I have been honored for years to be a lector at both Santa Susanna’s and now St. Patrick’s, so this Sunday will again be a special joy! Our anniversary Mass at 10:30am Rome time will be live-streamed at the link you see below.


On Sunday, February 27, St. Patrick’s will celebrate the Paulist Fathers’ 100 years of ministry to the English-speaking community of Rome with a Mass of thanksgiving at 10:30 AM.  How did it all begin?

For photos covering those 100 years ago, click on our Facebook page and scroll down to Feb. 22. There is also a video celebrating the centenary, including comments and observations from a number of parishioners.(11) St. Patrick’s Catholic American Parish in Rome | Facebook

Come join us for Sunday Mass at St. Pat’s whenever you are in the Eternal City!

Following is the account written by Fr. Greg Apparcel, our rector here in Rome for 20 years at both Santa Susanna and the St. Patrick’s. He departed Rome in the fall of 2020.

While visiting the U.S. Embassy to Italy in early 1921, Paulist Superior General Thomas Burke noticed the Church of Santa Susanna that sat next door.  The church seemed perfectly located for the Paulist Fathers’ desire to acquire a church, as Rome had a growing American community which might form the basis for a parish. Not only did it adjoin the Embassy, but it was near both The Grand Hotel and the railroad station. (Note: In 1932, the Palazzo Amici, a four-story building that previously sat next to the church and served as the American Embassy, was torn down by Mussolini in order to create the Via Bissolati.)

At the end of 1921, following an official request from U.S. President Warren Harding, Pope Benedict XV authorized the Paulists to use the Church of Santa Susanna for the purpose of creating a national church of American Catholics in Rome.   From the February day in 1922 when Paulist Father Thomas Lantry O’Neill became the first rector, he and the many Paulists and Santa Susanna Parishioners who followed, worked tirelessly and with great sacrifice to build up this parish and keep it going through some very difficult times.  On February 26, 1922, the first Mass was celebrated by Cardinal O’Connell of Boston and the church remained open to the general public throughout the day for the very first time since it was completed in 1603.  Thousands of Italian visitors came to see the frescoes.

The Church was closed in the spring of 1940 with a world war threatening and the American community leaving.  The Cistercian nuns persevered and with great risk, hid Jewish women and children in their monastery.  In 1944, Paulist Father Don Forrester returned with the liberating Allied troops and supplied the nuns with food and support throughout the difficult years that followed.  The parish itself grew throughout the next three decades.

In 1986, with a sagging ceiling, the church was again closed for repairs that lasted seven years.  During that time the Santa Susanna community worshipped in Sant’Agnese Church in the Piazza Navona.  Through the valued hard work, fortitude and extreme generosity of a great many individuals, the Paulist Fathers reopened the Church in 1993 with a pastoral visit from Pope John Paul II, who acknowledged us as the American National Church.

In the years that followed we worked diligently, in collaboration with the Cistercian Monastery, to keep open the doors of this beloved Church and to build up our community of English-speaking Catholics in Rome, reaching out with the Paulist mission of evangelization, reconciliation and ecumenism and interreligious dialog.  As caretakers of the house of Susanna and her father Gabinus, we continued to commit ourselves to be a special home for parishioners and pilgrims seeking to deepen their faith under our roof.

On July 5, 2013, the Church of Santa Susanna was closed for many reasons, and for four years the American community celebrated Masses, Weddings, First Communions, Confirmations, Baptisms and Funerals at four neighboring churches.

After the closing, the Vatican Secretary of State, the Vicariate (Diocese) of Rome and other Vatican Congregations and US prelates and diplomats tried to help the Paulist Fathers and the American parish to return to Santa Susanna. However, the Cistercian Monastery, which owns the Church, was opposed to the return.  At the same time, the Irish Augustinians decided to leave Rome and discontinue their ministry at St. Patrick’s Church.  They own St. Patrick’s (still do) and the surrounding properties but were unsure of what to do with the Church when they were no longer present.  So the Vatican Secretary of State put our two communities together.

