Home from Rome, UST student notes similarities in response

| March 26, 2020 | 0 Comments

Isabel Brown, a University of St. Thomas graduate student in Rome before she returned because of the coronavirus. COURTESY Isabel Brown

When Isabel Brown was flying home from Rome, a city under increasingly tight restrictions to help curb spread of the coronavirus, she had wistful hopes that things might be different back in the U.S.

But she flew into a similarly restrictive environment as the pandemic continues to spread across the globe.

“It’s a little different, how it’s happening right now,” said Brown, a graduate student in the University of St. Thomas’ Catholic Studies program. “But with the fast pace with everything, that’s definitely what happened there.”

UST undergrads, 47 of them in the Catholic Studies and St. John Vianney Seminary programs, were called home by the university Feb. 28; the university asked them to leave no later than March 6.

After much consultation with friends and colleagues, Brown decided to stay. Italy had been hard hit in the northern part of the country, but not Rome. In fact, there was not much news about the virus in Rome, beyond a few reports, she said.

That changed rapidly as the virus spread, and Brown decided to leave Italy just one week later. The airport was remarkably busy as people tried to leave Italy, she said. By God’s grace, said said, she found a seat on an airplane and several priests and seminarians from the Pontifical North American College seminary in Rome also were on board.

“That was really special to be together,” she said. “It was so sad to be leaving. But God’s got a plan in this and it’s affecting everyone all over the world.”

Brown, 26, a member of Holy Family in St. Louis Park, is living with her parents now in Minnetonka. She finishes her graduate degree this year, and will complete it online. She plans to teach, probably high school.

While disappointed she was in Rome only a month rather than four months, she packed a lot in and got to know many UST and NAC students in a very special way, Brown said.

As restrictions increase in Minnesota, Brown said she is particularly saddened about not being able to attend a public Mass. Flying into the U.S., she imagined that might not be part of restrictions in this country. But she is trying to give up the Eucharist as a Lenten observance, and get the most out of being confined at home.

Perhaps people spend more time in prayer and with family, pick up a new book, learn a new language, she said. And when Mass comes back, there is certain to be greater respect and appreciation for the liturgy, Brown said.

“I think this is a chance to really see God’s hand in this,” she said, “and doing what we can to get something out of it.”

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