Students share stories from trip to Rome during Holy Week

[slidepress gallery=’romeguys’]

This spring break, St. John Vianney Seminary sponsored four St. Thomas Catholic men 4,904 miles around the world to Rome.

The group was made up of sophomore John Baumgardner, senior Matthew Sweeney and juniors Daniel Carr and Matt Pazderka. All four men are active members of the Catholic men’s leadership group on campus. They were accompanied by the Rev. William Baer and the Rev. Michael Becker and met up with two other seminary students from St. Thomas in Rome.

The group spent nine days in the Eternal City during Holy Week. On the trip, their itinerary consisted of sight-seeing, participating in the stations of the cross and other Holy Week activities. They also traveled to Naples and Assisi.

Seeing the pope during a time of media attention

The group was privileged to have an audience with the pope, which coincided with media attention the pope has been getting for the sex abuse scandals.

Despite negative coverage, Pazderka said that the pope was still warmly greeted by people when he gave mass.

An opportunity to explore faith

Baer approached the four men about going on the trip last semester. The purpose of the trip is to explore their faith and discuss ways to improve the Catholic men’s leadership group next year.

The men are all non-seminary students and were humbled at being offered this opportunity. Carr had anticipated that the trip would be “spiritually challenging.”

Catholic men’s leadership group discusses challenges of faith in college

Baer and some seminarians started the group two years ago and was exclusively male athletes, Pazderka said. The group has expanded to about 35 men and includes both seminary and non-seminary students. They meet at Davanni’s every Thursday at 9 p.m.

“[It’s] a link between the seminary and non-seminary students, particularly the men,” Carr said.

It is also “a male bonding experience where we can talk about the challenges of living at college” in relation to faith, Pazderka said.

“We’re trying to make the group more student-run,” he said. “A lot of students, especially athletes, are reluctant to [come to meetings].”

The retreat in Rome challenged the men to find ways to encourage more people to come to their group.

Three of the men who went to Rome attended the FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) Conference in Florida over J-term. Carr said they saw the conference as a preparation for their trip to Rome.

Theresa Malloy can be reached at