On September 17, 2021, a new academic year was inaugurated for the international community of St Anthony at the Baths, better known as “La Vigna” [or the Antoniana Vineyard]. The friary has just been renovated.
The renovation work was finished a few days earlier. It was a project of the General Curia of the Order and was overseen by the architect Fabrizio BELOCCHI. The construction company FEA executed the work, which included restoring the color of the friary’s external walls, strengthening the ornaments and frames, cleaning up the rain gutters and downspouts, and improving the lighting in some adjacent areas. The entire project was financed through the “Facade Bonus” state tax relief program. The finished renovations were fittingly presented on the feast day of the Stigmata of St. Francis of Assisi. La Vigna is mainly a house of studies. Therefore, this labor-intensive renovation was diligently carried out over the summer, so as not to interfere with the schoolwork of the student residents. During the presentation, the renovation work was dedicated to St. Robert BELLARMINE, the patron saint of the Guardian of La Vigna, Friar Robert LEŻOHUPSKI. The event was attended by friars from the four other General Houses in Rome; the Rector of the nearby “San Norberto” College of the Premonstratensian Canons Regular; friends of the friars, clergymen and laity. Refreshments were set out in full compliance with anti-Covid regulations. The food was prepared by Cesare, a very friendly and successful Roman chef, and by the sisters of the Handmaids of the Poor (Dinasevanasabha), a Congregation from India. The sisters have been living in the area for two years now. Their convent was canonically erected on September 5, 2020 and is situated in a reserved area of the La Vigna property. The friars set up the outdoor areas for the traditional barbecue, which has become an institution at celebrations in the General Houses.
This year, the La Vigna fraternity has twenty solemnly professed friars. They come from twelve different nations, namely, Brazil, Korea, Ghana, India, England, Italy, Kenya, Mexico, Poland, USA, Venezuela and Zambia. The average age of the friars is 41. Like any community of the Order, the La Vigna community is on a journey toward God, fraternal life and mission. Regarding God, the friars have prioritized personal and communal prayer. They actively participate in the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, meditation, and Eucharistic Adoration on Thursdays. They attend monthly retreats and spiritual Chapters. As for the fraternal life, the friars are committed to living interculturally. They sometimes have gatherings to share traditions from their countries, especially those regarding cooking. They come together to clean house and attend important celebrations, such as such as anniversaries and milestones in academic achievement. Regarding mission, the friars, try to make good use of the educational opportunities afforded them by living in metropolitan Rome, the capital and the heart of the Order and the Church. They undertake pastoral ministry at the service of the local Church in order to maintain and exercise their own priestly ministry and consecration.
During a House Chapter on September 24, the friars created a schedule for the new year. In order to get the year off to a good start, considering all the commitments and activities scheduled for 2021-22, the community planned a spiritual retreat. As a rule, these take place the week before the Solemnity of St. Francis. This year, the retreat was held at the Friary of San Lorenzo al Piglio, a presence of the Italian Province of St. Francis of Assisi (Central Italy). The retreat was led by Father Marco PANERO, a Salesian and a professor of Moral Philosophy at Rome’s Salesian Pontifical University. Father Marco gave a reflection on the importance of the theological virtues in deepening and rediscovering the beauty of one’s call to consecrated life. This time of grace was successful because of the silence of the retreat site, the healthy air, the hospitality shown to the friars, the authentic, traditional cuisine, and the spiritual atmosphere, marked by the presence of Blessed Andrea CONTI and the Venerable Quirico PIGNALBERI.
Before signing off, let me invite you, in the name of the Guardian and the friars of La Vigna, to read my upcoming article, which will explain the detailed remodeling program of the house.
Friar Simone SCHIAVONE