In 2007, several bishops requested that a program be created for U.S. seminarians to experience the riches of the universal Church and discover the intimate companionship of Christ in the life of the priest (Optatam Totius, no. 8). The Bishops Advisory Board with Midwest Theological Forum launched The Rome Experience, an annual six-week summer program, in 2009.

The Rome Experience, in conjunction with a board of U.S. bishops and guided by Pastores dabo vobis (Pope St. John Paul II) and Program of Priestly Formation (USCCB, 6th edition) complements seminary formation as a “fitting period of time for more intense introduction to the spiritual life” (Optatam Totius, no. 12).

Inspired by the priestly lives of its patron saints—Pope John Paul II, John Vianney, and Josemaria Escriva—the program helps seminarians learn how to swim in troubled waters by focusing on key characteristics of priestly identity and spiritual growth:

  • A priest is a priest forever
  • The importance of contemplation and prayer and how to practice it daily
  • A priest is in the world but not worldly
  • The remedy for everything is personal holiness

The Rome Experience begins with a five-day silent retreat to reflect on the meaning of the priesthood.

Following the retreat, the seminarians travel to Rome for academic courses in Theology, History of the Church, and Christian Art and Architecture. The courses are supplemented by visits to Vatican Congregations, attendance at Papal Liturgies and General Audience, and pilgrimages to churches and holy sites throughout Rome and surrounding towns. The pilgrimages, in particular, are opportunities for the seminarians to pray at the tombs of the great saints and martyrs of the early church—to deepen their friendship with Jesus Christ and priestly zeal for the New Evangelization.

Courses and activities are planned within a daily schedule centered on the celebration of the Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, and an hour of meditation before the Blessed Sacrament. An emphasis on daily prayer, learning to contemplate the life of Jesus, is essential to helping the seminarians to keep the presence of God. It also helps to emphasize the importance in the first years of the priesthood to have a plan of life. The daily schedule also includes time for fostering fraternity and friendships among classmates which are vitally important to priestly life.

The program concludes with several days of recollection on a Marian pilgrimage, seeking the motherly intercession and protection of the Virgin Mary before returning home to the United States.

In the spirit of pilgrimage—of prayer and sobriety—the program offers:

Spiritual Formation

  • 5-day silent retreat
  • Daily schedule including Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, mental prayer, and the Holy Rosary
  • Sacrament of Penance, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and spiritual meditations
  • Learning how to have and commit to a plan of life
  • Living in close proximity to the Holy Father
  • Praying at the churches and tombs of the martyrs and saints


  • Opportunity to meet seminarians from across the USA
  • Daily prayers, meals, and classes
  • Cultural activities
  • Sports and hiking excursions
  • Free-time

Human & Intellectual Formation

  • Being immersed in the cultural history of the Church
  • Experiencing the beauty of the Church’s art and architecture
  • Academic courses taught by expert instructors from the USA and Rome
  • Guided tours and excursions to religious and cultural sites
  • Papal liturgies and audiences
  • Visits to Vatican Congregations

Pastoral Formation

  • Talks and discussions about challenges to the priesthood today
  • Interchange of experiences with visiting bishops and priests
  • Daily encounters with people of diverse needs and backgrounds on the streets of Rome



His Eminence James Cardinal Stafford
Major Penitentiary Emeritus
of the Apostolic Penitentiary

Most Rev. David R. Choby +
Former Bishop Diocese of Nashville

Most Rev. James D. Conley
Diocese of Lincoln

Most Rev. Robert W. Finn
Emeritus Diocese of Kansas-City-St. Joseph

Most Rev. Jose H. Gomez
Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Most Rev. Bernard A. Hebda
Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis

Most Rev. Robert C. Morlino +
Former Bishop Diocese of Madison

Most Rev. Thomas John Paprocki
Diocese of Springfield in Illinois

Most Rev. Alexander K. Sample
Archdiocese of Portland

Most Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr
Archdiocese of Cincinnati

Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann
Diocese of Orange




Rev. Peter Armenio
The Rome Experience Program

Rev. Eric Nielsen
University of Wisconsin at Madison,
Diocese of Madison

Rev. Ronald W. Cattany
Guardian Angels Church,
Archdiocese of Denver




The Rome Experience partnered with Spirit Juice Studios to create these videos that would effectively capture and transmit the mission and impact of the program on the lives of our seminarians.




Video Credits

Rev. Peter Armenio
Midwest Theological Forum

Very Reverend Steven P. Beseau
Pontifical College Josephinum

Rev. Ronald Cattany
Rector, Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception
Archdiocese of Denver

Rev. Stephen Hansen
Pastor, Cathedral of St. Joseph
Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph

Rev. Eric Nielsen
Pastor, St. Paul University Catholic Center
Diocese of Madison

Rev. James Socias
The Rome Experience


Guillermo Alonso
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
The Rome Experience Class of 2019

Fr. Mark Bredestege
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
The Rome Experience Class of 2015

Rev. Zachary Cecil
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
The Rome Experience Class of 2015

Rev. Mr. Sean Conroy
Archdiocese of Denver
The Rome Experience Class of 2019

Rev. Christopher Gernetzke
Diocese of Madison
The Rome Experience Class of 2011

Rev. Mr. Mackenzie Hill
Diocese of St. Augustine
The Rome Experience Class of 2019

Fr. Christopher Komoroski
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
The Rome Experience Class of 2016