Even though we already knew each other, we began exploring St. Patrick’s becoming the new church for Catholic Americans in Rome.  Through the great generosity and hospitality of the Augustinians, we reached an agreement for the Paulist Fathers to lease St. Patrick’s Church along with some office and meeting space. On August 1st, 2017, we became St. Patrick’s Catholic American Community of Rome.  Despite these changes, ALL English speakers are welcome to participate in all services and ministries, just as was offered at Santa Susanna.  And despite the hardships brought on by the pandemic, the community has continued to flourish.

So February 27, 2022, will be a great day of celebration and all are welcome to participate in person or online.



A big anniversary for an important publication! Founded in 1921 in Jerusalem, the Terrasanta – Holy Land – magazine today is a bimonthly in color published in the Italian, French, English, Portuguese, Spanish and Arabic editions, according to a note published for the anniversary.

It was created with the task of recounting the “wonders of the Holy Land” and the commitment of the Friars Minor in the various fields of their activity, including the safeguarding of Christian communities in the countries where the Custody (founded in 1217 by St. Francis) is present: Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Cyprus and some islands of Greece.

Through contributions from experts, many of them Franciscans, Terra Santa is seen as a tool for an in-depth knowledge of the complex reality of the Holy Land, dealing with religious, cultural, biblical, archaeological and ecumenical issues.

By the way, the Pope remained seated during this audience today, telling his guests: “Excuse me for sitting, but I have a pain in my leg today that … It hurts, it hurts when I’m standing. This is better for me.” Francis suffers from constant sciatica pain.


Pope Francis urged the journalists of The Holy Land Review to tell the world the story of fraternity among Christians and among all the children of Abraham.

By Devin Watkins (Vatican news)

A group of journalists from The Holy Land Review, accompanied by Fr. Francesco Patton, OFM, the Custos of the Holy Land, met the Pope for a private audience on Monday morning.

The publication of the Franciscan Custody of the Holy Land is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and offers news, information, and insights on life in the land of Jesus.

Pope Francis thanked the entire media group, including staff from the Christian Media Center and the Custody’s website and social media, for their dedication to the Church’s mission.

“The service you carry out today,” said Francis, “is in line with the communicative intuition that guided the Custos Ferdinando Diotallevi, and consists – as he wrote in the first edition of the review – ‘making better known the Holy Land, the Land of God, the cradle of Christianity, the venerable shrines where the Redemption of the human race was fulfilled’.”

Promoting fraternity among all

The Pope said the mission of telling the story of the Holy Land means sharing “the Fifth Gospel” which is “the historical and geographical environment in which the Word of God was revealed and took on flesh in Jesus of Nazareth, for us and for our salvation.”

It also means telling the story of those who live there now, including Christians of various Churches and denominations, as well as Jews and Muslims. He added that the journalists’ overall goal should be to help build a “fraternal society” in the difficult and complex social context of the Middle East.

Communication, said the Pope, must help “build community” and fraternity.

“I encourage you,” stated the Holy Father, “to tell the story of fraternity that is possible: the fraternity between Christians of Churches and confessions that are unfortunately still separated, but which in the Holy Land are often already close to unity… Tell of the fraternity that is possible among all the children of Abraham: Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Tell of the ecclesial fraternity that is open to migrants, displaced persons, and refugees, in order to restore to them the dignity of which they were deprived when they had to leave their homeland in search of a future for themselves and their children.”

Telling stories well

Pope Francis went on to thank the staff of The Holy Land Review for “encountering people where and how they are.”

He noted that the journalists show courage by publishing news about suffering and difficult parts of the Middle East like Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Gaza.

Their work, said the Pope, highlights the good being done and active resistance to the evils of war, along with stories of reconciliation, restored dignity, and the hopes and tragedies of refugees.

Communicating the message of salvation

The Pope pointed out that first-hand, lived experience is essential to effectively communicate the place where the Word of God manifested His message of salvation.

Journalists are called to tell about the Holy Land “where the history and geography of salvation meet and allow us to offer a new reading of the Biblical text, especially the Gospels.”

“The Paschal mystery enlightens and gives meaning to today and the journey of the peoples who now live in that Land, one which is unfortunately marred by wounds and conflict, but which the grace of God always opens to the hope of fraternity and peace.”

