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Caravita Community Celebrates 10 Years

Eucharist in the Caravita Community

I have mentioned it before, but the Caravita Community is a quasi-parish that meets at the Oratory of Saint Francis Xavier “del Caravita”. It is comprised of an international assortment of Anglophones, with members from about 20 different countries, and is staffed by priests from four different religious orders. Most of its membership travel frequently, and it is a particularly welcoming place for English-speaking pilgrims to Rome. Several people I have meet are in Rome regularly as general officers for their religious community, students or faculty at the pontifical universities, on diplomatic assignment, or staff in the Roman curia. While i try to worship at a variety of churches on Sunday to get a truly catholic experience of the Church, the Caravita Community is always and already familiar.

This weekend they celebrated their 10th anniversary, though even this recent endeavour reflects the longer tradition of the place. Prior to October 2000, however, it had not been used as a place of regular worship since 1925.

Named after the Jesuit Pietro Gravita who was responsible for its construction, the oratory was built between 1618 and 1633 on the site of an existing church, San Nicola de Forbitoribus, and then completely rebuilt between 1670 and 1677 (Baroque, anyone?) The Oratory was constructed to house the nine different lay “congregations” (which would later become to Sodality movement) linked with the work of the Jesuits and served as a centre for lay formation and social outreach in the 17th and 18th centuries. The first women’s lay “congregation” was housed here.

The importance of lay ministry and formation, the dedication to the social mission of the church, and active ecumenical participation remain a part of the community’s identity. Similarly, a rich artistic heritage rests in the place, from 17th century frescoes to the 18th century performance of the teenage Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, his debut in the Roman court. In honor of a new organ installed into the oratory, part of the weekend’s events included a concert dedicated “Mostly Mozart”.

A symposium entitled “How Firma  Foundation: The Role of the laity and the Church’s Mission in the Third Millennium” included presentations from John Padberg, SJ on the history of Lay Confraternities, a report from Kerry Robinson of the National Leadership Roundtable, and an analysis of last year’s African Synod by Cardinal Peter Turkson of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

(The symposium and concert occurred while I was at the day of Reflection at Tre Fontane, and no one seems to have recorded the talks. I am trying to track down the speakers’ papers or notes, if they are available…)

The conclusion of the weekend was Ecumenical Evensong, with participation from the membership of Churches Together in Rome, the ecumenical organization for English-language churches in the City. Canon David Richardson, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative to the Holy See, presiding and Donald LaSalle, SMM of the Caravita Community staff preaching.

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