Villanova Vatican interns get a view of history

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Talk about a baptism by fire: On the first day of Lauren Colegrove’s journalism internship at Catholic News Service in Rome, the pope announced his resignation.

The Villanova University junior thought she’d spend her first day filling out paperwork and undergoing orientation. Instead, she ran over to the Vatican Press Office to attend a news conference and later conducted interviews in St. Peter’s Square.

“It’s pretty hard to have a more exciting first day of work than that,” Colegrove said in an email interview.

Colegrove, originally from Tampa, Fla., is among four Villanova University students working this semester at the Vatican. It’s an already uncommon internship that has taken on a whole new dimension with the historic departure of Pope Benedict XVI and the start of a papal conclave to choose his successor.

Previous interns from Villanova, a private Catholic university near Philadelphia, have shot videos for the Vatican’s YouTube channel, created 360-degree virtual tours of the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica, and performed research that led to the first papal tweet in December.

“Not every tourist can walk up and say, ‘I’d like to go behind the wall of the Vatican and check out what’s happening,’” said Villanova computer science professor Robert Beck, who helps select the students who go abroad. “The interns are given the ability to do that.”

In addition to Colegrove’s reporting, the university this year has a computer science student working on a Vatican mobile app at the Internet Office of the Holy See and two other students interning at the Pontifical Council for Social Communication.

The council administers the Vatican’s main news portal, www.news.va, and its companion Facebook page. Communications interns Danielle McMonagle and Sean Hudgins have been creating and curating content for the latter website since last month, including taking photos of Benedict’s last audience in St. Peter’s Square.

“It was one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced, not only as an intern but just in general being there with thousands of people from all over the world,” McMonagle, a junior from Moorestown, N.J., wrote in an email.

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