Greetings from Italy!
I am happy to announce to you the establishment of a new lay movement in the Eternal City: the Oratorio. We are full of faith and energy, but we are in need of some financial support. Will you help us get off on the right foot?
"Why? Isn't there enough going on in Rome? Why not just join another group, or just 'do your own thing' like a normal person?"
These are great questions. The Oratorio will have a few characteristics which definitively set it apart from others which already exist in the City. What's more, it is a good and necessary addition to the religious activity of Rome. Let me explain.
First: the Oratorio is specifically designed for lay Catholic men living in Rome who speak English - perhaps this last part is rather critical to emphasize. Sure, there are many opportunities to "get involved" in various lay movements, let alone parishes, but for many foreigners that is difficult due to a language barrier. The Anglophone population of Rome is large, to say the least, yet there are few distinct opportunities for this community which are not "embedded" in a seminary or university environment. The Oratorio will help to draw people together into a common association which moves beyond these limiting boundaries.
Second: the Oratorio will not only spur its members into a deeper spiritual life, or facilitate a healthy and wholesome social atmosphere, or perform works of mercy for the needy; it will do all of these things. We are not a monastery, a club, or an NGO - though these are all good things. We are a group of Catholic men who come together to pray and recreate with each other, who then go out to help others.
Third: the Oratorio is only for men. By carving out this space "for guys," an atmosphere is created which allows for a different kind of growth in the spiritual life. Women will be invited to some events, but it is mostly just for men. As we can see by walking into almost any parish, it is not women but men who need to be challenged and encouraged in a special way to "get involved." This group is a way to do that.
"What kinds of things will you do?"
The Oratorio has three structures for group meetings, as defined in our statutes: major meetings, minor meetings, and extraordinary meetings.
At major meetings, which occur about once a month, we have time for silent prayer, Mass, confessions (when possible), and then there is also a talk given by a member on some spiritual theme, such as fasting, chastity, courage, etc. There will ideally then also be time for some recreation afterward, during which the talk is discussed.
Minor meetings also occur about once a month. These are primarily recreational, such as hikes, tourism, and other similar things, though we'll also typically have Mass before or after.
Extraordinary meetings include everything else, like apostolic works, special Masses, and pilgrimages. These are scheduled on an individual basis. (For example, we are already considering a walking pilgrimage to Subiaco, an event at a major cemetery for All Souls' Day, and reviving the ancient custom of the Advent stational liturgy.)
"Who is involved?"
We have a core leadership team of five individuals (President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and Chaplain), all of whom know each other and get along just fine. Yours truly is the President, at least for now. (There are, of course, processes for voting officers in and out, with term limits for the President.) Four of us also happen to study at the same university in Rome, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (Angelicum).
President: Eamonn Clark - That's me! I am a product of Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD, where I also was in diocesan seminary for some time. Since arriving in Rome four years ago, I have completed the STB and the STL (in moral theology), served as an Academic Senator and Class Representative at the Angelicum (in addition to other work at the university), held teaching positions in several Catholic schools, and more. I am now set to begin the ecclesiastical doctorate in the fall, probably writing on something connected with the social teaching of the Church. I have finally gained a bit of fluency in Italian (in addition to French), and I am always working on some media project. (See the major film I made for my old diocese here, along with its accompanying Kickstarter.) While there is ever more to learn about Rome, by this point I know the City pretty well, at least for an American. For some years now I have been helping to make the social life - and practical life - of many of my fellow Roman lay students easier; the Oratorio is a kind of "spiritualization" of this work which I so enjoy.
But it's a team effort.
So, here's a bit about the other men who will be helping to lead the Oratorio:
Vice-President: Garrett Quigley - Garrett is a graduate of Christendom College, where he earned a Bachelor's in Theology. He is currently in his third and final year of coursework for the completion of the STB. Garrett has been teaching English in Rome for two years now and is a happy newlywed. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge of the Church's liturgy, especially of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
Treasurer: Michael Olsta - Michael is also now in his final year of studies for the STB. He grew in his faith at the Newman Center at the University of Illinois and was a seminarian at Mount St. Mary's (Emmitsburg) for the Diocese of Peoria. While there, he was the Chair of the seminary's Pro-Life and Social Justice Committee, where he organized fundraisers and funding for a local crisis pregnancy center, local food pantries, and the annual house trip to the March for Life in Washington D.C.
Secretary: AJ Lancaster - AJ hails from St. Petersburg, Florida. He is another proud Christendom grad, where he earned a Bachelor's in Philosophy. AJ is now working toward the License in Philosophy here in Rome.
