Yesterday in my column about my recent visit to Wisconsin I listed the various family activities that occupied my six days in Fox Point and Whitefish Bay near Milwaukee but failed completely to mention the delightful time I spent in Milwaukee with Discalced Carmelite Fr. Reggie Foster! I interviewed him for my EWTN weekend radio program, “Vatican Insider” and you’ll hear Part I of our conversation this coming weekend.

Fr. Reggie is a living legend! He worked for 40 years at the Vatican in the Secretariat of State office for Latin translations – from 1969 to 2009 – and for 30 plus years taught Latin at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University in Rome. A prodigious producer and translator of documents for popes, Father Reggie was known as the Papal Latinist. Now semi-retired, he lives in his native Milwaukee but still teaches Latin several days a week, and students come from around the world for his summer courses! He converses as easily in Latin as you and I do in our native tongue. This is an interview you won’t want to miss – more about that on Friday!


Each time I’ve gone to Wisconsin for a First Communion celebration of one of the four children of my niece Christie, I have visited their school, St. Monica’s, in Whitefish Bay. I’ve spent some time in classrooms, starting at the kindergarten level, speaking briefly to the students and answering their questions about Rome, the Vatican, the Holy Father, my work, etc.

Each time has been a joy and left me with indelible memories, but perhaps no visit more than this one because what happened in one classroom was so unexpected!

I arrived Milwaukee on Thursday, May 3, going directly to the school from the airport as it was the annual, and very popular, Sports Night, an evening when sports luminaries (including Gold medal Olympians) from Wisconsin spend several hours with St. Monica students and their families.

Christie had beautifully managed to keep my arrival a secret and it was enormous fun to see the faces of Brogan, Cole, Emory and especially Cece, the First Communicant, when they saw me standing in the hall with their Mom. The love, the hugs, the delighted cries of “Aunt Joan!” made any tiring moments of a long journey disappear into thin air!

Christie and I had also been communicating with Mike Bradford who teaches a Fourth Grade class about my addressing the students the day after my arrival. My nephew Emory is in that class and, as I was to learn, his passion for this column, “Joan’s Rome,” had spilled over into the classroom and the result was a fascinating assignment!

St. Monica’s fourth graders were to study “Joan’s Rome,” find a favorite column and do a PowerPoint presentation on that topic!

I mean, I’m talking fourth graders – ten-year olds! Such an amazing generation today!

Needless to say, Power Point did not exist when I was 10. In fact, I searched online and found this: Microsoft PowerPoint is a presentation program, created by Robert Gaskins and Dennis Austin at a software company named Forethought, Inc. It was released on April 20, 1987, initially for Macintosh computers only.

I briefly spoke to Emory’s class and then answered all sorts of questions about my work, the Pope and Vatican, and so on. The students were so interesting – and interested – that I think we could have gone overtime. I also left them with an assignment, and that will be another topic, another day!

One of the questions was: what is my favorite column? It was a hard question to answer as I’ve covered so many topics in the 12 years I’ve been writing this column. I mentioned only a few: covering the death and funeral of Pope John Paul, covering two conclaves and other historical moments for the Church, various trips I’ve taken for EWTN, etc.

I did mention that one of my favorites was the story I tell every year on Palm Sunday about the raising of the obelisk in St. Peter’s Square. That was Connor’s question and he did a PowerPoint on that story. Mike Bradford sent me three of the PowerPoint presentations and my niece Christie transformed them into individual pictures for this blog. My only regret was not having the time to see the beautiful work of each one of the students. Some of the print may be small, hopefully not too fine to read!

Olivia did a great presentation on Ash Wednesday:

And I can’t ignore Emory’s topic – the bet made between the archbishops of the two cities whose teams were in the World Series!

I was awestruck by the ability of the fourth graders to execute the PowerPoint presentations and struck in general by their questions, by their interest in my work, in the Vatican, etc. Several also told me that their grandparents had come from Italy and asked me if I knew the towns they named. The entire experience was so memorable for me and, I later learned from Emory, it was memorable for the class as well. I think, however, that I was the biggest beneficiary of that morning!

Here are some photos Christie took during my class visit:

After visiting the Fourth Grade, how could I not go to Cece’s Second Grade class – after all, they were about to celebrate a very big day in their personal and spiritual lives – their First Communion!

Michelle Kryszak, their teacher, asked me to speak briefly and then I answered questions from the class, questions that were similar in some ways to those of the fourth grade: what is Pope Francis like? How often do I get to see a Pope? How many Popes have I met? What is Vatican City like? What is it like to live in Italy? Do I speak Italian? I answered that question, of course, by speaking Italian!

By the way, the Friday I visited St. Monica’s, it was a ‘no uniform’ day – thus the casual dress.

I told Cece at home that night how much I enjoyed being in her class and answering questions. In her own words, she said: “I was delighted that my friends asked such good questions. It was fun having you visit us!” (Did I use the word “delighted” when I was 8?!)

PS. Tuesday after the First Communion Sunday, St. Monica’s held its annual May Crowning ceremony in the church. Afterwards, as I walked over to greet Mike Bradford, several of the fourth graders greeted me: “Hello, Miss Joan! How are you? Are you coming back to our class?”

My answer is, Yes, I surely want to someday!

And a second grader approached me, wearing her First Communion dress, to tell me her Dad was in Rome once and had received a beautiful rosary from Pope John Paul. Did I know John Paul? Yes, indeed, I replied, I was blessed to meet and speak to him many times.

And that is how I felt with all the St. Monica students whom I met – blessed!

When you have fine people, a strong faith and a wonderful family in your life, then you too are blessed!



