Making the Pope Proud: Panini Distribution at the Vatican

Making the Pope Proud: Panini Distribution at the Vatican

Every Friday night at 8pm in the lobby of the John Felice Rome Center a group of about 20 students meet Student Life Assistant Pedro for panini distribution. We head over to Vatican City and distribute food to the homeless. For the last two weeks I’ve tagged along and have loved participating in this JFRC tradition.

The men who started this distribution have been doing so faithfully for about 50 years. And there’s no doubt in my mind that they enjoy it just as much now as they did when they started.

At 9pm a station wagon pulls up filled to the brim with food and supplies. The food is either leftover from bakeries or made by one of the couples who started the group. Unloading their car and setting up takes no time at all thanks to the help offered from friends, other volunteers, and our group of students. A buffet-style assembly line is set up with all sorts of food for the homeless to take away. As they wait in line, everyone is given a sack lunch (where the actual paninis come in). Then they are offered all sorts of pastas, some vegetables, meat, bags of fruit, a variety of baked goods, and hot drinks. With so much food to offer there is often leftovers which are left near where we set up.

Last Friday I was on pasta scooping duty and this week I helped serve vegetables and meat. I was happy to have a job where I could have a few conversations or when there was a language barrier at least offer smiles.  Everyone I’ve met so far has been kind and always grateful. I’m learning that there are few things as rewarding as making someone’s day better by providing them with something so simple.

After everything has been packed back up into the station wagon, Pedro has our group participate in a reflection. We sit among the columns of the Vatican and Pedro leads us in various forms of Ignation prayer or reflection. Taking the time to think about the significance of what we helped with is a great way to process the experience.

It’s safe to say that feeding the homeless is a good thing to do, but taking a time out and relating that experience to your faith and study abroad experience overall shines a different light on the situation. A light that makes you realize the significance of volunteering your time. And to me has made it all the more worthwhile.

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