Father Reilley is reading and praying during Rome lockdown

Bishop Carl A. Kemme made his ad lumina visit to Rome just weeks before the Covid-19 pandemic began ravaging Italy. On Jan. 16, Pope Francis met Bishop Carl A. Kemme, Father Jason Borkenhagen and Father Patrick Reilley, at right, both of whom are studying in Rome. (CNS photo)

Father Patrick Reilley says the national quarantine imposed by Italy’s prime minister has indirectly benefited him and other students studying at Casa Santa Maria in Rome.

“In a way, it’s a blessing for those of us who are in academic work because we have all of this time to get our studies done,” he said Saturday, March 21. “We have more time since we don’t have to be in lectures. We can just read and pray.”

Casa Santa Maria is part of the Pontifical North American College and serves English speaking priests sent from their diocese for graduate-level studies in Rome.

“We’re very fortunate here because we have food. We have a safe place to be. That’s why I haven’t come home – I’m very, very safe here. I can say Mass. I have a library here. If I went home, I think I would just be in the way more than anything.”

Quarantine could be extended

Father Reilley, who is studying canon law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, said the national quarantine for schools will expire on April 3 but could be extended, depending on the circumstances. He and his fellow students wouldn’t resume classes at that tim even if the quarantine is lifted, until the week after Easter, possibly April 20.

“That depends on the virus,” Fr. Reilley said. “The prime minister has talked about the possibility of extending the closures, so we really don’t know.”

The only reason the student-priests leave the Casa is to go to the grocery store or the pharmacy, he said, adding that they’ve received conflicting information about whether it is permissible to go outside simply to exercise.

Movement is restricted

Father Reilley said he’s been out twice. Once to pick up his passport. The second time to go to a grocery store. “I was never stopped. The police are kind of chatty. If they see you in clerics they want to talk. They’re  pretty bored, too, I think.”

Casa Santa Maria is quieter than usual, he said.

“About half of the guys have gone home. The rest of us here kind of do our own thing. We still have our set meal times. We’re all saying Mass every day. We’re praying. We’re doing our holy hours. We’ve been praying the rosary in common for the end of the Carona Virus.”

Father Reilley said other than that he reads all day. “I’m done with all my required reading and now I’m on the suggested bibliography,” he said chuckling.

He wanted the faithful of the Diocese of Wichita to know that he remembers the people of the diocese in his daily Masses and in his personal prayers.