Enriching the faith of Christians around the world

In concluding, Pope Francis renewed his encouragement for the staff of The Holy Land Review, urging them to take wholeheartedly to all forms of media and social media to “enrich the faith of many people, even of those who lack the opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the holy places.”



I had one single ambition on this beautiful day marking the 100th birthday of an incredible Pole who became a parish priest, bishop and cardinal and then voted by the College of Cardinals to succeed two men whose names he took – John and Paul: to be in the presence of a pontiff I so loved and loved to serve for so many years.

St. Peter’s Basilica was to open today for the first time in two months and I wanted to be there and to pray to and with John St. Paul.

I live very close to the Perugino entrance to Vatican City and, as a Vatican retiree with proper ID and related privileges, I can use that entrance whenever I need to access certain offices, the department store, the basilica, etc.

I wore my mask but the two gendarmes at the entrance knew me and I was delighted when they said yes, I could certainly return to the basilica! When I got to the basilica entrance there ere two volunteers from the Order of Malta taking temperatures – as they are doing to people who use the main basilica entrance.

I’d been so excited to go that I left my cell phone at home so could not take photos o the basilica as I had only seen it once before in my life, But at least I know there will now be other times!

The very central part of the main aisle has wood barriers on both sides, closing a space of about 6 to 8 feet across, so you cannot walk directly across the basilica, from one side to the other, at any point. As I entered on the south side of the basilica, I had to walk behind the papal altar to get to the north side and John Paul’s tomb where I prayed the rosary. I chose the Luminous Mysteries today because John Paul added them to the traditional Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries.

I did not meditate that well on the mysteries, I must say. I had so many memories of John Paul, mental photos that came fleetingly to my mind. I studied the altar, the many flowers and gorgeous floral bouquets that had been places during the day (I did not see any during the papal Mass). Every distancing allowable space in the pews was occupied and that made me very happy but did not at all surprise me. I saw and felt the love.

I did notice one thing and am guessing it was planned. There were 8 candles on the altar above John Paul’s tomb and 10 more were added during the day on the marble altar railing, two candelabras of 5 candles each for a grand total of 18 candles!

The meditation on the third Luminous mystery in the book I use when I say the rosary began: “Jesus preached in the synagogues, streets and hills of Galilee, offering individuals fulfilment of all their hopes and dreams. People listened, spellbound, as he told them how to gain entrance into this new kingdom: “Repent, turn around, and believe the Good news. God had made a way for you to come back to Him.”

All I could think of was, “that’s John Paul! He preached everywhere in the world!” And it was he who said upon being elected Pope, “ Open wide, open wide your doors to Christ! Be not afraid!”

One of my very favorite photos of John Paul –

I wanted to meditate more on this and talk to John Paul some more and ask another favor or two but I heard a bell that almost made me jump for joy (a bell rang JUST NOW on my phone as I wrote the word bell). The bell meant there was Mass!

Mass! And Communion!

I joined perhaps 50 other people at the Altar of St. Joseph where two of the 12 Apostles are buried, Simon and Jude. All pews were marked with a small yellow dot where seating as allowed – perfect social distancing. The priest who said Mass did not have a mask but he did have gloves: his assistant had both. There was beautiful music and the organist was a great tenor as well!

Communion – Yes, the Eucharist! – went very well. It was orderly, with ushers allowing us to exit our pews properly.

What most amazed me was that when I received communion and began to return to my pew, I started crying!   I felt like I had just received my first communion – at least my first coronavirus era Eucharist!

After Mass I did the final thing I had been wanting to do for a while – confession. I did not know the basilica would close at 6 and it was 5:40 but I found an English (and Chinese- and Italian-)-speaking priest so confession was the final part of the triple whammy!

I can tell you a few things for certain after my afternoon experience…

Even with restrictions, when you go to a real Mass for the first time in probably months, you will discover what you knew all along. You will rejoice. You will smile. You will feel special. You will know you are in a special place. Mass is the highlight, the focus, the center, of our spiritual lives. We share the Eucharist with other members of the Body of Christ as the epitome, the epicentre if you will, of our life on earth as Catholics.

You will also discover the beauty of the priesthood as you experienced it with your pastor or others these past months via live streaming Masses – Masses done with care, homilies preached with love. Maybe you went to confession in your car, sitting 6 feet from your confessor and praying those in the cars behind you had hearing problems!! Much has to be sacrificed to prepare these Masses, new technology had to be learned and used but the priests did that – they did it for us, the faithful.

