The Lay Centre is located within the V prefecture (deanery) of the diocese of Rome. There are 8 parishes and 18 other churches that offer liturgies weekly, if not daily, making no less than 88 Sunday liturgies within a 20-minute walk of our front gate. The closest church may be the Trinitarian Church of San Tommaso in Formis where we celebrated our inaugural vespers a couple weeks ago, but the parish church is just a few yards further, the Basilica of Santa Maria in Domnica, also known as Santa Maria Navicella.
The pastor of the parish, and prefect of the V prefecture (the dean, or vicar forane), is Don Sergio Ghio, a presbyter of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Charles Borromeo and native of Milan.
[Interesting aside, as I was looking up how to spell Don Sergio’s last name on the diocesan webpage, I noticed that the diocesan pastoral council includes lay representatives of each prefecture/deanery, who are also listed on the site.]
It was our first opportunity to meet with Don Sergio, though most of us had been to the Navicella a couple of times at least, and some have made it their regular Sunday home. Instead of a more formal presentation, we opted for basic introductions and sharing. Father Ghio seemed either surprised or impressed with the international character of the community living just down the street. When Donna asked about what kind of relationship the parish and the Lay Centre could have, and what we could do for the parish, his response was basically this (in Italian):
“I will tell you what I told the Missionaries of Charity [whose Rome house is also in the parish] when they came and offered to help in the parish. Hopefully you will not be as scandalized as they were. I told them, ‘nothing’. There is nothing you should do for the parish. What is your charism, your vocation? Is it parish ministry? No… it is gift enough for the parish that you are here following your vocation. The question is, what can the parish do for you? So, I am telling you the same thing. If some of you get more involved individually, great, but the fact that you are living out your vocation [as lay pontifical students] is gift enough for the parish. What can the parish do for you?”