Elizabeth Boyle shows how all Roads do lead to Rome

Author: Costanza Montanari

Elizabeth Boyle, a Keough School master of global affairs student, is currently in Rome working for the Community of Sant’Egidio in their Office of International Relations, but this is not her first stay in the Eternal City.

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As an undergraduate political science and peace studies major, Boyle interned at the State Department and at USAID. She also worked for the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion at the University of Notre Dame and she traveled with the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies’ Madrasa  Discourses program, which is focused on interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims from Pakistan, India, South Africa, and Germany. 

As a result of these experiences, Boyle decided that she wanted to write her undergraduate senior capstone about the peacebuilding work of Catholic women, both lay and religious, and how their work is often rendered invisible by the Church. In order to research this topic, Boyle spent some time in Ireland and in Rome conducting interviews during her fall break in 2019.

When in Rome, Boyle thought she had never been happier in a foreign city. Those three days in the Eternal city put the seed in her mind: she could see herself coming back and living and working in Rome. Therefore, when she returned to campus she applied and was accepted to intern and work at the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican following graduation. But when 2020 arrived and the pandemic hit, the State Department cancelled all opportunities with no ability to re-apply.

With her postgraduate plans canceled, virtual graduation rapidly approaching, and a job market that was nearly non-existent, Boyle thought of pushing up her timeline and applying to a graduate program that could allow her to continue working on religious peacebuilding. She ultimately chose to continue her education through Notre Dame’s Masters of Global Affairs program with a concentration in International Peace Studies. Through her Peace Studies concentration, she was offered the opportunity to do a six-month field experience abroad anywhere in the world. She had her sights on Rome.

The program and her mentors at the Keough School and the Kroc Institute at Notre Dame helped her find relevant work in Rome. Boyle was advised that the Community of Sant’Egidio had recently started a foundation in the United States, the Sant’Egidio Foundation for Peace and Dialogue , a type of “think tank” offshoot of Sant’Egidio that is run by Dr. Andrea Bartoli, a long-time member and mediator for Sant’Egidio who served as the Permanent Representative of the Community of Sant'Egidio to the United Nations and the United States, amongst other positions. Through Professor Gerard Powers, director of Catholic peacebuilding studies at Notre Dame, she got in contact with Dr. Bartoli and was offered an internship position over the ten week extended Winter Session which ultimately led to a full-time job position with the Foundation and the offer to volunteer at Sant’Egidio’s International Relations Office in Rome for six months. 

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In November 2020, Boyle started to engage remotely for Sant’Egidio, supporting the Rome Initiative which is the Sant’Egidio led parallel peace process in South Sudan that seeks to broker a peace agreement between the non-signatories to the 2018 agreement and the South Sudanese government. While in Rome, Elizabeth connects directly with the Rome Initiative team and supports the ongoing peace talks. She also gets the chance to experience Sant’Egidio’s approach to conflict mediation and diplomacy first-hand.  

“I clearly had in mind what I wanted to do and where I wanted to do it,” comments Boyle. “Thanks to the support of my mentors at Notre Dame, the Kroc Institute, the Rome Global Gateway, and to the network of professors, professionals and alumni, I could achieve it and put it into practice.”

“I feel like I am pinching myself every time,” she adds. “Sant’Egidio is the perfect connection of all the things that I was looking for: work that was rooted in Catholic social teaching and that ethos of integral human development.” 

She says that she is inspired by the organization’s deep humanitarian accompaniment work that approaches peace and humanitarian response  with an attitude oflet's walk together, not in front,” understanding each other's human dignity and any gifts and tie this back to spirituality. Pope Francis often refers to Sant’Egidio as the “three P's”: peace, prayer and poverty. Boyle believes that those are really the hallmarks of the Community at large and as a result, the work that is done on the political side.

As a member of the Community, Boyle also has the opportunity to engage in their social services side which includes weekly volunteer shifts at churches and spots of hospitality throughout Rome. 

Following her graduation from Notre Dame, Boyle will continue to work for Sant’Egidio by serving as the Director of Sant’Egidio’s new office in Washington, D.C.  As aforementioned, Boyle was able to secure the job at Sant’Egidio through the Notre Dame network. She connected with young alumni, the local Rome Gateway, and with the Kroc Institute, all which allowed her to return to Rome for her dream job. 

Boyle hopes this will be the beginning of an abroad lifestyle, getting to work and travel between Italy and the U.S. for the Community of Sant'Egidio in collaboration with all the UN agencies and international institutions that reside in Rome.

Originally published by Costanza Montanari at rome.nd.edu on July 29, 2021.