The Graduates in Rome – “Short Trip Around the Planet Seeing all the Must Sees”

Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls

The fourth years and 15 accompanying teachers traditionally spent some inspiring days from 10th -15th April 2019 before the holy week in Assisi, Rome and Ostia. The entire trip reflected magnificently the two faces of our school’s mission, namely the Catholic and classical one. In ancient Greek catholicos means concerning the whole, universal, general and this meaning does justice to what we admired there: arts, life and people. This time John Cronin, Math teacher and a volunteering native speaker at the DCG from the USA gives an account on how he experienced the trip to Rome.

“When I first heard about the trip, I asked if I could go thinking that a trip to Rome would be cool. To my pleasant surprise, I had no idea what was in store for me.  This trip was absolutely epic.  I was fortunate enough to have my wife with me, which is always a bonus.  Rome is a lovely city with much to see and do, and my wife, an alumna of the DCG, did tell me that excursions with SKG are busy affairs with a packed program of activities and places to go.  This I found out was an understatement.  I felt with all we saw we did a short trip around the planet seeing all the must sees. The different places we went to, the history of what we learned, the significance of each destination was explained in great detail by what seemed to have been expert historians.  I feel as if I read 5-10 books about Rome, and I still wouldn’t have learned half of what I was told during this trip.

There are so many highlights of our days in Italy, but when you can include the bus rides as enjoyable based on the conversations and banter between the people on the trip, you know there was something special.  From the prayers to the details about our day, to the conversations with the students, Lily or Martin, it was all enjoyable.  Even Martin’s control of the weather was unimaginable.  I can think of many bus rides I have had in my life, but none were as much fun and intellectually stimulating as the rides we had during this trip.  Surprisingly my wife was shocked with some of the conversations she heard.  She told me that after a long day of learning the students were having discussions about what they learned and looking up information on the internet or in a Rome book they bought to find a deeper understanding.  Our main guides on the trip, Lily and Martin had such chemistry and knowledge it seemed as if we were getting guided by 2 saints.  There were many experiences that helped reignite a passion for faith within myself that seemed to be burning with a dim flame.  Going to countless churches, chapels and basilicas, there were endless opportunities to pray and deepen my faith.  I was stunned by seeing a church within a church thanks to Saint Francis, but after being explained the significance, I felt a world of joy and relief when I entered the inner church.  In my life, this was one of the most profound religious moments I can recollect.  As the days continued, the only complaint I could find was the pain of all the walking.  The service, people and food at the hotel were spot on.  The drivers of the bus were professional and timely.  The bus was immaculate and very modern.

One of the destinations we went to towards the end of the trip is where I had to fight back the tears from running down my face.  It was a perfect ending to a wonder trip.  We went to Centre Aletti, the workshop of one of the famous Mosaic Artists and Jesuit father Marko Ivan Rupnik, where we got a wonderful tour of his great workshop by Lucija Rožman, another alumna of DCG. It was astounding to see the chapel that was built, to learn about the unification of the East and West Churches with the help of Art, and to get a special tour through the workshop of the artists with details of their current and past works.  Even the training process of the artists was impressive.  However, after the tour concluded we were given free time to eat dinner and explore Rome about 2 hours before meeting at the bus to depart Rome.  Several students left, but a few stayed behind and went into the Chapel.  My wife and I were tired and sitting on the stairs, but then we heard music from the Chapel.  We went inside to see the students singing, what I assume to have been religious hymns.  There was no mass, no priest with a sermon, no instruction from any adults or anyone.  They had a guitar, a cell phone and maybe about 15-20 students and they sat in the chapel singing praise to God.  Between songs, there was silence.  There was no chatter, no meaningless conversation or stories with laughter.

I figured listening and seeing the Pope’s mass during Palm Sunday would be the most inspirational and holiest time of our voyage.  However, this just joy and worship the students were doing during their free time when we were all hungry and exhausted was breathtaking.  Even though I didn’t understand the words or get the meaning of the songs they chose, their angelic voices and passion in every note echoed through my heart as if Jesus Himself was opening me up to His word.  Alas, after all this, there was a final silence when we knew it was time to leave. It seemed like both an eternity and only seconds when we finally left the Altar.  The paradox in time is nothing I experienced before and nothing I can really describe other than one of the most powerful moments in my life. I can tell I am a better man after this trip then I was before and look forward to seeing St. Stanislav’s Chapel in the school with a different appreciation.”

After this trip, my curiosity is peaked to know when I will I get the honour and privilege of going with DCG again.  /John Cronin/