheerful smile and positive words of greeting and encouragement to everyone. Serving as Rector of the North American College, with all of its responsibilities, is not an easy task, and there are demands being made all of the time, some of them rather unexpectedly. Yet, in face of all of this, Msgr. Checchio always had a kind word and an inviting smile to everyone who crossed the threshold of the College.”

- Cardinal Donald Wuerl ‘67




The beautifully renovated facade of the Casa O’Toole completed in 2010.

Casa O’Toole: A Brief History • • • •



ome Sweet Home” can be found somewhere in most homes in America. Whether it be on a calendar, a coffee mug, or the infamous embroidered cloth hanging next to the refrigerator, it reminds us all of a basic truth: we long to be at home. When the Institute for Continuing Theological Education was begun by the North American College in


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1971, it was first housed at Casa Santa Maria, the residence for US priests engaged in graduate studies. It was an historic beginning since it was in this same location that the North American College itself began in 1859. But then when the new Code of Canon Law was promulgated in 1983 and canonists from around the United States came to Rome to be updated, ICTE came over to the Janiculum Hill campus to make room at Casa Santa Maria for these “new students.” Again, it was a beneficial move because ICTE filled up

• • • •

The Institute is an extraordinary opportunity for priests to study, pray, and become zealous disciples of the Lord in a newer and deeper way.

the extra rooms on the first residential floor of the College (First Hospital and First Central, as they are called). The chapel of the North American Martyrs and the connecting rooms became ICTE’s lounge and classroom. Both of these residences were helpful for the mission of ICTE and the work it is about, but neither of them was really its own. It was, hence, not to be ICTE’s last move!

The beautiful chapel of the Casa O’Toole where the priests on sabbatical celebrate Mass together every day.

Casa O’Toole, ICTE has a home, and a sweet home it is.

Construction during the renovation of Casa O’Toole in 2010.

The Institute is an extraordinary opportunity for priests to study, pray, and become zealous disciples of the Lord in a newer and deeper way. Since its beginning, some 3,000 priests from all over the English-speaking world have attended, but only those who have come since the fall of 2010 have been blessed to have the benefit of Casa O’Toole. Here at the highest point of the Janiculum property they have their own chapel, classroom, lounge, and refectory. Each of the 35 private rooms is fully furnished, including a bathroom and its own heat and air conditioning. Nine of these rooms have balconies overlooking the magnificent dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica, and with the mild climate of Rome, these balconies are able to be used throughout the year. Now in

This new home is because of the Rector, Msgr. James Checchio, and his vision not only for the North American College but also for the Institute for Continuing Theological Education. Working with his staff, especially the Vice Rector at the time, Msgr. Daniel Mueggenborg, Msgr. Checchio knew what a home for ICTE would look like. It would involve completely refurbishing the 17th-century Villa Gabrielli (later called Casa San Giovanni). It would involve a new floor plan, new windows, new chapel, new benefactors, new bedrooms, and a completely new third floor that would bring the rooming capacity to 35. It was a project that took two years from start to finish. One of the newer sayings you can easily find on the internet reminds us: “Home is where the wifi connects automatically.” Don’t worry. Msgr. Checchio took care of that as well for Casa O’Toole and for the priests that come here to find a home sweet home. n

Stained glass depictions of American saints and churchmen added to the chapel during the renovation.

Fr. James Sullivan, OP sharing a few words with the priests on sabbatical during an evening social at the Casa O’Toole



Casa Santa Maria

Sr. Maximilian Marie, OP and Sr. Mary David, OP enjoying the 2015 Spaghetti Bowl during Thanksgiving weekend festivities.

The Dominican Sisters’ Return Home • • • •


S H A N E N U N E S ‘ 1 8, D I O C E S E O F B R I D G E P O RT

esearching in the library or walking through the halls of the North American College, one can encounter many different people, though a few faces will always stand out. They are always smiling and willing to offer their help. These faces belong to our beloved Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Seeing them here among us is made all the more special this year, as the Dominican Order is celebrating its 800th jubilee


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year as of November, making it one of the oldest extant religious orders in the Church. Just what is the history of the Dominican nuns at our seminary? In 1601, on the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, construction began on a new Dominican convent near what is today the Trevi Fountain. It took twelve years for the convent to be completed and blessed. The first nuns chose to dedicate their new home to our Lady’s Assumption and her humility under the title “Santa Maria dell’Umiltà.” Years later, the Pontifical North

• • • •

This original convent, which received postulants mainly from noble families, lasted for nearly 200 years. Throughout this time, the nuns were dedicated entirely to the contemplative life.

