Rome Semester Cut Short for College Seminarian
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
May 7, 2020
CRYSTAL LAKE—St. Thomas the Apostle Parish here is not the Angelicum, but seminarian Ryan Nooraee isn’t complaining.
His 14-member junior class from St. John Vianney College at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul was supposed to spend the entire spring semester at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas — also called the Angelicum — in Rome. They arrived there on Feb. 5.
Then along came the coronavirus, hitting Italy earlier than the United States.
“Rome was fantastic,” Nooraee says. “Our classes were in English, (but) we were doing our best to learn the (Italian) language. When out to eat, we would do our best to try to speak in Italian.”
Then the Minnesota university called their students back to the U.S., he says. They were given a one-week advance warning, ultimately leaving Rome on March 6. 
“The situation unfolded progressively,” he recalls. “First we were told we would be sent back to St. John Vianney, but once we arrived, we went back to our home dioceses and a two-week quarantine.”
He spent his quarantine in a diocesan apartment in Rockford, he says. After that with permission from the pastor, Father John Evans, he moved to St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Crystal Lake. There he joined the parish priests and seminarian John McFadden. St. Thomas is Nooraee’s and McFadden’s home parish.
The university moved its classes online. 
“For me, it has been interesting,” he says. “Since we were part of the Rome group, we were still kept in classes streamed from the Angelicum.” His four classes do not, however, include his class to learn Italian.
Nor does it include the many field trips that were planned by his art history teacher, he says.
Some of those classes are recorded because of the time difference, and U.S. students can ask questions after they’ve viewed them. 
“It’s definitely not ideal, but we are able to persevere and learn. We’re still getting the information we need,” he says.
Keeping busy
Besides classes, he is busy at the parish.
The two seminarians serve for the streamed Sunday Masses. Nooraee has participated in some drive-by blessings and birthday celebrations for children of parishioners. 
He and McFadden led a streamed Divine Mercy chaplet on Divine Mercy Sunday and they got some good feedback on that and McFadden’s short talk before the chaplet began, he says.
They and the priests divided up the master list of St. Thomas parishioners in order to reach out by phone to each household. 
The seminarians were given about 10 pages of names and numbers, Nooraee says, about 30 per page. The priests each took on twice that amount, he adds.
“We’ve been calling and asking them how they’re doing and telling them that we are praying for them,” Nooraee says. “I’ve had a couple of longer conversations.” 
He adds he’s noticed a “real hunger to return to the sacraments ... there’s a growing hunger for Christ in them. It’s difficult for us because we can’t give (that) to them just yet. That hurts a lot.”
Getting older
Nooraee turned 21 a couple weeks ago, and he says the priests “just made the day super special, and of course the parishioners all got involved, wishing me a happy birthday” with cards, emails, Flocknotes and pictures.
“It was a moment (when) I was so glad just to be in this community,” he says. “They toasted (me) close to midnight on that day. I was very thankful for their kindness ... and the birthday dinner too.”
Nooraee’s college classes conclude May 27. 
“As of now, we have not heard definitively what summer will look like,” he says.
Even though they are outside the seminary structure, he says he and McFadden “keep to the practices of seminary” including the prayer structure.
Their holy hours and many other prayers are offered, he says, “for the intentions of parishioners and those affected by the virus as well.” 


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