Of the tragic feeling of life

“Or with reason, or without reason, or against it, I do not want to die. And when I finally die, if I die definitively, I will not let myself die, but I will have killed human destiny “(M. De Unamuno, Of the tragic feeling of life).


B56 Mini Interviews with Fonda Lee, KJ Kabza & Br. Guy Consolmagno

The Boskone Blog

Happy National Science Fiction Day! We’re celebrating in style with our latest round of mini interviews from Boskone 56 Program Participants Fonda Lee, KJ Kabza & Br. Guy Consolmagno.  Who’s doing research at the Vatican Observatory or working on new books for 2019? Read on to find out!

Fonda Lee

fondaleeFonda Lee is the author of the Green Bone Saga, the genre-blending gangster fantasy series beginning with Jade City (Orbit), which won the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Best Novel, and continuing in Jade War, which releases in the summer of 2019. She is also the author of the acclaimed young adult science fiction novels Zeroboxer (Flux), Exo and Cross Fire (Scholastic). Fonda’s work has been nominated for the Nebula, Andre Norton, and Locus Awards, and been named to Best of Year lists by NPR, Barnes & Noble, Powell’s Books, and Syfy Wire. She won the Aurora Award…

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Other Staff

Other Staff

The Headquarters

Federico Balzoni

Roman native Federico Balzoni joined the Specola in 2007 and his day to day job is office management. This also includes the organization of VO Conferences at the Specola and the biannual Summer School, as well as liaising with the media on behalf of the VO. Together with astronomer Fr. David BROWN S.J., Federico has also been instrumen- tal in the creation and expansion of the Specola Library searcheable database. Working diligently day after day, he has helped to catalogue and to enter into the database thousands of books.
He says “working at the Specola is really a special way to serve the Holy Father and in a sense help in the mission that is particular to the Observatory, as a world suspended between science and faith”.

Antonio Coretti

Antonio Coretti is from the Southern Italian city of Matera and has been
part of the Specola team since 2011. A graduate in Information Technology he deals with everything related to IT, such as developing software, providing tech- nological solutions and improving the Specola’s operational capabilities. Since coming on board Antonio has given new life to the Specola’s visual presence in the digital world through his talents in graphic design through his contribution to the design and layout of the Annual Report. Most recently, Antonio has undertaken to build a new up-to-date user friendly VO website from scratch. He sees his work at the Specola as a “double responsibility”, not only in maintaining high professional standards but also in the constant awareness that he is at the service of the Holy See: “This implies a greater spirit of sacrifice, as far as I’m concerned, it implies responsibility and seriousness but above all it’s a real plea- sure”. 

Romano Reggio

Romano Reggio is a local of Marino another hill top town close to Castel Gandolfo and works in maintenance and technical services. Under the direction of Fr. MAJ, Romano is tasked with the upkeep of the electrical, plumbing, carpentry and gardening requirements at the Specola. He describes his work at the Specola as something which gives him a “deep sense of satisfaction and contentment”. 

Assunta Rodia

The facilities of the VO are pleasant enviornment in which to live and work thanks to the dedication of Assunta Rodia who is in charge of cleaning. She also works part-time for the Jesuit Community. Assunta keeps the chapel, hallways, and common rooms neat and clean, and she sees to the Community’s laundry. She does all of this with great flexibility and with unfailing good cheer. Assunta is also the substi- tute cook for the Jesuit Community. 

Gina Savinetti

Gina Savinetti prepares meals for the Community, six days per week. Usually she cooks for a group of 7 or 8 Jesuits. But in the summer, when Jesuits from Tucson and various visitors are in res- idence at Castel Gandolfo, sometimes she finds herself cooking for 10 or 12 or more. Gina is a whiz when it comes to accommodating the diverse palates and dietary needs of the Jesuits of the Observatory, who come from seven countries on four continents, and who range in age from 40 to 92. When Pope Francis came for lunch, in summer 2013, Gina also prepared the meal, complete with Argentinian empanadas.

© Copyright 2015-2016 Vatican Observatory. All Rights Reserved.

Emeritus Staff

Emeritus Staff


Sabino Maffeo, S.J.