American College would find its home in these same buildings. This is why today the College honors its patroness under the special title of Our Lady of Humility. This original convent, which received postulants mainly from noble families, lasted for nearly 200 years. Throughout this time, the nuns were dedicated entirely to the contemplative life. This all changed, however, when Napoleon suppressed the convent in 1810. Forced to abandon the cloister, the nuns were either sent back to their homes or to other convents in the area. Our Lady’s convent was turned into police barracks until 1814, when Pope Pius VII was able to re-enter Rome. Though the building was returned to the Church, the Dominican nuns were unable to return, as all of their funds had been lost when the revolutionaries took over the Italian banks. And so the Sisters of the Visitation, founded by St. Francis de Sales, moved into the convent. They did not stay long, though, since in 1849, troops of the Roman Republic confiscated the

Deacon Robert Boxie ‘16 (Washington) takes advantage of the quiet at the Casa Santa Maria library, directed by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

Msgr. James Checchio ‘92 C’97 (Camden), pictured with the Dominican Sisters that work and serve the College and the Rooney Family who made the Sisters’ residence financially possible.

property. They held it until, ironically, French troops opposing the Italian forces took over the building again, turning it into a barracks. Finally, on December 8, 1859, just months after the departure of the French, the former Dominican convent was given by Blessed Pius IX to the bishops of the United States, and it became the North American College. After this tumultuous history, four centuries after their predecessors took up residence in the convent, the daughters of St. Dominic are back. In 2013, four Dominican sisters returned to live in the same buildings of the old convent, which is known today as the Casa Santa Maria, the graduate house of studies for the North American College. These sisters belong to the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, whose motherhouse is located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Theirs are the faces that one can see working in the libraries of the North American College Seminary and Casa Santa Maria, keeping the collections in order and helping the students in their research. Their arrival marks the latest stage in the turbulent but beautiful history of the Dominican

St. Thérèse watches over the garden of the Casa Santa Maria, which began in the 17th-century as a Dominican convent.

sisters with the Pontifical North American College. Their charism, especially their devotion to the Eucharist, enlivens the seminary daily and recalls the beauty of those original nuns 400 years ago. n Editor’s Note: We owe a deal of gratitude to Sr. Mary David, Dominican Sister of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, as her historical research was instrumental in Shane’s writing this article. ROMAN ECHOES 2016 • VOLUME 20: ISSUE 2


Experiencing the Risen Lord: A Seminarian’s Pilgrimage to the



hat which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…we proclaim also to you.” These words, from the beginning of the First Letter of St. John,

describe the real, concrete encounter that the Apostles had with our Lord during His time on earth. Yet, after walking in the same places where Jesus walked and praying in the same places where He prayed, these words of the Evangelist have also in a way become my words. Every year, the seminarians at the Pontifical North American College are given the opportunity to make a two-week pilgrimage to the Holy Land over Christmas break. My fellow seminarians and I were able to visit some of the holiest sites of our Catholic faith including: Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, the old city of Jerusalem, the Mount of Olives, and Calvary. The Holy Land is sometimes called the “Fifth Gospel” since being where the events of the Gospel took place makes


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Seminarians listening to Psalm 88 in the Prisoner’s Pit in Jerusalem.

The hole through which Jesus was lowered into His holding cell.

the faith become alive in a very tangible way. Of course, I will never forget some of the other experiences, such as floating on the top of the Dead Sea or learning how to bargain with the local Israeli shopkeepers. Besides visiting Calvary and the Resurrection Tomb, I was profoundly moved by the Church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. This church is so-named because it is built over the house of the high priest Caiaphas. Here, Peter denied our Lord three times and gallicantu in Latin means the “cock’s crow.” Beneath the house of the high priest was a prison, in which prisoners were kept by being lowered down into pits using rope. The only way out was a small hole 20 feet above a prisoner. Prior to being taken to Pontius Pilate, Jesus was held overnight in this particular pit (see photo above). A

Beneath the house of the high priest was a prison, in which prisoners were kept by being lowered down into pits using rope. The only way out was a small hole 20 feet above a prisoner.

John Baumgardner ‘17 (Milwaukee) enjoying the sights and tastes of the Dead Sea.

