Count Enrico P. Galeazzi began working with the Knights of Columbus in 1922, when he designed the Order’s first playgrounds for Catholic youth in Rome. He assumed administrative duties for the playgrounds in 1931.
A native of the city, Galeazzi became close friends with Father (later Cardinal) Francis J. Spellman, an alumnus of the North American College who was later appointed the archbishop of New York. Through Spellman, he also became friends with Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, the Vatican Secretary of State. Galeazzi accompanied Cardinal Pacelli to the United States in 1936, and the trip included a visit to the Knights of Columbus headquarters in New Haven, Conn.
Three years later, Cardinal Pacelli became Pope Pius XII. Following World War II, the pope urged the U.S. bishops to reopen the North American College, which had closed in 1940 due to the war. Students returned in 1947, and the U.S. bishops commissioned Galeazzi as the architect of a new seminary building to be located on Janiculum Hill. In 1953, the NAC moved to its current campus and was dedicated by Pope Pius XII.
In 1982, the Order established the Count Enrico P. Galeazzi Fund to benefit the College and provide scholarships. It has yielded more than $3 million to date, and the Order’s relationship with the NAC has continued to develop.
Archbishop O’Brien: The Knights of Columbus has been generous in helping the College and its seminarians. Indeed, the College’s expansion to its new home following the Second World War might never have become a reality but for the collaboration of Count Enrico Galeazzi, Cardinal Francis J. Spellman and Supreme Knight John E. Swift. To this day, a sizeable endowment from the Knights effectively promotes the College’s mission — this in addition to the Knights’ support on national and local levels offered to many of the college’s seminarians.
Msgr. Mueggenborg: The mission of the NAC is very similar to the mission of the Knights of Columbus, and it is no surprise that these two have formed a friendship and working relationship that has spanned nearly a century.
This friendship between the Knights and the College is expressed in very historic and visible ways. Count Galeazzi’s grandson, Enrico Demajo, now administers the Knights’ office in Rome and continues to visit the College regularly. In addition, the College has historically helped the Knights by assisting with important administrative needs of the Rome office. During the past few decades, this close relationship has been further solidified through the financial support the Knights have provided.
However, the strong connection is perhaps demonstrated best by a recent survey of current seminarians at the College, which found that more than 75 percent of them have become members of the Knights.
Father De Rosa: As the charter grand knight of The George Washington University Council 13242, I am also working in a particular way with the councils that supported me through seminary, as well as with my own home council. The immensity of the Order’s generosity is truly heroic, not only in terms of its financial generosity, but even more so in terms of its commitment to family life and spreading the mission of the Church. In many ways, Knights represent the best of Rome.
The Pontifical North American College offers seminarians a unique experience of studying for the priesthood adjacent at the very center of the Catholic Church. In a 1970 address to the NAC, Pope Paul VI said, “Rome is not only a passive lesson, a silent book or a picture to be admired. Rome is a voice for him who knows how to listen.”
Archbishop Dolan: As Pope John Paul II observed, ‘one does not just study in Rome; one studies Rome.’ Rome becomes a classroom for future American priests, giving them a sense of the tradition, history and universality of the Church they will love and serve.
Msgr. Mueggenborg: As they walk the streets every day, the seminarians pass by the places where early Christians gave their lives during times of persecution. From their personal encounter with the saints and martyrs of Rome, they are encouraged to become ever more fervent witnesses of the Gospel.
Father De Rosa: It seems to me that the value of a seminary education in Rome, ultimately, comes down to one word: Peter. Proximity to the Holy Father brings men in priestly formation to a closer understanding of the Church they will one day serve.
Father Hamilton: The word “heart” comes to mind for several reasons. The motto of the NAC [Firmum est cor meum] refers to having a steadfast or firm heart, and the College exists at the heart of the universal Church. There, studies, spiritual direction, formation and service put the student into contact with the heart of God — one’s heart grows in love for Christ and his people. At the heart of the Church, my heart was enriched, and the College had much to do with that precious gift.
John Mallon has been writing on Catholic issues and teaching for 25 years.