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SMC student to read at Vatican Mass

| Friday, March 27, 2015

Most students who study abroad can testify to having a unique experience, but not many can say they offered the first reading at the Holy Father’s Palm Sunday Mass.

Saint Mary’s sophomore Ali Mahoney, who is currently studying abroad in Rome, was chosen to give the first reading this Sunday in St. Peter’s Square to kick off Holy Week for Catholics across the globe.

According to Mahoney, she was selected to do the reading by Fr. Geno Sylva, the speaking official of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization, whom she was introduced to one day while attending an English Mass at Santo Spirito in Sassia in Rome.

Mahoney said she and her friends began attending Mass in English at Santo Spirito in Sassia each Sunday, and it was there that Sylva first asked Mahoney to give a reading.

“I spoke up and said I would gladly read,” she said. “Throughout this semester, my friends and I have become good friends with Fr. Geno, and a few of the Saint Mary’s girls and myself have joined him for coffee a few times.”

On St. Patrick’s Day, Mahoney’s fellow student and friend Mary Luka relayed the news that Sylva had sent an e-mail requesting for Mahoney to call him as soon as possible. Mahoney said she attributes this fateful e-mail to “the luck of the Irish,” and she hurried to the hotel’s front desk to make the call.

“[Sylva] told me that he was very impressed with my readings at the past few Masses at Santo Spirito and was wondering if I would like to read the first reading for the Holy Father’s Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square,” she said. “His job was to find a young, English-speaking pilgrim to speak at the Mass, and he felt that I would be a great fit.”

Mahoney said she could not believe what she was hearing, though she immediately accepted.

“Mary stood by me the whole time, and I’m pretty sure the concierge at the front desk of our hotel looked at me a little funny because I couldn’t stand still. I felt so much joy and confusion while still on the phone with Fr. Geno,” she said. “I immediately called my mom and told her … It was when I was on the phone with her that I started crying and realized how great this opportunity is.”

Shortly after accepting Sylva’s offer, Mahoney said she received a formal invitation from Msgr. John Cihak, the Papal Master of Ceremonies and a Notre Dame alumnus from the class of 1992.

“It’s hard to put into words how I feel. It is such an honor to be chosen for this experience,” she said. “When people ask me how I feel, I can’t help but to think about how surreal this experience is. This invitation would have never been offered had I not gone outside of my comfort zone to volunteer to read a few Sundays at Santo Spirito.

“To be able to proclaim God’s Word in a church in Rome is an amazing experience in itself. But it is truly a blessing to be able to share God’s word with thousands of people of different languages, cultures and nations, coming together as one Catholic community.”

Mahoney said this upcoming experience reflects precisely what studying abroad in Rome has meant to her — having the center of the Catholic faith at her fingertips.

“Whether it is going to Mass at the Vatican, seeing the Pope at the Angelus or Papal Audience, attending a few more daily Masses or simply developing a friendship with a priest, I can say that my faith has immensely grown while studying abroad,” she said.

“I’m not saying you have to come to Rome to experience this change. However, I think that studying abroad has allowed me to expand on the freedom I am given as a young woman, by taking chances or doing things I never would have done before.”

In addition, Mahoney said the entire experience would not be complete if she did not have her friends and fellow classmates to share it with.

“Over the past three months, we have become like a family. We do everything together. If I am having a bad day, I know someone is always there to make me feel better,” she said. “Having my Saint Mary’s family and my parents there with me this Sunday is truly a blessing.

“I’m so grateful to be able to represent Saint Mary’s in this way.”

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About Kelly Konya

Kelly Konya is an English major bred on Catcher in the Rye and Roman cornettos.

Contact Kelly