View of the Sea of Galilee from the Mount of Beatitudes.

friend and I had decided to re-visit this pit and for some time it was just the two of us there in silent prayer, sitting with our backs to the wall and imagining our Lord there with us. Sitting there, I prayed with these words of Psalm 88 which are often read seeing Christ as the Psalmist: “I am reckoned among those who go down to the Pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one forsaken among the dead.” While contemplating this experience of Christ, imagining myself with Him in the early hours of the morning and knowing the Passion

“The Word was made flesh here” at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.

and Death that lay ahead that coming day, I was unexpectedly filled with an overwhelming peace and joy. For even in this great pit of darkness - which at times the crosses of life can feel like - Christ still overcomes. Experiencing in a tangible way the peace and joy of the risen Christ, who overcomes all darkness, was a great grace from my pilgrimage to the Holy Land this year. For this, I will be forever grateful to the College for my time on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. A.M.D.G. n



Immaculate Conception Banquet

Msgr. James Checchio ‘92, C’97 (Camden) welcomes Cardinal William Levada ‘62, C‘69 to the College as the Mass celebrant.

Celebration of Our Mother


• • • •

R E V. CO N RA D M U R P H Y ‘ 1 5, A R C H D I O C E S E O F WA S H I N GTO N

iety, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, is the virtue that enables us to show proper reverence to those upon whom we are most dependent: our country and our parents. On the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, we have the surpassing joy as Americans to celebrate both. Mary is both our Mother and, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of our chapel, our College, and our country. Separated as the seminarians and priests of the North American


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College are from our homeland, this feast celebrating her heavenly patroness takes on new meaning. This year’s banquet began on December 7, with a vigil Mass for the Immaculate Conception led by Cardinal William Levada, the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The liturgy was particularly beautiful, with many priests from across the city of Rome and the United States joining the celebration of our Mother. Watching over the scene was the

• • • •

Mary is both our Mother and, under the title of the Immaculate Conception, the patroness of our chapel, our college, and our country.

chapel’s mosaic depiction of the Immaculate Conception, surrounded by angels praised by the saints. Ringing the small dome above the sanctuary is written in Latin one of the prayers of the Mass for the Immaculate Conception, “You are all beautiful, Mary, and the original stain is not in you.” Immediately following the Mass, the students, faculty, and many guests assembled in the refectory to continue the feast! The presence of so many guests added a new character to the festivity, with so many of our professors and friends from around Rome joining in the celebration of the

Cardinal William Levada ‘62, C ‘69 preaching on the history and importance of the Immaculate Conception.

patroness of our College and the United States. Thus this day is almost a Catholic Fourth of July, where we get to celebrate not only Mary, our Mother, but also our country. For those of us studying here in Rome, away from the US, it makes the day that much more special and causes a sense of deep gratitude to well up for all those not from the US who join in praising our patroness! As a newly ordained priest, this wonderful feast of our Lady was particularly joyful! Not only was it beautiful to concelebrate Mass with so many priests from around the United States

and around the world, but it reinforced how special this feast day is, both in the life of the Church Universal and in the United States. For the Universal Church, this day in particular marked the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which we are reminded in a special way of the great love and mercy the Lord has for His people. Mary, our Mother, is a beautiful way God shows us His mercy, by gently pointing us back to her Son when we have sinned. For the Church in the United States, it is a day when we can with great piety and love, thank our Lady for her help in guarding and inspiring the Church in our beloved country. n

Left to Right: Fr. Brian Christensen ‘99 (Rapid City), Fr. Dan Hanley ‘05 (Arlington), Cardinal Marc Ouellet and Cardinal William Levada ‘62, C ‘69 listening to the banquet toasts.

Fr. James Sullivan, OP and Bishop-Elect Steven Lopes ‘01, C ‘05 join in singing the Salve Regina to our Lady.

Our Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, enjoying the feast day and good company.



News Bytes

Left to Right: Michael Carlson ’19 (Charlotte), Chris Smith ‘19 (Austin), Gregory Crane ‘19 (Bismarck), and Stephen Buting ’19 (Milwaukee) enjoying the New Man class dinner.

The interior of the chapel at Campo Verano where a number of for North American College students and faculty are buried in Rome.

Fr. Brian Christensen ‘99 (Rapid City), joined by many other priests and seminarians, celebrated Mass at Campo Verano Cemetery in Rome on All Souls Day.

