North American College rector reflects on 150th anniversary celebration

Monsignor James Checchio
Monsignor James Checchio

.- The Pontifical North American College in Rome marked its 150th anniversary with Masses, a papal audience, talks and toasts.  A reunion for alumni of the college was held from Jan. 8 - 13 alongside events to celebrate the century-and-a-half milestone since the founding of the college.

Among other activities, current and former students were able to celebrate the Holy Mass together on five different days on five different altars each presided over by a North American prelate. Cardinals Foley, Levada, Stafford and Law each presided over a Mass as did Archbishop Raymond Burke, prefect of the Apostolic Signatura.

Among all of the items on the week's agenda, rector of the Pontifical North American College (PNAC), Monsignor James Checchio, told CNA that Saturday's audience with Pope Benedict XVI, after a beautiful Mass at St. Peter's among members of the reunion, was a particularly special moment as was Sunday Mass, which was celebrated in the Immaculate Conception Chapel on the College's campus.

Of the Sunday Mass, the rector said, "It was certainly a joy to have the Chapel overflowing with seminarians and alumni..."

"It is in that Chapel that so many of us spent hours and hours listening for confirmation of the Lord's call, so it was appropriate for us to gather there again during this reunion."

Msgr. Checchio also mentioned that the meal following Mass, which was served by students, was equally "festive" he and expressed his gratitude for "all the assistance the alumni continue to give us."

Msgr. Checchio commented that the lecture by Archbishop of Washington, D.C. Donald Wuerl on Sunday morning called "Preaching the Word of God" was especially appreciated during the reunion as it focused on priestly communion.

On Monday, about 140 members of the group took advantage of the opportunity to make an excursion to Castel Gandolfo, where they were able to visit the college's old summer residence, the Villa of Saint Catherine of Alexandria.

The closing Mass was at the Basilica of St. Mary Major on Wednesday evening.

Reflecting on his impressions over the course of the week, Msgr. Checchio said, "To be rector during this celebration was an honor beyond words. Countless peoples' lives have been changed by the good work of these priests, and the reunion provided an opportunity for them to renew themselves to their priestly commitment."

Checchio is now in his fifth year as rector of the longstanding North American institution. In his brief tenure, he has seen great expansion. The seminary has grown from 150 to 220 students in the time he has been there, leading to the addition of three priest-mentors on campus.


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