And I think you will discover like never before what the Eucharist means to you!

PS– a link to other memories I have of St. John Paul:



With his permission, I share a friend’s thoughts and reflections on today’s anniversary – the centenary of the end of World War I – on the madness of war and on man’s inhumanity to man.


This Sunday is the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War (for us youngsters it is now called “World War One”… we had not yet learned to number them back in 1918). Personally it is a poignant reminder that at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month, the horror of that madness was finally brought to a close.

Estimates vary, but some forty million combatants and civilians were killed in that war. And if that wasn’t enough, returning solders helped scatter the “Spanish Flu”.

The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, the deadliest in history, infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide — about one-third of the planet’s population — and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims. Included in the 675,000 American deaths was that of my grandfather (I’m named after him). That war and its aftermath touched every household in America and Europe.

After “World War Two”, which killed some sixty million people (3% of the world population), came other military conflicts. And almost exactly fifty years ago this month, I too was swept up and sent off to war. And at its end, yet another national monument was added to commemorate the string of war deaths.

All of this carnage has always puzzled me. Why are we humans so bent on killing one another? If Earth has been visited by aliens from other solar systems, our uncivilized history has surely scared them off. Why make friends with such immature inhabitants?

And today we are still at war… our economies spend an enormous amount on ways to kill one another. It is madness… and we never learn from history. It all seems so “normal”. If war wasn’t enough, around the world we even kill our unborn children… many are just too inconvenient to have around. In America alone, over 45 million “legal” abortions have taken the lives of the innocent and defenseless.

In the eyes of God, all of this killing must seem sheer madness. What kind of people are we? We slaughter our neighbors and family members. But then a recent survey says that a third of Americans do not even believe in God as depicted in the Holy Bible. I just do not understand it. God surely loves us dearly to put up with us.

It is the time in our Church year when we reflect on the big picture of eternity. We hear in the Sunday Readings about right and wrong… sin… Heaven and Hell. I think it is ironic that at this time of year we are also experiencing the great clergy scandal of abuse. It somehow fits into theme of great sins… Judgment Day… and Hell.

Now you can see why I personally love the 12th century icon that depicts the “Ladder of Divine Ascent”… It shows that until the last moments of our lives we are never far from the clutches of Satan.

Two of the various images of the icon of the Divine Ladder of Ascent

You can also see why my visions of Heaven are of a vast Garden of Eden… with few occupants. Apparently all those who do believe in the Holy Trinity think they automatically have a golden ticket to enter Paradise… a “get-out-of-Hell-free” card. I suppose we have a different concept of the “Last Judgment”… or are the “Elect” exempt from that?

I suppose I’m rather glum these days. Too many anniversaries of war; too many priests and bishops (who should know better) committing horrible sins against innocents; too many screaming protesters worried about losing their rights to murder their babies; too many wacko governments wanting to mass murder those who do not agree with their agenda or faith… and on and on.

Fortunately in the Fall, we are also hearing about the immense power of Our Lady, the Rosary, Saint Michael the Archangel, and the amazing graces afforded us in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

So I do see hope. In Hawaii we recently celebrated our local Saints who, on Molokai, “served the poorest of the poor, and those sent off to die out of sight and mind”. Holy men and women who not only loved God with all their might, but also loved their neighbors more than themselves.

This celebration conference brought together many wonderful Catholics who are doing much tilling in the Vineyard of the Lord. I see many saints among them… no they will not be canonized to become official “Saints”, but they are none the less living saints. They give us hope… hope that Mother Church and faithful Christians will overcome the temptations of this material world and assist many souls yearning to spend eternity with Christ.

So I ask that you all pray….
Pray for the World…
Pray for Peace…
Pray for the Church…
Pray for the Americas…
Pray for non-believers…
Pray for those fallen away from Church…
Pray for the children (from conception to
natural death)…
Pray for the persecuted and defenseless…
Pray for those who are about to die… and
Pray for those working so diligently in the Vineyard of the Lord.

For those who love God, there is hope for all Mankind.