I’ve been home from Rome for a week now and I admit that I’ve become a bit of a Rome-dropper (as opposed to a name-dropper). My Facebook page, Twitter feed, and website are covered with Rome references and for good reason: the whirlwind trip was among the most amazing and memorable experiences of my life.
Aside from “How was the Mass of Inauguration for Pope Francis?” the next most common question I’ve been asked is “How were you chosen to go?” While being careful not to say something I’m not supposed to, I can tell you this much: I was nominated by someone from Ontario whom I respect very much. He was among a group of three people who provided lists of 20 names or so. Then, an employee from the Prime Minister’s office had to whittle the list from 60 people down to 14. The final 14 were approved by the CCCB (Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) and the rest – as they say – is history.
I woke up after getting just three hours sleep – my body (and likely my mind) is having trouble adjusting to being in four time zones in three days. Breakfast was available to us from 7am to 11am. Generally when given a four-hour period, I will usually opt for a later time. However, given this was my first time ever in Rome, I managed to get up by 8am and make it to breakfast by 8:30am. It was pretty cool: I sat between a Senator and the Director for the Canadian Catholic Bioethics Institute. I summoned my best table manners as we all enjoyed the breakfast buffet on the top floor of our hotel. The discussion was quite good, and I was able to share about my family as well as ask a few thoughtful questions.
After breakfast I made my way to the office that was set up to assist the Canadian delegation. I pulled out my hastily-written notes of recommended stores provided to me by Msgr. Smith and I punched all of the names into Google maps. A few printouts later and I was off to the metro station to experience my first train-ride in Rome.
I’m sitting here in my hotel in Rome and it’s still surreal to me that this is happening. With today being a travel day, I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on God’s goodness and amazing generosity.
Things got off to an auspicious start as I prepared to take a shower at Ted’s place. His three year-old daughter knocked on the bathroom door and was absolutely shocked when I opened it. Obviously she was expecting to see her dad so I’m not sure what she thought when an Asian guy opened the door. To her credit, she didn’t cry (although she was about to) and I was able to blurt out “Hi…I’m one of your dad’s friends” before escorting her down the stairs to a smiling Ted.
We made it to the appropriate meeting place on the outskirts of Ottawa’s Macdonald-Cartier International Airport in good time. Upon arriving, it was appropriate that the first person to greet me was my new friend (and bearer of good news) Ian. He asked me how things went in Regina and I thanked him for remembering. I thanked Ted for the ride and made my way into the hangar.
“Hello Ian. This is Clayton Imoo from Vancouver. I just want to make sure that this invitation to Rome is legit.”
“Yes, Mr. Imoo. I can assure you that it is definitely legit.”
I wasn’t sure what astounded me more: the fact that I had been invited to Rome or how I made a government official use the word “legit” in a sentence.
Just after 5pm on Wednesday I checked my work email from St. Paul Parish, where I usually am on Wednesday afternoons and evenings for PREP. Upon my first reading of the email sent to me at 4:30pm from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, I thought it was spam. Then, I checked my work voicemail and a similar message was there. Thus, I anxiously called the number provided to confirm its legitimacy.