Pope Francis appeared on the balcony of Saint Peter’s, and I went to Rome


On a late August night in 2016, with a one way ticket in hand, I jetted off to Rome to achieve my dreams of working in Vatican City.

After I watched Pope Francis introduce himself to the world on the balcony of Saint Peter’s and embark on his beautiful papacy in 2013, I followed him to the Eternal City. I studied abroad in the summers of 2014 and 2015. When I came back to the U.S., I knew I had to return to spread his message.

After graduating from Michigan State University in 2016, I did just that, and enrolled in graduate school for Arts and Media Management.

My name is Jules, and this is the beginning of my Roman story.

One of the most invigorating characteristics of Pope Francis is how he connects the mystique of Vatican City to the world. So wondrous in its history, so breathtaking in its stature, the sheer beauty can make a Roman Catholic stand in amazement of the faith. Wherever we may be, we are one church; and whatever language we speak, we all hear the same message.

As I walk to the pope’s audiences each week, I am filled with the same excitement that I had on that sweltering June morning years ago when I saw his white cassock take shape in the window for the first time. To be immersed amongst the thousands of faithful that feel the same way is nothing short of electrifying. There are the rich, the poor; the young, the old. The healthy, the sick; the Roman regulars, and those that will only see him and this city once. Yet despite these differences, and the diverse flags we wave, there’s something there that connects us all.

Sitting next to a nun and her sister, I found out that they were from the same tiny town, nestled in the hills of Italy, that my great-grandparents were from.

Though my path is to follow the Catholic Church from Rome, your path to follow the church in New Jersey brings us together in ways we don’t know. Just as Pope Francis reiterates every week, the church is universal, and the Sunday Mass we celebrate is the same no matter where we roam. The way that he is able to reach people through his speeches is what inspired me to pursue a post graduate degree in communications.

I recently accepted a position to be a reporter for Pope Francis with Rome Reports, an independent publication covering the Vatican. Only four months into this unexplainable adventure, I never expected to wake up to an email over Christmas break asking to be interviewed for the job. Then again, there’s a reason we say our God is a God of surprises.

When reading my journal that I kept during my second summer studying in Italy, I stumbled upon a quote from His Holiness. I can’t find the words to describe my path, but I think he can: “My dear brothers and sisters — if you like something, and love it very much, go out and seek it. And pray with good intentions for it. Because then, you will find it.”

That I did. And here we are.


Julianne Calzonetti was born and raised in Cherry Hill, where her family were members of Saint Pius X Parish.