Left to Right: Mark Mleziva ‘17 (Green Bay), Jeff Hebert ‘18 (Little Rock), Deacon Tony Hollowell ‘16 (Indianapolis), John Baumgardner ‘17 (Milwaukee), John LoCoco ‘18 (Milwaukee), and Deacon Stephen Gadberry ‘16 (Little Rock). The Old Men Team Coaching Staff for the 2015 Spaghetti Bowl.


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Michael Zimmerman ’17 (Boston) pointing to the first big turn of the race as the runners prepare for the “only Turkey Trot around a Sovereign Nation” to begin.

The men of “First Central” and some visitors celebrating hall decorating and enjoying fraternity before the evening house Christmas Party.

Left to Right: Luke Syse ‘17 (Madison), Michael Friedel ‘17 (Springfield, IL), Steven Oetjen ‘17 (Arlington), Trevor Tibbertsma ‘17 (Melbourne), Trevor Chicoine ‘17 (Des Moines), and Joseph Scholten ‘17 (Sioux Falls) singing carols during the College’s Christmas party.

Left to Right: Scott Athey ‘19 (St. Cloud), Fr. Tim Furlow ‘15 (Portland, OR), Fr. Matthew Fish ‘15 (Washington, DC), Max Nightingale ‘17 (Kalamazoo), Shane Nunes ‘18 (Bridgeport), and Stephen Logue ‘18 (Harrisburg), providing commentary and entertainment during the 2015 Spaghetti Bowl.

Deacon Adam Potter ‘16 (Pittsburgh) pulling in a spectacular catch during the 2015 Spaghetti Bowl.

Bishop Thomas Tobin, Bishop of Providence, and Archbishop Patrón Wong, Secretary for Seminaries at the Congregation of Clergy, enjoying the Spaghetti Bowl with the rest of the Diocese of Providence men studying or on faculty in Rome.

Msgr. James Checchio ‘92 C‘97, Rector, Msgr. Ferdinando Berardi C’83 (New York), Fr. Kerry Abbott OFM Conv., and Msgr. Joseph Chapel ‘92 (Newark) with this year’s resident priests at the Casa Santa Maria.

Deacon Daniele Russo ‘16 (Sydney) toasting the College at the Immaculate Conception Banquet as Deacon Jim Morin ’16 (Lincoln), emcee for the evening, looks on.

Mr. Timothy O’Neill (left), Serra Club Board of Trustees President and Mr. John Liston (right), Serra International Executive Director, show their support to Msgr. James Checchio ‘92, C‘97 (center)





The Diplomatic Intrigue of the Holy See T R E VO R C H I CO I N E ‘ 1 7, D I O C E S E O F D E S M O I N E S


n the evening of December 9, 2015, the community of the North American College was privileged to welcome back to Rome the Honorable Francis Rooney, former Ambassador of the United States to the Holy See. With great candor and insight, the Ambassador

opened up the world of the Vatican’s diplomatic service, drawing from his years of service and from lessons learned in writing his book, The Global Vatican. Ambassador Francis Rooney, a graduate of Georgetown University, served as the United States Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008. Prior to his diplomatic service, he was a leader on the national and international business stage. Currently, he is active in a number of political areas, including advocating for religious liberty. He is also a long-time friend and benefactor of the College. He is the author of the recent book The Global Vatican, which


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Ambassador Rooney speaks with seminarians and faculty in the Corso Auditorium.

examines the extraordinary relationship between the governments of the United States and the Holy See. He began the evening by stressing the importance of the Holy See’s diplomatic work. Many of the seminarians were surprised to learn that the Vatican has the second largest number of ambassadors accredited to it as a sovereign state, second only to the United States. Ambassador Rooney stressed that the Holy See’s diplomatic work remains just as important today as it was in the time of Charlemagne. To his mind, the

Many of the seminarians were surprised to learn that the Vatican has the second largest number of ambassadors accredited to it as a sovereign state, second only to the United States. Holy See is uniquely positioned today to defend the natural rights of all people because of its independence and political neutrality. Whether defending the rights of peoples oppressed by political systems, speaking out on human suffering and persecution, advocating for the rights of immigrants, or aiding in the recent development in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba, the voice of the Holy See can and does make a difference in the world. “No group can speak as clearly and candidly as the Church,” the Ambassador insisted. “The Church doesn’t have special interest groups; its only special interest is God! And that is a good one.” Ambassador Rooney also insisted that the United States and the Holy See are

The Ambassador and his wife, Kathleen, joined Msgr. James Checchio ’92 C’97 (Camden), Fr. Peter Harman ’99 (Springfield, IL), and the rest of the College faculty for dinner.

