Monday, July 4, 2016

♫♫…Summertime…♫♫ Part 2

As I wrote in the previous post, this summer has been a lovely time of reduced stress and a bit more time to breathe in between the constant activities at St. Paul's and the JNRC. It is also a time of remarkable and bittersweet transitions. Just like the end of a school year, the beginning of this summer has been a time to say goodbye for now to dear friends of the last year, and to look back over the time we've shared together. It is also a time for traveling, relaxing at the beach, and taking some time to enjoy the beautiful weather while many prepare to finally return home.

All of these emotions and activities have been so deeply present with me this last month, as the often stifling heat has also set in on the Eternal City. On June 2nd, Italy marked its Independence Day, complete with a fantastic parade and the annual opening of the Palazzo Quirinale - the presidential palace - and its gardens to the public, including a delightful concert for all the people of Italy to enjoy.
Opening of the Palazzo Quirinale!
One week later, I took a quick jaunt to London for a much-needed visit with an old friend. And of course because I'm the ultimate Jesus freak, there was no way I could leave without visiting at least a dozen churches along the way. With a beloved classmate graduating from Oxford and our organ scholar Julia starting there in the Fall, it was a perfect reason to visit the University for the first time. It's a beautiful place, but not quite as pretty as Yale ;)

St. Paul's Cathedral in London and Worcester & Oriel college chapels in Oxford.
Soon after returning to Rome, I was able to mark one more item off the long-term Living-In-Italy-Bucket-List and take a wonderful day trip to Florence. In particular I joyfully did some church-gazing, including their Episcopal Church called St. James and the, famous Duomo di Firenze (the Dome of Florence) at the city's marvelous cathedral. And although I missed the Rome LGBTQ Pride Festival because of a scheduling mishap, I unsuspectingly arrived in Florence on the day of their Pride event. As it happened to fall just a few days after the horrific Orlando shootings, I was humbled and moved to see many signs of solidarity from Italians to the people of Orlando.

Florence! (the sign reads "solidarity for the gays killed & injured in Orlando - NO Homophobia!)
On June 15th, just one week after saying goodbye to Fr. Austin as he takes his summer sabbatical, we also bade farewell to my dear friend and fellow YASCer Paola Sanchez as she returned home to Puerto Rico. It was at many times a fun and exciting year for her, but also marked by some considerable difficulties. It was such a joy to be able to serve this year with her, and just as we arrived together, to see her off at the airport as she departed from Rome. Arrivederci, Paola!
Dropping Paola off at the Airport, June 15, 2016
The moment Paola and I arrived in Rome to meet Fr. Austin, Sept. 16, 2015!

It was also a time of spending final moments with my dear friends Carter & Julia, our organist interns his year at St. Paul's. We've lived together, worked together, celebrated together, shared so many fun times, bizarre conversations, long days, seemingly countless church services and much more over these last nine months, and I am so glad to know them both! Cheers to Julia as she returns home to England and to Carter as he goes back to Kentucky (hopefully to return next year as my successor, the next ministry intern at St. Paul's!). We had the pleasure to enjoy one final day at the beach together last week :)

Julia and her mom, Carter, my mom and I (with Fr. Francisco in the background) a few months ago :)
Our visit to Santa Marinella Beach outside Rome, June 29, 2016
Just before Julia's departure day, we spent our last weekend together by visiting beautiful Venice, one of the biggest marks on my "living in Italy Bucket List"! We had a fabulous time visiting tons of beautiful churches, eating some delicious food, pacing the decadent streets along marvelous boat-lined canals and admiring this glorious city. Until next time, Venezia!
A glorious weekend in Venezia (Venice) Italy!
This week we celebrate the Fourth of July and I join many fellow Americans at the American University of Rome as we celebrate our Independence all the way across the ocean! Hard as it is to believe, only six weeks remain in my time as a missionary here in Rome. On August 15th, I am scheduled to return home to American shores - first to my native Maryland and then to my adoptive home in Ohio. Until then, beloveds, please continue to pray for me throughout my final weeks in Rome and throughout my ministry!

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