Fr. Liam at St. Peter's in Rome

Fr. Liam at St. Peter's in Rome

When our superiors informed me of their decision to move me to a new assignment, I had mixed emotions.  Sad, because I had to leave the Catholic Community of Immaculate Conception in Goose Creek, South Carolina  but at the same time, joyful, because of our superiors’ faith in me to be an assistant formator in our Seminary in Vinzons, Camarines Norte, Philippines.

My emotions of sadness and joy turned more into anxiety when our Father General asked me if I would go to Italy to take an intensive course on Seminary Formation and learn the Italian language.   Why this feeling of anxiety?  It is because of the adjustment that I would have to make.  At one point I asked myself, why do they have to send me to Italy to study?  I thought that I could take those courses in the Philippines instead.

I arrived in Rome, Italy on the 24th of October not knowing what to expect. Our Father General, Raffaele Mandolesi, CRM and Father Giampaolo Gasparini, CRM picked me up at the Leonardo Da Vinci Airport. As soon as we got into the car, Father General said to me (in Italian), “Liam, Finally, you are in Italy” I responded (In Italian), Yes Father!  Finally! At that time…I still didn’t know what to expect. A lot of questions were running through my head on our drive to our house in Sant’Angelo in Pescheria.  How will I ever learn and speak Italian in seven months? Will I be able to live with this community?

I’ve always heard the expression, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, an expression that is believed to come from St. Ambrose.  This expression was basically the answer to all my questions, and it helps me to sum up my experience in Italy.

I try to do what they do in this community.  Twice a week, I have Italian language classes, and so far, I think I am doing well for someone who has been here for a month.  I can get away with some words but I still cannot keep a conversation very long.

I have celebrated Mass in Italian a few times.  As a community, we pray the Liturgy of the hours in Italian.  So far, I can pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be by heart in Italian!  It was a little nerve-racking at first but with the help and encouragement of my fellow priests and brothers in this community, I was able to accomplish all this.

When we arrived in Sant’Angelo, as soon as we stepped out of the car, Father General pointed to a window and said (in Italian)…“Kitchen!” I love the food!  I would like to thank my fellow Adorno-brother priests in New Jersey for helping us learn how to eat pasta!  Here, pasta is always part of the meal during lunch and dinner.  No rice!

I am enjoying every minute of my stay in the Eternal City.  I think I have been to most of the places tourists come here to see.  Thanks to Father Frank Palmieri, CRM and Father Ed Enverga, CRM for sharing with me their passion for photography; now, whenever I have time, I go out and explore Rome with my camera.  I seldom take public transportation because most of the places I love to go to are a good twenty-minute walk from our house.  Besides, there is a need for me to walk after eating so much pasta!

This study assignment has taught me how to be open and to learn how to live beyond the confines of the language and places I am comfortable with.  In other words, this experience has taught me to have more faith in God’s providential care and guidance because this is one of the many marks of being a religious missionary priest.  It is to learn how to depend on His providential care and guidance every single day.

With the help of my fellow brother priests here in our community in Rome, I was able to visit the other communities of our Order as well.  It was a humbling experience for me to meet many new Adorno Fathers and Brothers.  Not only was it a humbling experience, but also one of joy and amazement.

Fr. Biju and Fr. in Anagni Italy

Fr. Biju and Fr. in Anagni Italy

It was a joy to see my fellow brother priests from Italy, Africa and India together, speaking one language, living as a community and trying to live a life according to the Charism of our Founders.

I am continually amazed at the beauty of community life….how community life not only draws us closer to each member of the community but how community life can draw us closer to God.

As religious missionary priests, this is God showing us the way towards the path of sanctity!  That is, to be in community.  All this is I am learning from my Roman experience…What a great blessing…No more anxiety…for He says:  “I will never forsake you or abandon you.” So therefore we may say with confidence: The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid…” (Hebrews 13:5-6) Viva Il Signore! Viva L’Italia! Ogni cosa alla maggior Gloria del Cristo Risorto!