On March 28, two Thomas More College students were received into the Catholic Church in the personal chapel of Cardinal Raymond L. Burke, former Archbishop of Saint Louis and now a resident in Rome as the prefect of the Church’s highest court—the Apostolic Signatura.
“Today, we are privileged to witness in a most beautiful manifestation the work of God’s grace flowing from the glorious pierced Heart of Jesus through the mediation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary,” said Cardinal Burke in his homily.
For Kristina Landry from Ellington, Connecticut, and Jonathan Wasserman from Kansas City, Missouri, both just nineteen, it was the perfect conclusion to the Rome Semester spent studying the magnificence and history of the Eternal City as part of Thomas More College’s core curriculum.
“Though not Catholic when they began their studies at Thomas More College,” said a peer, “it was immediately evident that both were seekers. They were looking for the truth and when they discovered it to be a person, Christ, they were courageous enough to make the sacrifices it takes to embrace Him.”
“I feel incredible,” Jonathan said just moments after being received into the Church. “It was a dream come true. I’m just so glad to have this all. I’m happy.”
“It’s incredible, amazing, awe inspiring,” added Kristina. “The Catholic Faith encompasses everything that is true. It is how we are meant to praise God.”
When asked why he became Catholic, Jonathan responded, “It is the one true Church. To be a Catholic is to have the truth with you.”
Their peers were overjoyed and provided beautiful Gregorian Chant that filled the sixteenth century Baroque chapel during Mass.
After administering the Sacrament of Confirmation, Cardinal Burke said to the new Catholics, “As Baptism was your personal Easter, so Confirmation will be your personal Pentecost.”
Concluding his homily, he encouraged and advised them, “Keep yourself alive in Christ through frequent reception of Holy Communion and through regular confession. Throughout the day deepen Christ’s life within you by your prayers and devotions, especially devotion to the most blessed Sacrament, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and to the Holy Mother of God and the whole company of saints.”
Knowing he was addressing young intellectuals, he added, “never cease to study with fervor the truths of our faith especially as they are set forth in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: and never to give way to discouragement or grow weary in your daily efforts to live those truths in a good and holy life.”
Each student at Thomas More College is required to spend three full months on our campus in Rome, staying at a majestic villa by night and taking private tours of the Eternal City by day. Students are immersed in the history and culture of Rome. They study theology with a Vatican-based theologian, attend Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica, take day trips to Assisi, Siena, Florence, and venture into one of the Church’s most critical apostolates—communications. The College’s Vatican Studies Center and the Internet-based Catholic media agency, H2o News employ students to create worldwide TV broadcasts about Church news—editing, correcting translating, and dubbing the voices of newsmakers, cardinals, and even Pope Benedict XVI.
Both Jonathan and Kristina agreed that living in Europe this semester characterized their conversions. For example, Saint Peter was a natural choice for Jonathan when deciding on a confirmation saint. Similarly for Kristina, who chose Saint Faustina, a twentieth century nun famous for introducing the Divine Mercy devotion, and whose native country, Poland, Kristina was able to make a pilgrimage to.
“Coming to Europe and seeing in Italy and especially in Poland that there’s just so much faith in the people and in the youth, that gives you a lot of hope for future generations,” said Kristina.
Jonathan added that the Rome Semester is inspiring because “you are being surrounded by beauty all the time.”
Rome Program director Tony Assaf said that students “become an extended family during these three intense months together. This is the first time, though, that we’ve been able to celebrate the ‘birthday’ of a new brother and sister in Christ into our Catholic family during the course of the program.”
“I am deeply moved by Kristina’s and Johnny’s conversions,” said Dr. William Fahey, President of Thomas More College. “And I am grateful to Cardinal Burke for his involvement. He has been good to us—showing support not just on an institutional level, but by seeing and taking an interest in the individuals who make up our community.”
Cardinal Burke is a longstanding friend of the College. In addition to having now brought two of the College’s students into the Church, he has visited the Rome Campus twice, welcomed students to his office in the Vatican, spoke at our President’s Council Dinner in Boston, MA, and is currently serving on the advisory council for our capital campaign.