FROM AN OLD ROMAN – “O Roma Felix…”
We arrived at Prop at 8.00 pm just as the students were leaving the Chapel for the evening meal. The Australians broke ranks as they came over to give us a great welcome. The Rector Mgr. Felix Cenci a saintly man, was gracious as ever.
The evening meal was a noisy affair as twenty seven new students had arrived that day, the 1957 intake. The Rector said his piece (in Italian) and then the Prefects took over and ushered us off to our quarters.
The Pontifical Urban College for the Propagation of the Faith was established by Pope Urban VIII in 1627 for the training of native diocesan priests for the missionary territories, Italians were not admitted. The original building is in the City near the Spanish Steps. Pope Urban’s brother, Cardinal Antonio Barbarini, extended the College in 1633 by buying nearby properties.
From 1633 to 1703, 451 students from 11 different nationalities attended the college. In 1925 Cardinal Van Rossum bought a disused hospital on the northern end of the Janiculum Hill near the Vatican, renovated the buildings and built what is now the University for the Propagation of the Faith. The present “New College”, where we lived, was built in 1931 and houses 280 students from about 75 different nationalities. The old buildings down at the Spanish Steps are now (1957) used as the residence for the Cardinal Prefect Fumasoni Biondi and as offices for the Congregation.
The Church’s missionary work continued to grow as the Religious Orders also took up Missionary work. At the opening of the 2nd Vatican Council, 11th Oct. 1962, 2,450 Catholic Bishops filed into St. Peter’s, of which one third, 800, were under Propaganda Fide, including 27 Australians. It’s no wonder that the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda Fide was referred to as “The Red Pope” .
My last thoughts as the “Benedicamus Domino” was said in our dormitory were: “What is this new world all about, how will I cope?”. The next thing I knew, it was 6.00 am and I was summoned once more to “Bless the Lord” in a brave new world.!