We had our very first Studientag at the ITI and I hope it will become a tradition. The President, Msgr. Dr. Larry Hogan began the day with a talk about the Seven Principles and the Mission of the ITI. He also spoke about why we do the seminar method and used great props to illustrate his talk; reading the original sources in the original language was like fresh spring water and reading a translation was like Coke Light. Hmmm, the waters may have gotten sweeter, but nowhere near as clear.
Students, staff and faculty then broke into groups to discuss the principles and pillars, as well as two articles written by Cardinal Schönborn on St. Thomas Aquinas as Holy Theologian, and the study of Theology – pitfalls and promises.
Everyone then walked to the parish church, ten minutes away, for the Mass celebrated by His Eminence, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, the Grand Chancellor of the ITI. After Mass, we all celebrated the opening of the school year at a nearby Heuriger, where Cardinal Schönborn was able to meet the new students.
The world famous Ukrainian boy and men’s choir, Dudaryk, stayed at the ITI while they performed at the Peterskirche in Vienna. They have an amazing sound, specializing in Ukrainian folk and religious songs -listen for yourself here and here. ITI students were treated to an improptu concert in the courtyard of the campus where the choir voices filled the night air, reaching all four student buildings as everyone hung over their balconies or ran down to the lawn to delight in the first concert on the campus.
A new school year has begun! Close to 80 students have matriculated and now Australia has been added to the countries represented at the ITI. Countries this year (in random order) include: Austria (no kangaroos here), Australia (kangaroos here), Belarus, Slovakia, Germany, the UK, India, USA, China, Ukraine, Nigeria, the Philippines, Georgia, Ireland, Lithuania, Mexico, Czech, Hungary, Myanmar (look it up), the Netherlands, Romania, and Canada.
During orientation, we had our annual talk on “How to sort trash in Austria” for the newcomers. First though, Academic Dean Bernhard Dolna, named and gave a talk on the three pillars of a student’s life here: prayer life, study life, and community life. The orientation meeting ended with a social so we could all get to know one another.
Two ITI students were part of the twelve person international YOUCAT reporting team during World Youth Day in Madrid. Follow the lives of Niccolo Florencio and Kathleen Wolfe as they blog about their days at www.youcat.org
From June 20th to July 4th of this year the ITI Centre of Eastern Christian Studies (ECS) in Austria organized a summer school with the theme, The Good Shepherd: Priesthood today in the footsteps of the saintly hierarchs of the Ruthenian Greek-Catholic Church.
Clergy and seminarians from the Byzantine Catholic Eparchies of Phoenix and Parma in the USA flew over to participate in the program. The summer school combined conferences and seminars with pilgrimages to the most significant places for the Ruthenian Byzantine Catholics in Slovakia, Ukraine (Zakarpattya), and Hungary. Participant Fr. Diodoro commented, “The course topics were uniquely forward-thinking. I found the specific areas of study, like those of the Good Shepherd and Obedience, and Conjugal Life and Eucharistic Purity very relevant and necessary topics in our Eastern Church that need to be addressed.”
The meetings and discussions during the pilgrimages with local bishops, clergy, seminarians and those working in the formation of clergy contributed much to the study of the topic. Seminarian Michael, another participant, shared his experience about the pilgrimages, “Looking back on our trip to Eastern Europe, I felt connected with the living, breathing roots of our Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic Church. Perhaps one of the best highlights of the trip was praying in the different churches where Blessed Romzha, Blessed Hopko, and Blessed Gojdic’s relics rest. I was also moved to spend time at the shrine church of Our Lady of Mariapoch in Hungary where the original icon as well as the current icon copy has wept and many people have been healed. With so many beautiful pilgrimage places that we visited, I think the significance and spiritual benefits of this trip will be something I realize over time.”
We also hope that all the meetings with the hierarchy and clergy during this program will contribute to the development of collaboration between the Byzantine Rite Churches in Central and Eastern Europe and in the USA.
Despite all forecasts and worries about rain, the weather provided a perfect sunny background for the festivities of the day. Bishop Peter Rusnak, Eparch of Bratislava celebrated Divine Liturgy, the Byzantine Rite Mass, to begin the day. Christoph Cardinal Schönborn presented the Masters, Licentiate and Doctoral degrees to the thirteen happy graduates. Fr. Juraj Terek was presented with a special honor as well – the Golden Priest’s Cross – for his wonderful selfless service in his demanding job at the ITI. The festivities continued at a nearby heuriger with food and wine. Then entertainment and desserts followed in the newly restored Festsaal and the graduates could finally relax after a long, hard week of exams.
This week was the intense and exciting week of thesis defenses. The Lectio Corams begin next week. Now, we all knew the Licentiate students SAID they were writing…but this week showed us all WHAT they had been writing, and how well they knew their stuff.
Each student gave a short summary of their thesis …and then the three Professor readers had a chance to tear the thesis to shreds (at least, I am sure that is what it felt like). But the students held their own and did a great job and we curious onlookers learned a little bit more. Deacon Mike Lee wrote on “The Ecclesial
Hermeneutic: Implications for Biblical Interpretation and for Understanding the Liturgy ” and Scott Hefelfinger wrote on, “The Conception of Theology in Ratzinger and Aquinas”.
The Catholic Universities Community organizes many activities and the ITI, on a lark, decided to enter their Viennese Universities soccer tournament on May 6, 2011. To everyone’s surprise, we won! Not having enough students for subs made the win even more phenomenal. Jude Edeh, from Nigeria, played excellent defense as the goal keeper and other students from Mexico, Romania, Germany and the USA played together and stole the championship!
Rome had all the flags flying for the Beatification of John Paul II at the beginning of May. It was the first thing that struck my eyes as I entered the city. Each light pole had a banner with John Paul II on it – welcoming all of us. His image covered the city with posters and I even saw a taxi re-painted with the beatification message! The posters and banners quoted the last words of our dear Holy Father, “I have searched for you, now you have come to me. I thank you for this.”
Our Beloved Holy Father, John Paul II, had given the initiative to found the International Theological Institute(ITI), so my pilgrimage to this beatification was one of thanksgiving and petition; in Thanksgiving for the many lives God has touched through this education and in petition for JPII to continue to guide this work.
The early morning light of May 1 was filled with streams of people all heading toward St. Peters to join those who had spent the night there. Over 1 million people spilled down the Via della Conciliazione and through side streets. We were lucky to be in the Via with TV screens to bring the beatification close to us. We were even able to receive communion even though so far away.
Even though everyone was tired and uncomfortable, everyone was helping their neighbor – getting water, offering a seat, passing out a Mass booklet or offering an umbrella from the hot sun. Tireless volunteers went up and down the streets to take care of the crowd. I am always amazed at how well Rome can handle a crowd with good will. I love the many small miracles that also happen –like unexpectedly running into people you know and having a joyful reunion.
At the declaration that John Paul II was blessed, the air erupted with the sound of cheers, shouts of joy and applause. Everyone was madly waving their flags and banners. I looked around and saw a sea of tears of joy. Then, another miracle, the streets all hushed and it was still as we all prayed to the new Blessed. His photo now smiled to us from the same window in which he first appeared to the world as the Holy Father.
I thought about the time he was first presented to the world as the new Holy Father, and that the world had no idea who he was. He then traveled through the world, “searching” for all of us, and now we were able to come to him and partake of his gifts.