Sunday, 07 July 2019 17:01

Springfield native is following God’s plan

Ashley Noronha’s amazing journey Ashley Noronha’s amazing journey from the classrooms of Christ the King School to the halls of the Vatican to the airwaves of the nation

Ashley (Puglia) Noronha’s mantra is to live in the present and to simply follow God’s plan. Little did she know, that plan was for a world-wide adventure. After attending Springfield’s Christ the King School and graduating from Sacred Heart-Griffin High School in 1992, she went off to the University of Dayton in Ohio. While working in the world of marketing in Milwaukee after college, she received a master’s in theology.

 In 2008, she married her husband, John, a native of India, in his home country. She met him while they were both living in Philadelphia. Feeling called to get a doctorate, she and John then set off to Rome. 

 Her more than 10 years in the Eternal City have brought her front and center with the movers and shakers of our church. She hosted a weekly television news program called Voice of the Vatican, worked at the

Vatican as the English language official at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and has appeared on global television networks as an expert on Vatican issues.

 Today, she is the Rome correspondent for Relevant Radio, a national news and talk Catholic radio network in the U.S.; she teaches crisis communications, conflict resolution and media training at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross and the Pontifical North American College in Rome; she and her husband host tours of Rome; and in 2017, they launched the Truth and Beauty Project.

 Noronha says she tries to return to Springfield once a year to see her parents, Fred and Nora Puglia. Her brother, Steven, lives in North Carolina.

Catholic Times Editor Andrew Hansen caught up with Noronha earlier this year when she and her husband stopped by Christ the King School in Springfield.

When you look back at your journey from Springfield to Rome, what goes through your mind?

It is so fun to look back and see how the Lord has led me. It has been a very meandering path, but I really believe that every part of it has been significant and important. My roots are in Springfield. For me, it’s a joy to come back to Springfield because it’s home. It’s so neat to see the way the Lord builds us up in one place and then oftentimes sends us out. The corner of the world he has sent me is Rome, Italy. At the same time, people ask us, “What are your future plans, how long are you going to stay?” They are surprised when we say, “We don’t have future plans.” The reason is that we feel at this moment the Lord has asked my husband, John, and me to be in Rome, but he may ask us to be somewhere else soon. So, one of our greatest prayers is for discernment and for openness to move whenever he needs us.

What was it like working at the Vatican as the English language official at the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Social Communications?

 It was an incredible experience working for Pope Benedict XVI. What really struck me was the gentleness conveyed in his eyes. They are so loving and sweet and welcoming. Despite his very shy personality, he is an encyclopedic theological genius with a very humble and pastoral spirit. Later, I worked for Pope Francis, and with his big personality, he really gets his energy from being around people.

You spent several weeks earlier this year traveling the United States with your husband, promoting your Truth and Beauty Project. What is the Truth and Beauty Project?

 This is an initiative my husband, John, and I started in 2017. We understand, especially living in Rome, how the arts are so intrinsically linked to culture. How the arts point to truth. How they can point to God. We experience this in Rome, again and again, as people are deeply moved by stunning pieces of sacred art. We want to help the artists of today have that same opportunity to reorient people’s imagination toward God. So, we are providing a special formation in Rome, just minutes away from St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s a Renaissance-style formation rooted in the liturgy, steeped in theology. The participants receive human, intellectual, spiritual, pastoral formation to become what we call “modern-day Michelangelo’s.” We have experts in various fields from the Vatican and academia who contribute, and we take the participants on tours and do life-skill and leadership training. After, they will then go out to the corners of the earth and shine the light of Christ through their work and through their lives. (Editor’s note: more information can be found here: truthandbeautyproject.com)

 You spent time talking with so many young people on your U.S. tour. What is your message for young people?

 Yes, we visited 40 cities in 44 days to do talks and share the good news of the Truth and Beauty Project. I want every young person to know that he or she was born for a time such as this. That there is no “meantime” in our lives, since God is always preparing us for a unique mission. He is calling us for mission and to look around and see how we can speak his truths through everything we do, say, and the way we act. To be constantly listening, opening our hearts, and surrounding ourselves with silence, so we are ready to hear the voice of God, which penetrates our hearts, so we can better understand the way he is calling us.

 Besides family, what do you miss most about America?

 Its great customer service. We don’t get a whole lot of that in Rome (laughs). Every time I come to the U.S., I always go through a period where I have this excited feeling when I walk in a store and people say, “Can I help you?” And I think, “Could they really be talking to me?”

  What do you like most about Rome that America doesn’t have?

 Being surrounded by beauty. The gorgeous architecture really lifts my heart and soul to God, since it points to him, it points to truth. It is so elevating to the spirit to be surrounded by that. I also love the church bells. I love how throughout the day; bells are constantly ringing. Because there are nearly 1,000 churches in Rome, you are going to hear the bells no matter where you are. Those bells are also a wonderful call to prayer.