A group of 18 Heights Seniors, and 3 alumni, traveled to Rome for Holy Week and Easter this year. This was a spiritual pilgrimage to the heart of the Church, and a chance to celebrate the highest feasts of the liturgical year with the Holy Father and thousands of pilgrims from around the world. In addition, our group attended the UNIV Congress, a gathering of university students and professionals in the Eternal City during Holy Week. High school seniors are welcomed to UNIV because they will be attending the university in the fall. UNIV, which simply stands for “university”, was started in the late sixties and entails a single day academic congress at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross. The program includes a keynote address, several other speakers, panel discussions, book talks, a business case competition, and the presentation of academic papers by student participants. Each UNIV has a specific theme, and the talks and papers center on this topic especially as it relates to fostering a more human and Christian tone in society and culture. Previous UNIV congresses have addressed topics including: the power of beauty, ecology, human identity in a digital world, living freedom decisively, and constructing peace in the 21st century.
This year’s topic was The Family Impact. Presentations centered on the role of the family and factors that can enhance the positive role that families play in our world. As the organizers describe, “The Univ Forum 2016 aims to provide a profound reflection on the importance of family, considering that it is not just the basic unit of society: actually, it is the foundation and model of all social life. Societies ought to become each day more alike to families –places of encounter and solidarity that have learned to overcome individualism as a way to solve problems.”
Several Heights seniors presented papers this year. The papers were six to twelve pages in length and were submitted in advance. Only those whose papers were accepted were allowed to present. Each student had 15 minutes to present a summary of his thesis and field questions from the audience. Some papers were presented in Spanish while others were presented in English. A moderator was present for each talk, and he also acted as a judge. Following a full afternoon of presentations, the judges conferred, and decided which was the best presentation of the entire congress. This year, our own Jack Ferguson was honored with the award of best paper for UNIV 2016. He was given a 500 euro prize as well as an elegant book shaped plaque. Jack’s topic was titled, “Family in 19th century French literature: Victor Hugo.”
The UNIV Congress was inspirational and edifying. It planted seeds for future academic inquiry and will serve as a spur to practical action as well. But more importantly, the week in Rome left an indelible mark – the Scavi tours, Vatican Museums, ruins, monuments, and churches…glorious churches. Attending the Easter Vigil Mass in St. Peter’s basilica with Pope Francis, and countless other memories remind us of our life changing sojourn to Rome, and leave us with a strong desire to return.
We are Romans, and we are UNIV.
For more background on the history of UNIV: http://www.univforum.org/en/history