Father Marcelo Halún of the Diocese of Monterrey, Mexico, takes a selfie with Fr. Reilley in the background during a class at Santa Croce in Rome.

Fr. Reilley back in the diocese from Rome – for the summer

Father Marcelo Halún of the Diocese of Monterrey, Mexico, takes a selfie with Fr. Reilley in the background during a class at Santa Croce in Rome.

Fr. Patrick Reilley is looking forward to hearing confessions this summer, something he hasn’t done for nine months.

The priest of the Diocese of Wichita is home for a few months, away from Rome and his studies in Canon Law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, known as Santa Croce.
“It will be nice to be able to get back to pastoral ministry again,” he said, now that he’s home.

“I’ll be working on my tesina (thesis) and I will be filling in different parishes around the diocese,” he said. “It’s a wonderful experience to be in Rome but you do miss being in the parishes and being with the people – it’s a very different experience to celebrate Mass by yourself every day.”

Although Fr. Reilley won’t be walking to class on the cobbled streets of Rome this summer, he will be working on his thesis while providing summer vacation relief for his brother priests of the diocese.

A visit to Venice

Before beginning classes this past school year, Fr. Reilley said he was able to visit a nearly deserted Venice for a couple of days because of the pandemic. “It was wonderful. It was totally empty, which was great.”

After the side-trip to Venice, Fr. Reilley was able to hit the books but was only able to attend classes irregularly because of the pandemic. Fortunately, only a few of his classmates contracted the Covid-19 virus, he said. “It was a great grace from God that nobody got really sick.”

He lives at the Casa Santa Maria, which is part of the Pontifical North American College in Rome that serves English-speaking priests sent from the U.S. or Australian dioceses for graduate-level studies in Rome.

Studying marriage law

Fr. Reilley said his studies this past year were dedicated to marriage processes, how to conduct a trial, the theology and the juridical aspects of marriage, and the different grounds for nullity.

“We also covered the teaching office of the church and how the teaching office of the church interacts with the church’s law,” he said.

In addition, he and the other aspiring canon lawyers studied patrimonial law – how the finances of the church interact with canon law.

Fr. Reilley said he also took several electives, some of which influenced his choice for a thesis topic that he will begin writing this summer.

Starting his thesis

His topic will concern how a person with executive authority, such as a bishop or vicar general, can make a just decision when issuing a decree.

He said whenever a person of authority creates a decree it must be done in a certain way for it to be valid and licit.

“Sometimes there’s not a clear-cut answer when you make a decision,” he said. “Some people are going to be very happy and some people are going to be very sad and the vast majority of people are going to be OK with it, whatever it may be. So, how do you make the best choice in a given situation? And the different factors that go into that.”

Fr. Reilley is scheduled to present his thesis in June of 2022 after which he will take comprehensive exams.

“And then – please God – that going well, I will be finished at the end of June or the first of July,” he said.

Italian is not a problem

All of his classes are in Italian, his thesis will be written in Italian, and oral exams are in Italian. After so many months of near-total immersion, he said, his Italian is pretty good.

He has only one challenge with his third language. (Fr. Reilley is also fluent in Spanish.)

“I have trouble understanding teenagers when they talk,” he said. “They speak using a lot of slang.”

Fr. Reilley will begin transitioning from Italian to Spanish when he begins work next summer in the Office of the Tribunal. The office investigates questions of church law and processes marriage annulment applications.

It is located in the Chancery.