A picture of St. Peters Basilica viewed from the Tiber River

Catholic U has many students attend their beautiful Rome campus; one student describes their experience.

Image Courtesy of Encylopedia Britannica

This is an independently submitted op-ed for our Quill section. Views and statements made in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinions of  The Tower.

By Peter Schemel

This past semester, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Rome. As an architecture major, I enjoyed seeing all the beautiful places. However, meeting the people who live in the city was even greater. I got to meet some of the locals while working at a soup kitchen. On Tuesday mornings, I walked down to Chiesa di san Giacomo, the church where the soup kitchen volunteers distributed breakfast. The visiting poor entered off the street and greeted us: “Ciao Miguel” or “Ciao Abdel!” One volunteer offered them breakfast and lunch foods from a table. Another volunteer made them coffee, and I added sugar. Abdel even memorized how each visitor liked their coffee made.

I did not remember as many names as the regular volunteers, but I did come to recognize their faces. We would greet each other with a smile, and they may say “thank you” when I hand them their coffee. I also saw some of them around the city, and we would greet each other with “Buongiorno!”

The volunteers were also generous to me. They helped me learn some Italian words, and I helped them learn some English. One of them had visited the United States twice, and we shared pictures of our favorite places.

Americans can be different from Italians in a lot of ways. My volunteer work showed me that both Italians and Americans desire to give to those around them. Their acts of generosity could be incredibly simple, such as handing someone a coffee with a smile.

The architecture in Rome is the same way. A Marian shrine, for instance, may be done in the spectacular baroque style. Yet, not every shrine can be this grand. A simple wood shrine on an alley can also be delightful. Great or small, the shrines display a greater beauty that is beyond our ability to create. 

Rome abounds with delightful architecture and people. It was an honor to work with a few of them and I would gladly do it again.

Going to the soup kitchen was a great chance to slow down and focus on the simple task of giving people sugar for their coffee. It was an honor to work with all of them, and I would gladly do it again.

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