Mr. Kevin Le Melle
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
The Rome Experience Class of 2018

Fr. Bradley Nursey
Diocese of Gaylord
The Rome Experience Class of 2015


Chukwunonso Ohanaka
Diocese of Nashville
The Rome Experience Class of 2019

Rev. Gerardo Olivera
University of St. Mary of the Lake
The Rome Experience Class of 2016

Rev. Luke Syse
Diocese of Madison
The Rome Experience Class of 2012

Fr. Jacob Willig
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
The Rome Experience Class of 2014

The Rome Experience Class of 2019


Centro Internazionale di Animazione Missionaria (CIAM)

Mundelein Seminary

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

Shellbourne Conference Center

Spirit Juice Studios

St. Josemaria Institute
Elia Rivera

St. Mary of the Angels Church

The Athenaeum of Ohio


Rev. Eric Nielsen
Pastor, St. Paul University Catholic Center
Diocese of Madison

His Eminence James Cardinal Stafford
Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary

Rev. Robert Gahl
Associate Professor of Ethics
Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy

Dony Mac Manus
Sacred Art School, Florence, Italy

Rev. James Socias
Vice President
Midwest Theological Forum

Rev. John Sims Baker
Chaplain, University Catholic
Diocese of Nashville

Rev. Pablo Gadenz
Associate Professor of Biblical Studies
Immaculate Conception Seminary, South Orange, New Jersey


Rev. Ronald Cattany
Parochial Vicar, Light of the World Catholic Church
Archdiocese of Denver

Adam Bradley
Diocese of Green Bay
St. Francis de Sales Seminary

Ion Chamorro
Archdiocese of Miami
St. Vincent de Paul Regional Seminary

Philip Klaas
Diocese of Madison
Immaculate Conception College Seminary

Andrew Pacheco
Diocese of Santa Rosa in California
Saint Patrick’s Seminary

Andrew Smith
Archdiocese of Cincinnati
Mt. St. Mary’s of the West Seminary

William Wheeler
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
St. John’s Seminary


Centro Internazionale Di Animazione Missionaria

Pontifical University of the Holy Cross

Basilica of St. Eugene

Vatican Press Office

Midwest Theological Forum

Spirit Juice Studios
Direction and Production: Rob, Greg and Melinda
Cameras: Jason and Sam

St. Josemaria Institute
Elia Rivera



“Phenomenal program that challenges seminarians, helps synthesize their formation, and gives them an experience of the universal Church.”

Connor Schmidt
Seminarian, Archdiocese of Baltimore
The Rome Experience Class of 2022


“My hope for myself and for my brother seminarians who embarked on this Rome Experience pilgrimage is that with the companionship of Mary, Saints Peter, Paul, Josemaria, and all the Saints we’ve encountered and prayed with along the way, we will return home with a deeper relationship with Christ, with a greater sense of the family of Saints that surround us, and that we might venture out with courage into the great mission and adventures that lie ahead.”

Jeff Stephens
Seminarian, Archdiocese of Cincinnati
The Rome Experience Class of 2019


“During my time in Rome, I have heard the same words of Christ to Peter at the end of the Gospel of St. John: Do you love me? As I visit the tombs of the martyrs and see the relics of our faith, I cannot help but to say: Yes, Lord, you know that I love you!

Nick Nappier
Seminarian, Diocese of Tyler
The Rome Experience Class of 2019


“The Rome Experience helped me to internalize the many aspects of Priestly identity: a man of prayer, a man of communion, a man of service.”

Rick Arriola-Gonzalez
Diocese of Galveston-Houston
The Rome Experience Class of 2017


“The amount of places seen is unmatched. Also, the program lends itself to growth within a community. My spiritual life was truly enriched in the heart of the Church, and I am a better man, Christian, and future priest having been in the program.”

Alec J. Sasse
Diocese of Lincoln
The Rome Experience Class of 2017

“I did not know what the Lord had planned for me in Rome, and had I attempted to guess, my guesses would have fallen far short.”

Steven Chabarria
Seminarian, Diocese of Tyler
The Rome Experience Class of 2021


“Being in the town of the saintly Cure d’Ars gave us the desire to affirm God’s will just as John Vianney did more than 150 years ago. For this reason, it was helpful to be pulled out of our ordinary circumstances and daily routine, which can leave us in our own world with our own projects and plans. The good of taking time for a retreat in an unknown place was beneficial in allowing us seminarians to contemplate eternal truths, mainly what God has revealed through his saints, especially John Vianney.”

Marc Gustinelli
Seminarian, Diocese of Palm Beach
The Rome Experience Class of 2019


“I always hear about the reality that the Church has a vast history since its foundation the the first century. Being able to see it in Rome, however, has strengthened my understanding of what it looks like to have two-thousand years of Church history, and has also given me insight into how it has been formed in this time. This experience is an incredible opportunity, and I would recommend it to anyone seeking a deeper understanding of their faith.”

Elijah Puthoff
Diocese of Lincoln
The Rome Experience Class of 2017


“The Rome Experience was most beneficial for me in my life of prayer. The emphasis on structured prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament was a great highlight of the trip. Being able to walk among the Saints in the Eternal City certainly helped to focus my prayer in a deeper way and give it a new richness.”

Matthew Pearson
Diocese of Madison
The Rome Experience Class of 2017