“uniquely allied, though we have not always realized it.” As two sovereign countries that are based upon the natural rights of man, the Ambassador insisted that the Holy See and United States together have the ability to effect great change in the world. He observed that Pope Francis’ recent visit to the United States highlighted the importance of this unique relationship, citing the Holy Father’s speech to a joint session of Congress as a “masterful expression of diplomacy.” “The modern world needs the Holy See engaged and active,” because, especially when joined with its allies throughout the world, the Holy See can indeed have a very positive impact on the global stage. Finally, the Ambassador concluded the evening by offering some kind words of encouragement to the seminarians, encouraging us to be “the frontline in an army of compassion,” drawing the analogy that just as the Holy See is able to do good on the global stage,

so we can be prepared to make a difference in the lives of those whom we will one day serve. The community genuinely enjoyed Ambassador Rooney’s presentation. The Global Vatican is an intelligent insight into the unique relationship between the Successor of St. Peter and the United States of America. n

Christian Huebner ‘19 (Washington, DC) posing a question for Ambassador Rooney.



Marian Consecration

The Quickest, Easiest, Surest, Most Perfect Way to Become a Saint


• • • •

S COT T FO L E Y ’ 1 8, D I O C E S E O F DAV E N P O RT

ach fall, dozens of seminarians of the North American College begin a 33-day preparation for consecration to Jesus through Mary, a consecration that St. Louis de Montfort spent much of his life preaching as the quickest, easiest, surest, and most perfect way to become a saint. In short, St. Louis


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advocated giving everything to Mary, both interiorly and externally, in order to belong more fully to Jesus. It is an act of love and of trust, and rest assured that Mary will not let it go unnoticed. To undertake this 33-day preparation means following in the footsteps of many great adherents to Marian

• • • •

St. Louis advocated giving everything to Mary, both interiorly and externally, in order to belong more fully to Jesus.

consecration, including St. John Paul II, St. Maximillian Kolbe, and Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta. St. John Paul II was so enamored with St. Louis’ book on Marian Consecration, True Devotion to Mary, that he considered it as a turning point in his life, and even chose his papal motto, Totus Tuus, meaning totally yours, from St. Louis de Montfort’s Marian Consecration Prayer. St. Maximillian Kolbe not only wanted to totally give himself to Jesus through Mary, but created a worldwide organization, the Militia Immaculatae, to bring as many souls to this consecration as possible. Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was fond of saying, “Be only all for Jesus through Mary.” Mother also had a simple concrete way of keeping her devotion in mind. At the top left hand corner of her letters, she would put a small cross with the letters ‘LDM.’ This writing (+LDM) was short for the Latin phrase Laudetur Deo Mariaeque, meaning “Praise to God and to Mary.” Now the Missionaries of Charity put it on just about every note they write. The secret of these great saints is that they believed that Mary is the best way to Jesus, and taking this belief, they lived it in ways that have touched millions of lives around the world.

Scott Foley ‘18 (Davenport) and Tom Gramc ‘17 (Pittsburgh) signing their Prayer of Consecration while Deacon Adam Potter ‘16 (Pittsburgh) looks on.

Deacon Adam Potter ’16 (Pittsburgh) leading the seminarians in prayer during the consecration service on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception.

Seminarians participating in the consecration meet for 33 evenings after dinner to offer their prayers for the day.

This year marks the 172nd anniversary of the first publishing of St. Louis de Montfort’s book on Marian consecration. Since that time, the great saints already mentioned have brought even greater insight into this great devotion. In order to incorporate these new insights, the book chosen for our consecration is 33 Days to Morning Glory by Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC. In the book, Fr. Gaitley spends one week each on the particular insights into Marian Consecration of St. Louis de Montfort, St. Maximillian Kolbe, Blessed Mother Teresa, and St. John

Paul II, followed by five days to recap the material. There are also companion DVDs created by Fr. Gaitley that can be incorporated with the book. Since it is a traditional practice that a personal Marian consecration take place on a special Marian feast day, it seems as good a choice as any that the patronal Feast Day of the United States of America, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, be our consecration day this year. Please pray with us, that like Mother Teresa, we all may be, “Only all for Jesus through Mary.” n



Jilin City

Fr. Brian Barrons (center) with the seminarians and other volunteer teachers he hosted over the summer.

