Fr. Reilley back from studies in Rome

Fr. Patrick Reilley is back from three years of study in Rome with a degree in canon law. He will be working for the diocesan Tribunal Office. The tribunal handles petitions for annulment and other matters governed by church law. (Advance photo)

Fr. Patrick Reilley was still a little jet-lagged when he stopped by the Chancery last week.

His plane touched down in Wichita on July 1, back home after three-years of study at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome where he received a licentiate in canon law.

“It enables you to practice canon law, to be a jurist in the church, and to fill certain offices in the church – mostly connected with the marriage tribunal,” he said. “I’m going to be a defender the bond, which means that I’ll be providing support for the presumption of validity for all marriages.”

Fr. Reilley said the church presumes every marriage is valid. “There’s a role within the process of seeking a declaration of nullity that belongs to the defender of the bond. He’s responsible for proposing anything reasonable in law and in fact, in support of the validity of the marriage.”

Like being back in the seminary

Living at the Casa Santa Maria (located around the corner from the Trevi Fountain) was like being in the seminary again, he said, “without any of the bad parts.”
The Casa serves as a house of continuing formation and residence for English-speaking priests pursuing graduate-level studies in Rome.

“I had a great fraternity with priests from all of the United States,” Fr. Reilley said. “They’re some of the best priests – outside of the Diocese of Wichita – that I’ve ever met: smart, good, holy men, who were doing their very best to prepare for different roles in the church. It was really interesting and very edifying to meet all of these different men from all over the country.”

About a third of them – about 20 priests – were preparing for work in canon law, he said.

“The rest of the men were basically preparing to become seminary professors, or were finishing out their degrees and going back to parishes,” Fr. Reilley said.

Transitioning to U.S. life

He is now working through a couple of transitions: from life in Italy to life in the U.S., and from speaking English and Italian to speaking English and Spanish.

“I’ll miss the people that I’ve met along the way,” he said. “I’ll miss their pace of life. I’ll miss how beautiful it is. But I won’t miss the bureaucracy at all. I won’t miss the traffic in Rome. I won’t miss the heat in Rome, which sounds strange coming back to Kansas in July, but it’s much nicer here than it is in Rome with all its stone, it just bakes all day long.”

He said it’s wonderful being so much closer to family and friends in the diocese.

Fr. Reilley said in his previous summers while studying he returned to the diocese to help with the Spanish Masses at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Wichita.

Italian or Spanish?

“I told the people the first couple of weeks that I know that Italian words are coming out – that’s just how it is. My brain seems to have one slot for foreign languages and when that slot is filled, that’s what’s going to come out. My brain says speak a foreign language right now and that’s what comes out. It’s happened to me with German, it’s happened to me with Spanish, and now it’s happening with Italian.”

Fr. Reilley added that he has no trouble with the written language but that the verbal skills will take a few weeks to resolve.

“I’m really grateful for the time I had to study and to be of service to the church,” he said. “It’s a great sacrifice on the part of the church to send someone away for so many years. I’m grateful for that confidence and trust and the sacrifices of the people of God to make that possible.”

Fr. Reilley said he looks forward to working in the tribunal and assisting those in difficult situations and who have experienced a great deal of pain. “I hope to be a good instrument in that and to be sensitive to their needs and to be helpful and encouraging to them.”