A University of Nebraska-Kearney student visiting Rome while studying abroad thought she was about to get kicked out of the famed St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City.
Instead, Paige Kristensen accepted an invitation to read Scripture to worshippers.
Kristensen, from Minden, and fellow UNK student Jennifer Belsan, from Columbus, tell UNK Communications they visited Vatican City during spring break from their studies in the Czech Republic. They attended Mass at St. Peter’s, sitting about 10 rows back.
Kristensen and Belsan were taking selfies to share on social media when a man in a blue suit approached and asked if they spoke English.
“At this point I’m thinking we’re going to get kicked out,” Kristensen tells UNK Communications.
The man actually had approached them to ask Kristensen if she would be the second reader during Mass.
Kristensen hadn’t dressed for the part. She had on jeans with a jacket and tennis shoes.
Nerves also played a role.
“I’m looking at this book and I’m forgetting how to speak English,” Kristensen says.
She received good guidance, though: speak loudly and slowly.
Kristensen read as Beslan captured the moment with her cellphone.
St. Peter’s Basilica, built from 1506 to 1626, sits on the site where St. Peter the Apostle was thought to be buried. The current church, featuring a nearly 450-feet-high dome, replaced the original basilica completed in the fourth century.
Kristensen and Belsan are two of the more than 20 students from UNK studying in the Czech Republic from mid-March through mid-May. UNK Communications report the students, accompanied by UNK history professor Doug Biggs, are staying in Olomouc, a city of about 100,000 residents, while taking courses and learning to speak Czech.
Kristensen’s father is UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen.