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President's Message

All Roads Lead to Rome...

August 2011

What is the origin of this phrase? To do my serious research I turned to Google! Some think the saying finds its roots during the heyday of the Roman Empire when virtually all roads did lead to Rome! But another more intriguing answer attributes it to the medieval French poet Alain de Lille who wrote in Latin: Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam qui Dominum toto quarere corde volunt. (“A thousand ways forever lead to Rome for those who wish with all their heart to seek the Lord.”)

Whatever the origin of this proverb, CTU has found itself on the road to Rome the past few months. In June we announced that CTU was forging an alliance with Rome’s Lay Centre, a unique and highly respected institution that provides a residence and community life for lay men and women who are doctoral students at the various pontifical universities in Rome. In addition, the Lay Centre runs a program of continuing education for people in Rome and provides high level briefings about Rome and the Vatican for boards of trustees of universities and other groups visiting the Eternal City. The Lay Centre is deeply committed to the theological education of laity and is also fully involved in interreligious dialogue. Several of the current residents in the program are Muslim and Jewish students, recommended to the Lay Centre by the Pontifical Universities.

The Lay Centre has a wonderful history. It began as “Foyer Unitas” (a name that means in effect, a “Welcoming Center of Unity,” a title that the Lay Centre still officially carries), a hospice located in Piazza Navone for the Protestant and Orthodox observers to the Second Vatican Council run by a Dutch religious group, the Ladies of Bethany. Foyer Unitas was set up with the help of Cardinal Johannes Willebrands, one of the leaders of the Second Vatican Council dedicated to ecumenical outreach. As fate would have it, Foyer Unitas became one of the most important informal gathering places during the Council—with many of the theological experts and bishops at the Council coming to spend friendly evenings of discussion and debate with the Protestant observers.

After the Second Vatican Council had concluded and the first mission of Foyer Unitas was completed, the Ladies of Bethany turned their facility over to some lay leaders, and it evolved into its current mission of serving as a residential community for lay men and women studying at the pontifical universities in Rome. The “Lay Centre at Foyer Unitas,” as it was now known, kept continuity with the original mission by welcoming students from all faiths to form community in a spirit of study and prayer. Over the years the Lay Centre has thrived and is now housed in a wing of the Passionist General Headquarters in the heart of Rome, a beautiful location that enjoys a large garden overlooking the Coliseum.

The affinity between the mission of the Lay Centre and Catholic Theological Union has brought our two institutions together—both of us are committed to theological education of lay men and women preparing to serve the Church; both are also involved in ecumenical and interreligious dialogue in communion with the Church. For the Lay Centre, connection to CTU provides a helpful connection to a larger U.S. educational institution; for CTU, our alliance with the Lay Centre provides a connection to a highly respected institution in the heart of Rome. For both, there is the promise of expanding our educational programs together in new and creative ways.

For over thirty years CTU has maintained a center in Jerusalem and hundreds of our students have been blessed to study and experience the Scriptures in the Holy Land itself. And now we are on a road leading to Rome—that other vital city so entwined with the history of Christianity and with the Scriptures, too. We hope and pray that this exciting new venture for CTU will prove true the words of the poet Alain de Lille: “A thousand ways forever lead to Rome for those who wish with all their heart to seek the Lord.”

- Fr. Donald Senior, C.P.