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Sold home, off to Rome for doctorates to go.

ROME -- When Bill and Cathy Hare wake up in the morning, they can stare at the ceiling and know they will never again live in upper middle class Short Hills, N.J., probably never again be a two-car family and certainly never have the money and comforts of their former life.

Just turning 50, they have also turned their life around. Bill quit his management job with Xerox, Cathy quit teaching, and they sold the house to pay for the move to Rome and the cost of each acquiring a doctorate from the Gregorian University: he in canon law, she in scripture.

"If the money holds out," said Cathy, "we're here for four years."

The Hares said they hope to become pastoral associates with Cathy working at the diocesan level with adult education and Bill possibly teaching at a seminary. The Hare's journey is more than an odyssey. They see themselves as typical of their generation in "wanting to give something back," because they had a good education, good kids (two grown children), good careers and many opportunities.

Despite the joys and drawbacks of living in Rome, they warn that such a move is not easy, particularly given the U.S. concept of building up the pension and making sure there is money for old age. "We had security blankets, a nice lifestyle, much more than we needed," said Cathy, "and it took me longer than it took Bill to walk away from that security."

"What have we done to ourselves?" asked Bill. "Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and wonder."

He was born in Plainfield, N.J., and attended Regis High School in New York and Spring Hill College in Alabama, where he met his wife. Mary Catherine Shea entered Spring Hill when it went coed, and the pair wed not long after graduation.

During the Vietnam War, Bill was drafted and took an Air Force commission. Their son, Michael, was born in Delaware in 1967, Laura in the Philippines in 1970. By 1974, after jobs in several places, the Hares were in Plano, Texas, settling down to raise the children.

It was home for 12 years when Texas was "hot," families moving in, usually Midwesterners and Northerners, Yankees and Republicans and frequently Catholic.

The Hares literally helped to build a parish from scratch. Cathy Hare became involved in religious education and met Sandra Magie, a convert and PhD microbiologist who decided to switch careers and pursue a theology doctorate in Rome.

The Hares, who were continuing on in higher education themselves, tucked that idea away for future consideration.

Then, out of the blue, Bill was wooed by Xerox, but the job meant moving back to New Jersey. Cathy agreed only if she found somewhere to do her master's in theology and scripture. She did, at Immaculate Conception Seminary and Seton Hall, where Bill also did a master's in theology and church history.

One year, Jesuit Father Gerald O'Collins, dean at the Gregorian University, was a member of Seton Hall's summer staff. The Hares had visited Magie in Rome at the Lay Center run by Donna Orsuto (see accompanying story), and the idea of doing the doctorates at the Gregorian grew.

But could they give up everything? A friend's death tipped the scale.

"George was our age," said Cathy Hare, "he and his wife's children the same ages as ours. He'd had such great plans but was not given the opportunity. We realized it could have been either of us."

Then Donna Orsuto telephoned and said a couple-sized apartment would be vacant for the fall 1992 school year -- if the Hares would commit themselves.

They did, and then came the hard part: finishing the master's degrees, actually selling the house, storing the furniture, quitting work, giving up income and, finally, moving to Rome -- with only rudimentary language skills.

Rome living meant a shared bathroom across the hall and not understanding what was being said in the classroom and neighborhood stores -- culture shock. Tears and trauma, but they dug in.

Sometimes, said Bill, he'd still come into the bedroom after shaving and look in the mirror and say, "What the hell are we doing here," but less often now.

As the only married couple at the Gregorian, the Hares were something of a novelty, and as last Christmas approached, they found themselves invited by students to many of the national colleges.

They began to settle in. They say they can make do with much less in modern conveniences than they had thought, and they have slowed down -- eased off the rat-race track.

The Hares like the academic work, and there are the indefinable pleasures. Like waking up in the morning and looking at the ceiling, 30 feet above their heads.

It is decorated in the 17th century style. That happens when you leave Short Hills and move into a palace.

Tips for Americans bound for Rome schools

ROME -- Cathy and Bill Hare have tips for other Americans considering an advanced degree in Rome (see accompanying story).

* Have a responsible friend stateside to do the paperwork (banking, taxes, forwarding mail).

* Accommodation: Arrange it in advance or it cannot work.

* Finances: Italy is a cash economy. Checks and credit cards are useless in an emergency.

* Medical care: The Hares say they were lucky to find an American doctor. Bring medications and find a doctor who understands the prescriptions.

* Costs: Tuition at the Gregorian University: $700 a semester. Apartment: $1,000 a month. Modest living expenses for two, about $600 a month.

* Italian: Take one of the summer courses at the Perugia in central Italy, famed for language schools.

Americans in Rome

The relationship between the U.S. church and the Vatican has historically been stormy but productive. The following stories are the second part in a series of occasional sketches of Americans using their ingenuity to grease Rome's ecclesiastical wheels (NCR, April 2).

Good example for Americans seeking degrees in Rome

ROME -- Trinity College in Washington, D.C., has a good thing going in North Carolinian Donna Orsuto. Not only does Orsuto run Trinity's Rome-based study program, the Vincent Pallotti Institute of the Laity, but she also runs the 12-bed Lay Center in the same Doria Pamphili place overlooking the Piazza Navona, where students can stay.

Orsuto is also a good advertisement for Americans thinking of Rome degrees. She has two, one from the Angelicum and the other from the Gregorian, and now teaches at both places.

The Pallotti Institute comes under Trinity's Education for Parish Service. It offers scripture and theology courses for Americans considering church volunteer work.
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Title Annotation:Americans in Rome
Author:Jones, Arthur
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Apr 30, 1993
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