Pope Francis is currently holding a series of closed-door meetings with the Bishops of Chile to formulate a response to the abuse crisis that has rocked the Church in that country. The discussions are being attended by 31 diocesan and auxiliary bishops and 3 emeritus bishops, and will be ongoing until May 17th. (photo vaticanmedia)

Press conference of two Chilean bishops

On the eve of the meeting, two Chilean bishops held a press conference in Rome, Bishop Fernando Ramos, auxiliary of Santiago and General Secretary of the Chilean Episcopal Conference, and Bishop Juan Ignacio González of San Bernardo.

Called by the Pope
Archbishop Ramos recalled Pope Francis’ letter of April 8th with which he summoned the bishops to the Vatican. He explained how the Bishops have come specifically “to receive the conclusions of the report by Archbishop Scicluna following his visit to Chile, and also to discern short, medium and long term measures to restore communion and justice.” According to the General Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference, these were “the two great themes to which the Holy Father invited us with his letter.”

Discerning responsibilities
Speaking at the press conference in Rome, Archbishop Ramos said the content of the meetings with the Pope would include: “The issues of abuse of power, abuse of conscience, and sexual abuse, that have occurred in recent decades in the Chilean Church, as well as the mechanisms that led, in some cases, to concealment and serious omissions against the victims. A second point is to share the conclusions the Holy Father drew from Archbishop Scicluna’s report. And a third point is the Pope’s invitation to make a long synodal process of discernment to understand the responsibilities of each and every one regarding these terrible wounds of abuse, and to seek necessary changes so that they are not repeated.”

Pain and shame
Archbishop Ramos spoke of the Bishops’ feeling of “pain and shame.” “Pain,” he said, “because unfortunately there are victims: there are people who are victims of abuse and this causes us profound pain. And shame, because these abuses occurred in Church environments which is precisely where this type of abuse should never occur.”

Forgiveness and reparation
Archbishop Ramos continued: “We must ask forgiveness 70 times 7. I think it is a very important moral imperative for us. The important thing is that the request for forgiveness is truly reparatory.” He concluded: “In all humility we will listen to what the Pope will tell us. … this is a very important moment” for the renewal of the Chilean Church.

Pope Francis as an example for the Chilean bishops
Also speaking at the press conference, Bishop González said the Chilean bishops see Pope Francis as an example for having admitted his mistakes, for asking forgiveness, and for meeting with the victims. The victims are the center of our attention, he said, and for this reason the Church in Chile must work towards reparation, with humility and hope, following the teaching of Jesus.

Restoring trust in the Church
When it announced the meeting with the Chilean bishops, in a communiqué on May 12th, the Vatican Press Office explained that “it is fundamental to restore trust in the Church through good Pastors who witness with their lives that they have heard the voice of the Good Shepherd, and who know how to accompany the suffering of the victims, and work in a determined and tireless way in the prevention of abuse. The Holy Father thanks his brother Bishops for their willingness to stand in docile and humble listening to the Holy Spirit, and he renews his request to the People of God in Chile to continue to pray for the conversion of all.”

The communiqué concluded by confirming that the Pope will not be issuing any statements, either during or after the meetings, “which will take place in absolute confidentiality.”


This is a story posted last night (May 14) by SIR (Servizio Religiosa Italiana: https://www.agensir.it/quotidiano-en/)

“I have been in the Holy Land for 30 years and I have never seen the like, I have never seen so much rage from Palestinians. People are dying in Gaza, riots are taking place in Jenin, Ramallah, Hebron, Bethlehem and in other West Bank cities. The toll of victims is being updated all the time. And it might be even worse tomorrow.”

The person speaking on the phone to SIR from Jerusalem is Father Ibrahim Faltas, director of Franciscan schools in the Holy City and in charge of relations with Israel and Palestinians for the Custody of the Holy Land. The Franciscan father knows the local situation very well: during the so-called second Intifada, he was involved in the Bethlehem Nativity siege (from April 2 to May 10, 2002) and in the forefront of the negotiations to reach an agreement with the 240 Palestinian activists who had taken shelter in the basilica to escape being captured by the Israeli army – an agreement that was reached after a 39-day siege.

“Since then, things have got worse and the peace process seems to have stopped,” he says while he listens to “breaking news” about the Palestinians’ protests and the riots in Gaza and in the West Bank. All this, while president Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, unveiled the coat of arms and opened the US embassy in Jerusalem.

“President Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy to Jerusalem has not only kindled the Palestinians’ resentment, it has also split Israeli society. Here in town there are Israelis who cheer and others who protest,” states Father Ibrahim, confirming the news that about 200 Israeli and Palestinian activists are rallying just in front of the diplomatic HQ.

It is more appropriate than ever, now, the priest points out, “to remember John Paul II’s words, when he said that ‘If there is no peace in Jerusalem, there will be no peace anywhere else in the world’. Jerusalem is a unique city. It must be a city for everyone and everyone’s city’.”

“The toll of casualties in Gaza now (jfl: last night) amounts to 41 people dead and 1,800 injured, but many of them are serious. A number that is bound to increase, unfortunately. We are having a terrible day today, and tomorrow the Palestinians will celebrate Nakba, the catastrophe, which is the birth of Israel for them. Much worse might happen.

“On our part,” the Franciscan concludes, “we keep praying for peace and hoping. As Franciscans, we have been in the Holy Land for 800 years and we have never lost hope and we won’t ever. Praying and hoping, while helping the people who suffer, who want dialogue and peace. These are tough, difficult days, but let’s pray that fine, peaceful days may come.”