St. Theresa Catholic School in Sugar Land has recently celebrated a number of unprecedented events. On Friday, May 26, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo was the main celebrant for the school’s first Graduation Mass. The eighteen members of the eighth grade class included a number who had formed the first pre-K class at the very opening of STCS.
Two days after Commencement, the group set upon fulfilling a dream: a class trip to Rome. Having studied Latin since first grade, the group had been anticipating this journey for years. Under the auspices of the Paideia Institute and under the very capable direction of Meaghan Harley, their guide, they enjoyed ten days of enriching travel, exploring a rich blend of experiences both ancient and modern, secular and sacred.
Having arrived at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, they immediately boarded the motor coach that would take them south to Campania: Naples, Pompeii, and Baia. That the trip would impose physical demands became clear from the start, since the first excursion involved scaling Mount Vesuvius!
The arduous climb offered the spectacular reward of a panoramic view of Italy’s celebrated Amalfi coast. While in the area, the group blended study with relaxation as they visited the Naples National Archaeological Museum (home to the celebrated Farnese collection of classical sculptures) and the Mediterranean beach at Bacoli! The latter site afforded the visitors cool breezes as well as some treasured bits of sea glass.
Gastronomic delights included a taste of genuine Campanian mozzarella di buffalo, the world-famed mozzarella made from the milk of Asian/Indian water buffalo of the region. They also enjoyed carbonara, varying their pasta choices beyond the familiar spaghetti. In each neighborhood they visited, they found—and delighted in—the gelateria—sampling new and rich flavors.
A number of “Aha!” moments punctuated the journey as when the group chanced upon a statue of St. Philip Neri. They graduated on this saint’s feast, and Cardinal DiNardo’s homily included mention of St. Philip’s wholesome good humor. Seeing the statue in Rome was like meeting an old friend in a faraway place! Similar encounters awaited the group at the Church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva (Church of St. Mary, built over a shrine of Minerva) which houses the body of St. Catherine of Siena. While touring the Catacombs of St. Callistus, the group learned from their guide that St. Cecilia, patroness of music, had been buried there. They later visited the Church of St. Cecilia in Trastevere (beyond the Tiber River), where the relics of the martyred saint are now preserved.
In addition to meeting saintly friends in stone, the group delighted to see sculptures that they’d grown familiar with from photographs. The Capitoline she-wolf and the statue called “The Dying Gaul” awaited them in the Capitoline Museum, while the celebrated Apollo Belvedere and the Laocoön group were highlights among the Vatican Museum sculptures.
The ten-day trip became a blend of tour and pilgrimage. Much as the travelers enjoyed seeing the images of mythological characters and Roman emperors, they responded with a profound silence as they visited such sacred sites as St. Peter’s Basilica and the Basilica of San Clemente. Availing themselves of the opportunity to go to Confession at St. Peter’s Basilica and to dispose themselves to receive a plenary indulgence there as well as at St. Mary Major and St. John Lateran, the group was, by journey’s end, unable to limit themselves to only one favorite site or moment or experience.
During the final night of the trip, after enjoying one last authentic Italian meal near Piazza Navone, the band of travelers was led down Roman streets, left turn, right turn, until they were happily surprised to be standing before the Trevi Fountain. Taking advantage not only of the chance to catch a last evening photograph, this time with the illuminated fountain as backdrop, the pilgrims fortified their hopes to return to The Eternal City by casting a lucky coin into the Trevi Fountain.