Tradition of running a Turkey Trot through the Vatican started in 2009 when Father Jim Baron, a Colorado Springs-based seminarian, decided to do something new for Thanksgiving.

Over the last ten years, the race has included a costume contest as well as participation from Americans living abroad. This year, the University of Mary and St. John’s University registered the most runners.

Elizabeth Mazza (left), and Kielce Gussie were runners in the costume contest as Moses or the Burning Bush. Courtney Mares

At least one Italian joined the American tradition. Antonella Piccinin works as director of student programmes in Rome for the University of Notre Dame and has competed in the Thanksgiving race four more times.

Piccinin shared that she has learned “to be grateful every day” from American students.

“This is why I want every year to participate in this competition. It’s great fun and brings together people from different countries, including the United States.

University of Notre Dame students and staff at the 13th Annual Thanksgiving Turkey Trot in Vatican City Courtney Mares

Deacon Alex Fry also returns year after year to cheer on the runners.

Fry explained that some people mistakenly believe that living in Rome is a complete vacation. However, there are moments in the year when it’s hard to miss living in America.

“It’s wonderful to organize an event that truly celebrates the American holiday of Thanksgiving. So to run around the Vatican in the early morning is one of the special ways we can do that at the NAC.”

Fry, who will be ordained priest in Dallas’ diocese in May, has offered his help to the Turkey Trot organization for the last four years. According to Fry, the race is only one of many celebratory events the North American College has planned for this week.

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They are now gone!

Thanksgiving in Rome kicks off with a Turkey Trot around Vatican City State hosted by the Catholic seminarians at the Pontifical North American College pic.twitter.com/nnpblGHqfg

After the Thanksgiving Mass, around 100 seminarians will enjoy a traditional meal with their guests, including 72 pies and pumpkin ravioli.

Sunday will see the future priests compete in the Spaghetti Bowl. This is an American tradition dating back over 50 years.

Monsignor Thomas Powers was the North American College’s Rector and he said he was happy to see the largest ever turnout this year for Turkey Trot.

“I think this race is a great metaphor of our Catholic faith. Because we run together, to Christ, and do so in the company and company of St. Peter, his successors. Powers explained that the race was about running around the Vatican with one family of faith.

 

Courtney Mares works as a Rome correspondent for Catholic News Agency. Graduate of Harvard University, she reported from news offices on three continents. She was also awarded the Gardner Fellowship to support her work with North Korean refugees.

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