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Students tackle translation work for Rome basilica

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When an American priest leading a tour group entered the Basilica of San Bartolomeo in Rome recently, he noticed the interpretive signs in the six side chapels had been translated into English since his last visit.


The translations were completed by four students from The Catholic University of America in Washington who were studying abroad in Rome during the fall of 2018, Alessia Noro, assistant to the director of student affairs at Catholic University in Rome, told the visiting group. Bridget Bagileo, Maria Horner, Rebecca Lemon, and Gabrielle Silvestri, all with different majors and varying levels of Italian-language experience, spent their semester getting to know the basilica and its staff, while translating Italian words they had never seen before.


For these students, one of the most important takeaways from their experience abroad was the connection they formed with the basilica. “It is rare to get to know enough about or spend enough time in just one (church) to feel at home like you would at a parish in the U.S.,” said junior Bagileo. “Having the opportunity to return to and work at San Bartolomeo allowed me to feel like a parishioner at a church thousands of miles from home.”


In 2000, Pope John Paul II designated the basilica as the Shrine for the New Martyrs of the Catholic Church. The basilica, built in 998 for German Emperor Otto III to receive the remains of two martyrs, the Apostle St. Bartholomew and St. Adalbert, preserves the memory of martyred women and men of the 20th century. Many of the interpretive signs the students were translating pertained to relics of the modern martyrs. Silvestri was particularly moved by this part of her experience. “Encountering sacrificial love in the modern era, encountering those people who have given everything for their faith, affects us to this day,” she said.


The students’ Italian skills were put to the test in their work at the basilica. When faced with translating words they had not seen before, sophomore Horner compared her work to a game. “Once I went through the effort of putting it all together and I had this paragraph of English text I could say, ‘Look, I just solved this puzzle’, ” she said.


Horner took pride that their work would not just help American visitors, pointing out that “any English speaking person will now be able to understand (the signs).”


The basilica was quick to use the students’ completed work. “By the last week we were there, they already had the signs up in the church in both Italian and now English,” said junior Lemon, who noted how special it was for her to be able to give back while she was abroad.


“With study abroad it seems like everyone has to help you out, because you’re the stranger, but it can be an interchange of helping,” she said.


According to Noro, the work at the basilica is ongoing. Students studying abroad this semester in Rome also will have an opportunity to volunteer. This semester they are working on creating a video presentation of the basilica, while continuing to provide guided tours.


Find out more

For more information, go to communications.catholic.edu/news/2019/02/rome-basilica-translation-work.html

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019