January 6, feast of the Epiphany, a big day for the Church throughout the world and especially so at the Vatican with Pope Francis’ Mass and homily, followed by remarks at the Angelus for the huge crowd overflowing St. Peter’s Square, a festive mood pervading every moment this morning. January 6 is an important day for families, especially the children as they receive a visit from the Befana (epiphany), an old lady who rides a broomstick and carries a bag on her back who gives the kids coal (black candy) if they were bad during the year and candy or another gift if they were good – and they also get real presents such as toys.

And today was a festive occasion at the North America College where Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin dedicated a new 10-story building, the newest on the seminary campus. The Janiculum Hill location was inaugurated in 1953 after the seminary was moved from its first home on Via dell’Umilta, a 400-year old former convent just yards from Trevi Fountain, whose doors opened to seminarians on December 8, 1859.

I though I’d take some vacation time at Christmas and never did (Christmas Eve and Day, of course), and then I thought I’d take the day off today but can’t resist the temptation to share some of the moments and some of my photos from such an important day in the life of NAC, the U.S. national seminary in Rome, which also hosts seminarians from Canada and Australia.

The dedication of the new tower ran from 10 to 11:15, Mass began at 11:30 and concluded just before a great lunch in the college dining room.  Like many, I lingered after lunch for coffee and a digestivo and visits with friends, including all of the cardinals present – George Pell, Donald Wuerl, Edwin O’Brien, James Harvey and Agostino Cacciavillan, several bishops, fellow journalists, NAC benefactors and friends, the seminarians and the honored guests who made the new building possible, James and Miriam Mulva of Austin, Texas.

Details to follow tomorrow about the new building, the Mass and Cardinal Parolin’s homily.

Below are photos taken from the new building with some amazing views of Rome – the best views in the city, in my opinion

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And here are just a handful of the scores of photos I took of the official dedication which included ritual prayers for a dedication and song. The blessing of the new tower began, in fact, on this floor and we all went down, floor by floor, as Cardinal Parolin blessed classrooms, chapels, practice chapels (where the future priests “practice” saying Mass, giving homilies, etc,) meeting rooms, a lounge area and several small rooms for private meetings.

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