Chaplain: Fr. Francesco Giordano, STD - Father Giordano is a priest of the Diocese of Albenga-Imperia in northern Italy. He teaches systematic theology at the Angelicum, and he assists with the Catholic University of America’s Rome program. Father is the director of the Roman branch of the pro-life and pro-family apostolate, Human Life International.
Members will be invited by the leaders of the Oratorio over the coming months and years. We will start somewhat small, but the sky is the limit.
"Will it work?"
We hope and pray that it will. We have discussed as a leadership team our statutes quite thoroughly, so there should be no real problems with the governance and "flow" of the Oratorio. Just as well, due to the "demand" for such a group, there should be no shortage of interest into the foreseeable future. It is something that people want; and where there's a will, there's a way.
"Is it legal?"
Yes. Rest assured, we are eager to follow the relevant canon and civil law that relates to such foundations. We have the resources to make sure we are in full compliance.
"What is the spirituality of the group?"
The Oratorio is not a religious order. Therefore, we do not have a particular charism or "spirituality," instead leaving room for any and for all. Despite being very tradition-friendly, we do not insist on "this" or "that" liturgical taste as a group but rather seek to embrace organically the fullness of the Roman Rite (and, perhaps, we will even host some Eastern Rite liturgies as well - you never know).
We do insist, however, that our members strive to live the Gospel "above and beyond" the bare minimum, for example, by regularly praying the rosary, by attending daily Mass, by monthly confession, and by a daily hour of prayer in front of the Blessed Eucharist. We require all of our regular members to pray 15 mysteries of the rosary per month specifically for the Oratorio's members and their intentions.
Furthermore, we are inspired by the example of St. Phillip Neri, who once had an "oratorio" himself, a group of like minded lay men in the City that met together to pray and talk; of course he later started a major clerical movement (the Oratorians) after his ordination to the priesthood.
Finally, we are eager to make real use of the City, which is itself a spiritual playground full of interesting and unique opportunities. Unfortunately, so many treasures of Catholic Rome go practically unused or even almost completely forgotten. So, if there is a spirituality of the Oratorio, it is a particularly Roman Catholic spirituality.
"Why do you need donations? Do you have other sources of funding? How will the money be managed?"
Most of our events will require some kind of funding. This might be for food, for drinks, for transportation, or the like. We should have spaces we can use for free in Rome, but this too could be an expense on some occasions. Last - but certainly not least - our funds will be used in our various apostolic works. It goes without saying that the more funding we have, the more we can do, and the more easily we can do it.
We have a small membership fee paid each semester by all regular members, but there is no endowment or "grand patron" of the group (at least not yet). The amount being requested, however, is certainly enough to get us up on our feet; if this small amount is exceeded, well, we will really be moving! Otherwise, for some events and activities, we will be limited to what members - many (or even most) of whom will be students - can supply on top of the dues they have already paid.
The Oratorio has a dedicated Treasurer who will monitor the budget together with a finance council composed of the leaders and other members. The finances are plenty transparent by any standard. (Any regular member has the right at any time to request to see the budget - which is tracked automatically in a way that ensures accountability - along with regular updates sent to all regular members about the finances of the group.)
The proceeds from this fundraiser will first go to my own personal bank account in the USA and then be moved here to Italy to a common account.
As the Oratorio grows over the years, as a donor you will have the privilege of saying that you helped to start this new lay movement in Rome. This is your opportunity to contribute in a positive, unique, and meaningful way to the Catholic life of the Eternal City.
"Will you let me know about the activities of the Oratorio?"
Sure! All donors who give at least $20 will receive a semi-annual update on the activities of the Oratorio (winter/summer), with synopses and pictures of events, any major news, a short column written by one of the group's leaders about life in Rome, and maybe some other things too! We are so grateful for your support - and we will want you to know that what you gave has helped to make something beautiful.
Even just $10 is a really great gift for us. It all adds up...
"What about the virus?"
Italy was hit particularly hard by the pandemic, but things are slowly returning to normal. Obviously, we cannot predict precisely what will happen. We will adjust, reschedule, and cancel events if we are really required, but we are optimistic.
"How long will the fundraiser last?"
This GoFundMe campaign will be open until the start of November, 2020. It is always possible to donate in other ways.
"Can I mail a check?"
Yes - it is even preferred. Just send me a message at the email below, and I will give you the appropriate address. If you would like to make a recurring donation, a check is especially preferable.
"Is there anything else I can do?"
Pray for us! Also, pass along this fundraiser to anyone you think might be interested in supporting this project. And, if you are ever in Rome, we would love to have you come to an event... just let us know!
"I have other questions."
No problem. Please do not hesitate to contact me: [email redacted]
Thank you for whatever contribution you are able and willing to make. Please know that we will keep all of our benefactors in prayer perpetually.
God bless you,
-Eamonn Clark, STL, President of the Oratorio