Evangelizing China


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J E S Ú S M A R I S C A L ‘ 1 8, D I O C E S E O F YA K I M A

urious about the Catholic Church in China and missionary life, I joined four classmates, Carter Zielinski (Kansas City in Kansas), Cesar Izquierdo (Yakima), Jarad Wolf (Bismarck), and Louis Masi (New York), on their summer apostolate in Jilin City, home of the first medical university of China’s Air Force – now called Jilin Medical University. In addition to medical courses,


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the school offers English classes to help students learn medical terms. The English professor, Fr. Brian Barrons, a Maryknoll Missionary priest, also offers an English summer program. Fr. Barrons generously hosted us at Jilin Medical University, where we helped him teach the summer program. Before going to Jilin City, we learned some survival Chinese phrases and cultural essentials during

• • • •

We also learned that, currently, the Catholic Church is banned in China, as the government perceives the Holy See as a foreign threat to its ideologies.

a week of orientation in Hong Kong. We also learned that, currently, the Catholic Church is banned in China, as the government perceives the Holy See as a foreign threat to its ideologies. Present in China today are both the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is supported by the government and is not in full communion with the Holy See but celebrates valid sacraments, and also the underground Catholic Church that has greater communion with the Vatican. The friction between the Chinese state and the Church has alienated most students from Christianity. This made me realize that my primary mission was not teaching English, but mentoring about the Gospel. I knew that the Chinese government would arrest and deport anyone who engaged in evangelization. Nevertheless, I spoke openly about Christ and the Catholic Church to my students. To get to know them better, I asked the students to share the meaning and history of their names. I then also shared my name and its meaning. Through a PowerPoint presentation,

Dozens of students at Jilin Medical University again had the opportunity to encounter Christ through NAC seminarians’ summer apostolate.

I reviewed the meaning of Jesus, His history, and how His birth, life, death, and resurrection had been predicted and later fulfilled for the salvation of those who believe in Him. I presented a timeline of my life, with photos, including one of me taken with Pope Francis as we exchanged a zucchetto. I discussed my vocation to the priesthood, the See of Peter, the Pope, and the Church. These topics were new to my students and they wanted to learn more.

Second-year NAC seminarians Carter Zielinksi ‘18 (Kansas City, KS), Cesar Izquierdo ‘18 (Yakima), Jesús Mariscal ‘18 (Yakima), Louis Masi ’18 (New York), and Jarad Wolf ‘18 (Bismarck) with Fr. Brian Barrons and their orientation team.

One day after class, a student asked me about Mass. I told her the best way to learn about it was to witness one. We attended two Masses sitting in the front pew, after which she thanked me for “opening [her] eyes to a new and beautiful world.” This was moving - God had used me as His instrument to spread His message to someone new. I gave her my Bible and she learned the Lord’s Prayer in minutes. Since returning to the seminary, I have kept in touch with her. She continues to read the Bible and attend Mass, and is now introducing some of her friends to Mass. This summer experience has reinforced my appreciation for religious missionaries in the world - like the Maryknolls - who continually work to evangelize the world. Every baptized Christian, missionary or not, is called to have a missionary heart. I am most grateful to Fr. Barrons and to all the Maryknolls for offering this opportunity and for their generous hospitality. n



Economo’s Corner

Ensuring Our Foundation Remains Solid for Years to Come



n the last issue I shared with you a bit about my arrival and the privilege I feel at serving the local and wider communities that the Pontifical North American College comprises. That article was entitled, “Looking to the Future.” Many of our alumni and friends remember with mystical joy the celebration of Thanksgiving at both the seminary and Casa Santa Maria: in fact I am writing to you on Thanksgiving evening. This day is full of memories for all of us, our families, and friends across the oceans. It is always good, I think, to be conscious of where, by God’s grace, you have come from – your foundation in faith, hope, and love. God has established that foundation to a purpose: to move forward in building His Kingdom. How exciting it is to cooperate with God as faculty and staff in building on the firm foundation of the Gospel in the lives and vocations of the hundreds of men at the College preparing to serve God and His Church. This includes providing a beautiful, comfortable and life-giving environment. Of course this is not by accident, but by design and through hard work, often by our lay staff who are often almost invisible to many.


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Fr. Kerry Abbott, OFM Conv. with fellow religious Fr. James Sullivan, OP, and Fr. Kurt Belsole, OSB.

