Papal Paparazzi: DeSales Students Intern at Vatican

By DJ McCauley
Staff Writer

This article was originally published in Issue 5, Fiftieth Year of The Minstrel (November 5, 2015). Click here to view the entire issue.

Strategically huddled against the back barrier, we wait for the pointing cameras and waving hands to indicate Pope Francis’ route. Thousands of pilgrims are gathered in St. Peter’s Square, armed with cameras, smartphones and objects for blessing, waiting for the Pope and his entourage of security guards to weave through the crowd, close enough to touch. Pope Francis frequently stops, steps down from the Pope-Mobile and leans in to kiss babies, bless those in wheelchairs and exchange greetings with religious pilgrims. All this – the waving pilgrims set against the backdrop of marble columns and the facade of St. Peter’s – makes for a surreal experience. From New York City to Los Angeles, I have never seen such a large crowd gathered to see one person.

Pope Francis at an event in Rome. Photo by DJ McCauley.
Pope Francis at an event in Rome. Photo by DJ McCauley.

Gina Galassi and I are both students, but we are here on official business. Working as interns for the Pontifical Council of Social Communications, Gina and I routinely take photos of Pope Francis that are posted to the News.Va Facebook page. We are also working closely with the News.Va Instagram account to design a series of photos of important Catholic sites coupled with apropos quotations. Working so intimately within the Vatican has given me a new appreciation for the sheer size of the Roman Catholic Church.

Five DeSales students have the opportunity every year to serve as interns on one of three Pontifical Councils. The councils, which are specialized groups comprised of laypeople, priests and Cardinals, serve to bolster different aspects of the faith for the Vatican including justice and peace, culture and social communications.

Senior Ryan Fischer and junior Jaci Wendel serve on the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. Their duties include editing English translations of documents, assisting at conferences of bishops and priests and working on specialized projects for the council. One of these projects included designing name badges for a military chaplain conference.

Interns also come from diverse majors that, at first glance, may seem at odds with the internship itself. Though Fischer is a senior biology major at DeSales, his schooling has come in handy with work on the council for justice and peace; his biochemistry knowledge greatly aided the translation of an article called “Land and Food” that referenced phytoestrogens.

A shot of St. Peter’s Square during the Wednesday Audience with the Pope. Photo by DJ McCauley.
A shot of St. Peter’s Square during the Wednesday Audience with the Pope. Photo by DJ McCauley.

Junior Carmen Ferre Marti rounds out the interns, serving on the council for culture. Marti, originally from Spain, speaks three languages – Spanish, English and Italian – and communicates with all three at work. Carmen’s internship involves helping the undersecretary of the council (who speaks Spanish) and the head of communications (who speaks English). A go-to resource for both council members, Marti performs tasks as varied as answering phone calls and emails, translating the council’s webpage and documents and assisting with meetings and conferences. She has even attended a conference in Florence and one in the private Vatican quarters.

Though varied in job duties and practical applications, internships provide benefits far beyond a listing on a résumé. Interns become an integral part of the council they serve. The internship also provides a unique talking point for future job interviews, as well as lessons in becoming a part of the work force.

“The reliance they have on me has definitely helped me to be more goal oriented and effective,” Marti said. “These things might seem minor, but they make such a big difference in how I approach my work now.”


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