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.
PAULIST FATHERS CELEBRATE 100 YEARS IN ROME MINISTRY
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.