Father Reilley ready for Rome

Father Patrick Reilley, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Arkansas City for the last five years, is preparing to begin studies in Italian before enrolling in his canon law courses in Rome. (Advance photo)

Before his ordination in 2010, Father Patrick Reilley spent some time under the tutelage of Father Jason Borkenhagen, who, at the time, was the pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Parsons.

He is going to get a bit more mentoring from Father Borkenhagen after he moves to Rome this summer to begin his studies in canon law. Bishop Carl A. Kemme made the announcement, along with other new priest assignments, on June 7.

Father Borkenhagen has spent the last two years in the Eternal City where he has one more year left in his three-year program of studies for a doctorate degree in theology.

“It was great to live with Father Borkenhagen as a deacon,” Fr. Reilley said last week. “And now I’ll live with Father Borkenhagen as a priest. It will be nice to see him because he has become a friend.”

Father Reilley, who was most recently pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Arkansas City, will study Italian from July 1 to Aug. 31 in an immersion program in Perugia, about 100 miles north of Rome and 16 miles east of Assisi.

Packing for Rome

The emails have been flying across the Atlantic between the two priests, Fr. Reilley said, with a lot of questions, including inquiries about what he will need to take.

“I’ve got it down to three suitcases, and I could probably get away with two, but I’m going to take three – just in case.”

Father Reilley said discussion about studying for a canon law degree began around the time Bishop Kemme was ordained to head the Diocese of Wichita.

One of the challenges the Tribunal Office faces is the need for a canon lawyer who is fluent in Spanish. Father Reilley speaks Spanish, which will likely make it a little easier for him to learn Italian – and Latin, which will be necessary for his third year of studies.

The Tribunal Office oversees canon law matters, including the marriage tribunal.

Priests learning new languages

The diocese will have a couple of polyglots when both priests are back in Kansas. Father Borkenhagen, who learned Italian before he began his scholastic work in Rome, will soon begin an immersion program in French, necessary for his classes about St. Thomas Aquinas.

At the end of his studies, Father Reilley will receive a licentiate in canon law. The length of time for the degree was extended from two to three years to strengthen the students’ understanding of Latin. Canon law is in Latin and other documents related to canon law are in Latin – the church’s universal language.

After Fr. Reilley completes his immersion in Italian he’ll travel to Rome and move into Casa Santa Maria, where Father Borkenhagen lives.

Will live close to the Trevi Fountain

The Casa, about a block south of the Trevi Fountain, is part of the North American College and serves English speaking priests sent from their dioceses to study in Rome. It has been recently renovated and is currently home to 72 priests from 42 dioceses.

“The enrollment system is very different. You just show up and you present your bonafides, your credentials, and then they enroll you in the classes. And that’s it,” Fr. Reilley said. “There’s no online enrollment!”

He will study at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, known as Santa Croce, a half-mile west of the Casa.

“They teach canon law a little bit differently there,” he said. “They teach more of a comprehensive system, so they’re looking more at the principles, the fundamentals that underlie the law. They want to give you a good grounding in what it is so that you can interpret it well.”

Father Reilley will have a little time to practice his Italian after his immersion. The school year is from October to June with month-long exams, usually oral – in Italian – at the end of the two semesters.

“I’m looking forward to being able to become a better priest by learning more, and then being able to bring that back to the Diocese of Wichita,” he said, adding that priests never stop studying.

“I find that every book I read, every conference I go to makes me a better priest. So I’m really excited about this opportunity to be dedicated to studying and learning something that’s eminently practical for the church.”