Their hard work is certainly not invisible, and though they number fewer than 100 persons, they care for the seminary, Institute and Casa buildings night and day. They prepare over a thousand meals a day, clean miles of corridors, maintain beautiful public spaces and acres of grounds, pay the bills, monitor our budget and, in just the seminary building alone, work to keep the water and lights functioning in a 62 year-old building! It is true, the North American College was built to last on a firm foundation.

Yet, sometimes, that foundation springs a leak, and as with most repairs, it is more complicated and costly than one would first imagine. Just recently, for example, a pipe was found to be leaking in one of our bathrooms. What seemed a relatively easy fix costing less than 500 Euro, turned into a wall and floor demolition / repair project costing nearly 2000 Euro (not including the labor provided by our in-house maintenance department), because the leak had compromised the integrity of the wall and floor.

I use this one example to illustrate a fact. The College was built well in its day using the best practices available at that time. But, iron pipes rust and electrical wiring can be compromised in our humid climate. Our 10-year Physical Plan is absolutely key to our hope to not just plug leaks, but to ensure the foundation remains solid for years (and thousands of seminarians) to come. As we strive to mitigate costs, the example above is illustrative of the fact that we must be good stewards of our benefactors’ investment. Your investment is not just about beautiful buildings and grounds, but in caring for the men that will one day care for us. Thank you, truly, for ensuring our solid foundation in faith, hope, love, and mortar! n

College employees hard at work making much needed repairs around the College.

All the faculty and students of the North American College gathered in the cortile for our annual photo.



Institutional Advancement



s this issue of Roman Echoes was going to press, the College community was saddened to learn of the death of alumnus Msgr. Roger Roensch ’58. He was well known for his long service to the College and the Holy See, as Director of the Bishops’ Office for US Visitors to the Vatican. In recent years, he served as the Coordinator of Visitors to the North American College. He was 83 years-old and resided at the Casa O’Toole here at the College. A native of Milwaukee, WI, Msgr. Roensch entered the North American College in 1954 and attended the Pontifical Gregorian University. He was ordained in Rome on December 15, 1957 for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and was incardinated in the Archdiocese of Washington in 1989. In addition to serving as a parish priest and his Roman assignments, Msgr. Roensch was also the Director of Spiritual Programs and Pilgrimages at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for several years. Literally tens of thousands of pilgrims in Rome benefited from the direction and guidance of Msgr. Roensch over the years. One of them told me recently, “Msgr. Roensch could stand on one corner in Rome for


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Meanwhile, another era is passing. The College community celebrates the long and successful tenure of Msgr. James Checchio as our Rector, which concludes on January 31. While, as their spiritual father, Msgr. Checchio always made the formation of our seminarians and student priests his first priority, he was also consistently attentive to our many alumni and lay supporters.

Msgr. Roger Roensch ’58, at the opening of the Holy Door at St. Paul Outside the Walls on December 13, 2015.

an hour and tell you the spiritual and historical significance of every building in sight.” He was a great mentor to many seminarians and priests alike. He was perhaps the greatest ambassador the College ever had, and will be greatly missed. A funeral Mass was celebrated at the Papal Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls and he was buried in the College mausoleum at Campo Verano here in Rome. A more comprehensive eulogy for Msgr. Roensch will be featured in the spring issue of Roman Echoes.

Msgr. Checchio ‘92, C’97 with benefactors Miriam and Jim Mulva.

The tangible accomplishments of these past 10 years are impressive: the Vision For the Future campaign, the new tower addition, having full enrollment. But the genuine relationships that Msgr. Checchio has established and nurtured with so many benefactors are the priceless legacy that he leaves the College. I know that his successor, Fr. Peter Harman ’99, will continue to warmly welcome them as partners in our mission. n

“A thousand thanks� to the sponsor of this issue of Roman Echoes:

Desales Media Group

Interested in sponsoring a future issue of Roman Echoes? Contact our Executive Director, Mark Randall: 202-541-5411 or

The Pontifical North American College Office of Institutional Advancement 3211 Fourth Street, NE Washington, D.C. 20017-1194


For more information about the Pontifical North American College, subscription questions, or to learn about ways you can financially support “America’s Seminary in Rome,” please contact Mark Randall, CFRE, Executive Director, Institutional Advancement. Tel: (202) 541-5411 Fax: (202) 722-8804 Email: Website:

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24th Annual Rector’s Dinner


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April 7, 2016 Janiculum Campus in Rome

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