Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Lay Women Make Headway in Clerical Rome

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Lay Women Make Headway in Clerical Rome

Article excerpt

Even in this very clerical town, lay people with vision can make a difference. American laywoman Donna Orsuto, who has built the Lay Centre and the Vincent Pallotti Institute into indispensable resources for laity in Rome, offers one example.

Nicoletta Gaida presents another.

Gaida, born in Tacoma, Wash., and fluent in four languages (including Italian), was once a rising theater star. At age 23, she won Italy's best actress award for her performance in a musical called Cinecitta. The more she climbed the ladder, however, the more she realized that her spiritual understanding of the craft was not always shared by her audiences.

Or as Gaida put it, "All they were looking at was my legs." That frustration led her to seek a way of blending art with her interests in spirituality and dialogue, which prompted the creation of a theatre festival for Third World playwrights in 1991, and eventually the Centro Dionysia in 1998, dedicated to dialogue among peoples and across cultures.

Gaida, 41, is sort of a Horatio Alger of the nonprofit sector. Having nothing but an idea, she convinced the region of Lazio and the city of Rome to give her a dilapidated property on the Via Aurelia Antica, overlooking the Vatican, called the Villa Piccolomini (named after Pope Pius II, Enea Silvio Piccolomini). Although the last Piccolomini had stipulated that the property should be used to support the arts, many a well-connected Italian realtor no doubt had dreams of converting it into condos or shopping outlets. …

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