The great city sprawls over its fabled seven hills. Rome, Italy—with more than 2,500 years of history and legends—is now a modern metropolis with a population of more than five million people. The narrow streets in some parts of the city are like an intricate maze and are often choked with traffic, while cars traveling on freeways just outside the city move at dizzying speeds. Taxis, buses, and train systems only add to the complexity of moving the throngs of people about this great city. Trying to travel any distance in Rome can be a problem; but for a Latter-day Saint teenager, this is especially true on a Saturday afternoon.
Why are Saturday afternoons such a problem? That is when students such as Adriana Pagnani, 15; Mauro Salerno, 16; Arianna Canzachi, 15; Sara Nardi, 17; and Giorgia Romano, 14, of the Nomentano Branch in Rome meet for seminary class—as do students who attend seminary in the other three branches in Rome. These students have already been to school for six days of the week, but it is after school on Saturday that they look forward to meeting with their LDS friends in seminary. Each of these students has a considerable distance to travel to get to the meetinghouse; and because for some it would take as long as 2 1/2 hours to make the trip on public transportation systems, the students must depend on their parents for transportation. Adriana Pagnani explains: “In Italy, we cannot get a driver’s license until we are eighteen years old. This means that our moms or our dads have to drive us there. If our parents can’t take us to seminary, then we don’t get there!”
Mauro Salerno has a little easier time getting to seminary, even though he lives outside of Rome and it takes about twenty minutes to make the trip—his father is the teacher of the class! Mauro tells of an experience he had recently which made him glad that he has made the effort to attend seminary. “In my school, I had been assigned to give an oral report in a history class about the Jews and the history of Jesus Christ,” Mauro recalls. “At that time, we were studying the Doctrine and Covenants in seminary, so I added a little bit to my discourse. I told my class that I was a member of the LDS Church and that I was taking a seminary course. And then I spoke a little bit about the Church.” And with a big grin, he adds, “I took an eight on the exam—eight of nine points that are possible!”
It took courage for Mauro to tell his classmates about his religion, because he is the only member of the Church in his school. In fact, each of the seminary students in the Nomentano Branch is the only member of the Church in the school they attend. They each go to a different school, and they each have opportunities to talk about the gospel to their nonmember friends. Arianna Canzachi has been a member of the Church all her life, but all of her friends at school belong to the Catholic Church. “I know that if I am a good example of what I believe, then my friends will understand a little of what my religion is about,” she says.
“When I go to social activities, it is usually with my friends from school,” says Adriana Pagnani. “Once in a while they will ask me about what I believe, but not too often. So I try to bring them to seminary and to church once in a while, or to Young Women activities, and I feel that this is a little bit like being a missionary.”
“The question my friends most often ask,” says Mauro, “is ‘What difference is there between your church and our church?’
“I always tell them that our church has a prophet who has direct contact with God and that we have the restored priesthood.” Mauro stops for a minute, then adds, “And they always ask me, ‘What is the priesthood?’ I just tell them that the priesthood is the power of God on the earth.”
In addition to their individual efforts to spread the gospel, these young Latter-day Saints in Rome also participate in service projects with the Young Women and Scout organizations in the branch. Not long ago, a group of young men took the book Truth Restored to all the libraries in their area. And the young women are making plans to do a service project at an orphanage for children from two to twelve years of age. “We are hoping that this kind of a project will extend to a regular thing,” says Adriana Pagnani.
Because the Latter-day Saint teenagers from the four branches in Rome live so far apart and travel is such a problem, it is difficult for them to get together for a meeting or activity. There are only twenty-one active young women in the Rome district, which includes the four Italian branches in Rome, one international branch in Rome, and five outlying branches. Sister Lorenza Perticaroli, district Young Women president, acknowledges that the youth have many challenges to face as members of the Church in Italy. “But,” she adds, “when they are backed by a supportive family or friends, they don’t have as many problems being members of the Church. Those who don’t have this kind of support have a greater challenge.”
The seminary students in Rome find it takes a lot of individual effort to live the gospel and to try to be a good example to their many nonmember friends. Cristina Staltari, 15, of the Tuscolano Branch in Rome, says, “Even though my friends sometimes want me to do things that I know I shouldn’t, I always refuse them because I believe that my spiritual progress is more important than pleasing them.” Also, these young people know that their efforts now will help prepare them to be full-time missionaries later in their lives. “I’m looking forward to going on a mission,” Mauro says. “I have just been ordained a priest, but I know that the time for a mission will come very soon.”
Yes, it may be difficult to get to seminary on a Saturday afternoon, and the classes may be small; but the Latter-day Saint youth in Rome are on the right road as they set an example to all around them and as they study and learn about the gospel. A well-known saying claims, “All roads lead to Rome.” But certainly some of the most important roads in Rome lead to seminary class on Saturday afternoons.