Approaching the exit doors of the Vatican Museums on my first day of work, I did not know what to expect from my internship at the Patrons Office. Would filing papers and preparing coffee (or, this being Italy, cappuccino) be my only tasks, as with many internships for university-age men and women, or would I be doing work that made a more direct contribution to the mission of my employer? And what would it be like working in the Apostolic Palace? These were among the questions swirling in my head as I approached the elaborate travertine marble exit doors of the Musei Vaticani. As soon as I entered the museums and was briskly escorted past the guards by a new colleague, however, I realized that this would be an internship like no other. And indeed it was.
My primary responsibility over the course of the summer was to conduct research on philanthropic foundations to which the Patrons Office might apply for grant funding. The office has long sought to make funding from foundations a larger and more regular source of its annual revenue, and early on in the course of the internship I was tasked with taking the first steps towards making this desire a reality. Such latitude—the latitude to chart the course of my summer project and the latitude to do whatever I believed necessary to get the job done (a very important, substantive job, no less)— is highly unusual for university-level internships, and it made my work at the Patrons Office stimulating. Ultimately, I succeeded in locating a sizeable number of foundations to which the Patrons can apply for grants in the immediate future and, just as importantly, in creating systematic procedures for researching foundations that can easily be utilized by my successors to continue finding promising foundations in the future.
My internship at the Patrons Office, however, was more than just office work. Nearly every day I had the opportunity to meet and converse with interesting men and women from all walks of life, our Patrons, as they would ascend the steps of the Apostolic Palace to our office for cappuccino and conversation upon finishing their private tours of the Vatican. I even had the opportunity to get to know some of these Patrons quite well, as a number of them came for week-long tours with their respective chapters. For someone who, like me, thrives on interpersonal interaction, this aspect of the job, something which few other university-age interns get to do, was highly enriching.
Beyond the work itself, the benefits of working in the Vatican made the internship experience even more unique and memorable. Private tours of the Sistine Chapel, dinner by candlelight in the classical statuary gallery of the museum, and receiving the salute of Swiss Guard soldiers on the way to work every morning made the internship truly unforgettable. Finally, unlike most other internships, the staff of the Patrons Office took a genuine interest in fostering interns’ personal and spiritual development, as is fitting for an internship that involves working in the heart of the Church. The director of the office, Fr. Mark Haydu, said Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica for the interns on our first full day of work, and he even led a half-day retreat for us during the course of the internship.
Though sad to leave Rome at the end of my internship, I departed with many fond memories of my time at the Patrons Office, having grown personally, professionally, and spiritually. For that growth, and for the wonderful opportunities which the internship afforded, I am most grateful to the Patrons Office.