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Catholic students travel to Rome

FARGO -- Eight Shanley High School seniors will leave today with about 80 other students from North Dakota's four Catholic high schools, including students from Trinity High School in Dickinson, for a two-week trip to Italy that includes two visits with the pope.

The group will spend eight days in Rome and then take day trips to other cities. Students will visit tombs of the apostles and martyrs, all the major churches, the Coliseum, the Forum and more.

Students will have front-row seats as part of a papal audience when they meet twice with the Pope Benedict XVI in Vatican City, including once when Bishop Samuel Aquila of Fargo is recognized by the pope for being the new Denver archbishop.

This is the first year Shanley has been involved in the trip coordinated by the University of Mary in Bismarck, which has a campus in Rome. Students from Dickinson Trinity, Minot Ryan and Bismarck St. Mary's are also participating.

The students spent part of Tuesday learning basic Italian phrases such as "Where's the bathroom?" to have a grasp of the language before they arrive.

Traveling to Rome is something Shanley senior Colton Keller has always wanted to do.

"I'm looking forward to traveling and going overseas," he said. "And meeting new people. There are 90 people on the trip, and I only know (a few) so far."

Program coordinator Jerome Richter started taking students on a pilgrimage to Rome in 2001 when he was a teacher at St. Mary's. The program steadily grew each year, making this the largest group yet with a total of 106 people traveling, including chaperones.

Richter said the trip is aimed at students entering their senior year to foster "their growth to bring this information back to their high schools and share in their classrooms. It's a chance to think, to see the world."

The group will be using University of Mary's Rome campus to cut down on costs and allow students to earn college credits.