While he did not have nearly as good a view of the papal conclave proceedings as three of his St. John’s Seminary classmates who served as cardinal-electors, Msgr. Peter Nugent clearly enjoyed his time in Rome during the historic event.The pastor emeritus of St. John Eudes Church in Chatsworth was ordained to the priesthood in 1962, as was Cardinal Roger Mahony. The previous year, Cardinals William Levada and Justin Rigali, also Los Angeles natives, were ordained to the priesthood.Msgr. Nugent, a native of Canada who also served as pastor of Santa Clara Church in Oxnard and St. John the Baptist in Baldwin Park, issued a daily “Vatican Report,” which was posted on St. John Eudes’ parish website giving his impressions of the history-making events at the Vatican. While in Rome he was interviewed by several local television stations. After the papal election, Msgr. Nugent had the opportunity to celebrate Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica and serve at the Papal Installation Mass in St. Peter’s Square. Following are excerpts from Msgr. Nugent’s reports from Rome.March 6: I am staying at a priests’ residence near St. Peter’s. Several priests that work in the Vatican offices live here. The majority are Italians, but there are Asians, Americans, Latin Americans and Africans that are sent from their home dioceses to work at the Vatican. Several cardinals have come to stay at this residence during the papal election. I have met some of them, heads of dioceses: Hong Kong, Toronto and the capitals of Sudan, Nigeria, and Thailand. The cardinals from the U.S. stay at the American seminary located nearby. They all have begun meeting in preparation for the conclave, which will probably begin next Monday.The streets are filled with tourists from all over the world — a remarkable number of young people among them. The crowds are bigger than usual, given the importance of the upcoming events.The media is very visible, with large scaffolding going up in front of St. Peter’s to hold their camera equipment. Reporters are interviewing lots of people; I just had a session with a team from Australia.Your prayers are important at this time in the Church’s life. God bless you all.March 11: I have been spending several days as a kind of spiritual retreat, with quiet time for prayer and reading as well as visiting some of the historic sites. Yesterday, the cardinals each went to a parish church in Rome that is assigned to them as a “titular” church. With this spiritual connection they are considered as part of the clergy of the diocese of Rome and thus a member of the council of advisors to the Pope, whose first title is Bishop of Rome. I accompanied Cardinal Levada, a seminary classmate of mine, to his titular church near the Colosseum.It is the church community where St. Lawrence served as deacon, dispensing the charitable offerings of the Christian community at Rome to the poor and needy. He was martyred for the faith when he confronted the Roman officials who were demanding that the riches of all Chrisitan communities at Rome be confiscated. Lawrence had dispersed most of the charitable funds among the needy, and when summoned before the imperial officials, Lawrence boldly pointed to the poor accompanying him as “the riches of the Church”. He was accordingly sent to his execution, to be placed on a grill and roasted by fire. During his ordeal, he famously made the remark, “Turn me over — I am done on this side.”We spent the afternoon traveling through the beautiful countryside south of Rome. We visited a historic town, Anagni, where one of the medieval popes, Boniface VIII, established his residence for some years. He retreated there from Rome after foreign armies had invaded the city, in one of the many attempts in those times to take over the political power, held by the popes since the move of the Roman emperor to Constantinople in 330 AD. Our Church certainly has a colorful history!Tomorrow begins the conclave in the Sistine Chapel.March 12: I attended a celebration of Mass at St. Peter’s this morning (Tuesday), which all the cardinals attended just before going into seclusion. A huge number of people crowded into the basilica. Very notable was the large representation of Asians and Africans. The procession of cardinals down the aisle showed the same complexity of the college of cardinals as well.A priest who dropped off a cardinal at their residence told me that it looked even worse than airport security. Vatican officials were going through absolutely everything the cardinals were bringing in for their conclave stay; there were lots of cellphones and other confiscated items filling several tables.The numbers of reporters and camera set-ups in front of St Peter’s is extraordinary. This is certainly a global event.March 14: I feel very privileged to be here for these powerful events for our Church and for the world. I mentioned before about the faces I saw at St. Peter’s on Tuesday; these were the same faces that we all saw in St Peter’s Square. The joy there was immense, and seeing and hearing the new Pope made everyone feel the heart of the Church. Here were just regular people who love the Pope and are so happy.Hearing that it was a cardinal not even mentioned among the possible candidates was quite a shock. But the priests that I talk to here feel a significant change has occurred with a South American Pope being named. Our attention constantly gets directed by what our media wants us to hear; this event helps us to realize that there is a bigger Church and a bigger world than just our own. I pray that this Pope who comes to us so simply and directly can remind us of the basics of our faith and our humanity.For several days before the election, there was an elderly, grizzly looking man holding up a pillow-sized piece of cloth in front of St. Peter’s Square, with felt-pen printing on it saying “Papa I Francesco.” A prophet indeed!March 18: These past few days, I have had time with my brother priests from Los Angeles. One is working in the Vatican offices; five are studying here for degrees in theology and Scripture. Yesterday I attended the Sunday tradition at St. Peter’s, the Angelus prayer and a brief talk by the Pope. The square again was jammed with people. The people are very excited when they see the Pope, of course. He comes across to people in a very simple and direct way, and the people respond right away to him.This afternoon I celebrated Mass with another priest from L.A. in St. Peter’s Basilica. Behind the main altar, which is directly above the tomb of St. Peter, there is another important altar towards the back wall, under the famous stained glass window representing the Holy Spirit.An elaborately decorated shrine surrounds the legendary “Chair of St. Peter,” an ancient relic representing his chair of authority over the Christian community at Rome. With my baptismal name, I of course have a great devotion to St. Peter.Tomorrow I will attend the Mass of Installation for the new Holy Father, and was able to make arrangements to help in the distribution of Communion. Look for me on TV if you are up very early.March 19: I have just returned from the celebration of the Installation Mass for Pope Francis. I was able to join the priests who were to be distributing Communion at the Mass, and as it worked out, the Pope passed by where I was twice as he circled St. Peter’s Square before Mass. He has a great simplicity in his bearing, and is able to communicate his closeness to people. He did that magnificently at his first appearance on the balcony of St. Peter’s right after his election. As he was giving his homily, I was impressed by a very simple and direct message about taking care of one another and of this whole world. Pope Francis referred to these virtues modeled in St. Joseph, whose feast it is today, and in St. Francis of Assisi.What an opportunity this was for such words, when religious and civic leaders from around the world were present. There is nothing equal to it in any other world gathering. From what I am hearing and perceiving here, there is a new and fresh breeze that is in the air, one that can inspire our church and the whole globe.It was definitely a red button day for this monsignor.Msgr. Peter Nugent’s full Vatican Report, along with links to the television interviews, is available on the St. John Eudes parish website: http://www.sjeparish.net/news/vaticanreport.html. {gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/0405/nugent/{/gallery}