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A spirit of welcome

After Rachel Colligan finished her Truth & Beauty Project Immersion last summer, she struck out on her own to the kitchens and classrooms of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in northern Italy. At this school founded through the Slow Food movement, Rachel is completing a Masters in Gastronomy as a Fulbright Scholar.

Through her FIAT project for TBP, Rachel wants to address the pervasive social disconnect that leaves many in her generation feeling isolated. Her plan is deceptively simple: provide monthly opportunities for people to connect through her hospitality.

For a self-described introvert in a new community in a foreign country, Rachel’s FIAT effort has been a rewarding challenge. Read our Q & A with Rachel to learn more about her project, her thoughts on the TBP experience, and her dream of combining her passion for food, fellowship, and philosophy.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

A: I’m Rachel and I’m originally from Kansas City, Missouri. Someday I would love to combine my food education with my undergraduate studies in the Great Books, perhaps as a professor of Philosophy of Science studying the intersection of philosophy, theology, food, and human flourishing. As of now I trust God will use my education for His glory!

Q: How would you describe the TBP experience? Can you recall a particular

moment or story from your trip that you will never forget?

A: When I first visited Rome during the Truth and Beauty Project, I was overwhelmed in the best possible way. Since I have had the great privilege of living in Italy after TBP, the TBP experience is still continuing for me, and I constantly return to TBP memories and find myself appreciating them even more. When I have visited Rome this year, I like to revisit sites I was introduced to through TBP. For example, last week I got to go to adoration and Stations of the Cross at St. Peter’s basilica!

I will never forget going to St. Peter’s Basilica for the first time on our first day of immersion. It was so glorious — the afternoon sunlight was filtering in through the windows in the dome, shining visible sun beams through the basilica. I was totally overwhelmed by the beauty, and then I suddenly found myself in front of the tomb of JPII. I was really overcome and I wept because I felt strongly that I owed a debt of gratitude to him and many others with a passion for young people for my recent (re)conversion to the Catholic faith.

Q: Describe your FIAT project. What challenge or gap does it address? Whom does

it serve? What excites you most about it?

A: My FIAT project is hospitality. I wanted to create spaces of genuine connection, but this was very much outside of my comfort zone as an introvert. So every month this year, I have pushed myself to offer hospitality in some way, whether that is hosting a tea gathering for friends from my university, or hosting visitors with intentional love and care. Primarily, I hope my project serves other young people. There can be a lot of loneliness and lack of connection in my generation, and I have personally greatly benefited from the hospitality of great-hearted people over the past few years, so I wanted to pay it forward. We need connection and community to remind each other of our call to greatness, and to mutually support one another in running this race well! 

Q: How would you describe your FIAT mentor? What encouragement or help have you received? How do you work together?

A: My FIAT mentor is Michelle Tuffile. She is generous, kind, and wise. She lives hospitality in her daily life and encourages me to do the same, starting small: being the first to anticipate the needs of others or jump in when help is needed.  She never misses an opportunity to remind me of beauty, often sharing relevant quotes and ideas from Aquinas, Chesterton, and CS Lewis. As a fellow introvert, her hospitality advice always resonates with me. We meet via Zoom once per month and I always look forward to her gentle accompaniment and guidance! 

Q: TBP aims to transform the lives of those who spend a week with us in the living

classroom of Rome. Do you agree with that?

A: Absolutely! One key idea I took away is intentionality. The idea that once you’ve said yes to Christ, it is helpful to live with intentionality so you can keep saying yes. It is definitely a work in progress, but I have found so much joy in saying yes to simplicity and order this year. 

I also learned about the call to greatness on my life. John and Ashley explained so beautifully that the desire for greatness we all have is from Christ and it is fulfilled in doing His will. I think about this a lot as I discern where I am called next in my life. 

Q: What’s next for you in your FIAT and/or in your life?

A: Next in my FIAT, I’ll continue offering hospitality in small ways. 

Recently I’ve become friends with some young Italian Catholics in my town. Next month, I plan to initiate or host an aperitivo gathering with them. Despite any language and cultural barriers, I know the Holy Spirit will be with us in this time of community. 

In addition, I have become friends with a wonderful community of Poor Clare nuns in my town. I would love to show them hospitality in some small way, but that will take some creativity given that they are

cloistered! (Any ideas are welcome! ;) )


TBP also caught up with Rachel's mentor, Michelle. "Mentoring Rachel has been a wonderful blessing and I truly look forward to our meetings every month," says Michelle. "Rachel reflects that the camaraderie and authentic Christian friendships developed [on her TBP Immersion] impacted her tremendously, and honing her gastronomy and hospitality skills while sharing the truth and beauty has helped her to grow in many ways. G.K. Chesterton said it best: "All true friendliness begins with fire and food and drink..." 

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