Fr. Sabino Maffeo, S.J. is the assistant to the director of the Vatican Observatory. He was born in Somma Vesuviana, Naples, Italy in 1922 and joined the Jesuits in 1937 at the age of 15. He earned a B.A. in philosophy and a B.A. in theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, and was ordained a priest in 1953.
He earned his Masters in physics in 1957 from the University of Rome and Florence; his thesis topic dealt with the propagation of neutrons slowed by graphite. He taught physics at the Istituto Massimiliano Massimo in Rome, and he was president of the same school from 1962 to 1968, at which time he was appointed provincial of the Roman Province of the Society of Jesus, a post he held from 1968 to 1973. Following that, he served astechnical director of Vatican Radio (1973-1985).
He joined the Vatican Observatory in 1985 as Vice Director and Administrator, and has served as the assistant to the director since 2003.
In Memoriam
Bill_Stoeger_photo 1

William R. Stoeger, S.J.

Fr. William Stoeger SJ is a staff scientist for the Vatican Observatory Research Group in Tucson, specializing in theoretical cosmology, high-energy astrophysics, and interdisciplinary studies relating to science, philosophy and theology.
He was born in 1943 in Torrance, California and grew up in Redondo Beach, California. He entered the Society of Jesus in September 1961, and in 1967 completed his bachelor’s degree with honors in philosophy from Spring Hill College, Mobile, Alabama. In 1969 he was awarded an M.S. in physics from UCLA. After lecturing briefly in the physics department at the University of San Francisco, he began theological studies at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California where he finished an S.T.M. and was ordained to the priesthood in 1972. Afterwards he pursued doctoral studies in astrophysics at Cambridge University, U.K., and completed his PhD in 1976. From 1976 – 1979 he was a research associate with the theoretical gravitational physics group at the University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland. He joined the staff of the Vatican Observatory in September 1979.
Fr. Stoeger’s research has dealt with various problems connected with the physics of accretion onto black holes, and mathematical and physical issues connected with torsion and bi-metric theories of gravity, as well as the harmonic map structures contained in gravitational theories, including general relativity. More recently, he has been concentrating on observationally oriented projects in theoretical cosmology, attempting to build more adequate bridges between theory and cosmologically relevant astronomical observations. He also continues to pursue some research on the physics of the central engine in active galactic nuclei and quasars.
Besides his research and writing in cosmology and astrophysics, Fr. Stoeger has been active in lecturing and teaching at the University of Arizona, at the University of San Francisco, and at Vatican Observatory Summer Schools. He is a member of the American Physical Society, the American Astronomical Society, and the Society for General Relativity and Gravitation. He is on the Board of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (CTNS), Secretary of the Vatican Observatory Foundation, and co-editor of the series “Philosophy in Science.” He also is an active participant in the Vatican/CTNS workshops on “God’s Action in the World: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action” and in the Science-Theology Consultation of the Center of Theological Inquiry, Princeton.
Fr. Whitman

Andrew Whitman, S.J.

Whitman was born in Detroit, MI, on February 28, 1926, into a very loving, Catholic family. But within a few years the Depression hit the motor city and everything collapsed — jobs, mortgage, etc. — and chaos reigned. And so the Fall of 1931 his Mother and Dad decided to head South in search of whatever jobs were out there. They found haven in Roanoke, VA, Spartenburg, SC, Tryon, NC, and finally in the Spring of 1933 they landed in New Orleans. This became their home. He went to public grade school, public high school, and finally with a scholarship he attended Tulane University — during the War years from 1942 to 1945. He graduated with a degree in Civil Engineering and entered the work force. But he was soon stricken down with a debilitating disease and had to face almost certain death. But something happened and that dreadful sentence did not occur, and he was fortunate enough to enter the Jesuits in 1951. The humanities and philosophy studies were exciting and in 1957 he went off to Washington, D.C,, and started his Ph.D. degree in mathematics at The Catholic University of America under the renowned geometer, Dr. Katsumi Nomizu. He received the degree in 1961 and went on to theology studies, being ordained a priest in 1963. During these studies he had the great privilege of having the renowned Fr. John Courtney Murray, S.J., as the director of his Licentiate Degree in Theology.
He started his professional career teaching at Loyola University in New Orleans in 1967. After two years at Loyola University in New Orleans, he spent seven years (1967-1974) at the University of Houston, where he earned a tenured position of Associate Professor in the Department of Mathematics. It was during these years where the paper on finite deformation theory in elasticity was conceived. At the invitation of Professor Paul Schweitzer he joined (in 1974) the faculty of the Pontifícia Universidade Católíca of Rio de Janeiro, where he was a tenured Associate Professor. In 1982-83 he took a sabbatical year at the Vatican Observatory, where he joined the staff as an adjunct scientist in 1983. During this period he worked with Fr. William Stoeger of the Vatican Observatory staff on research on the project of Professor G.F.R. Ellis, and on harmonic maps using the space of all Lorentzian metrics in the theory of gravitation. This also initiated a long and fruitful collaboration with Professor Ronald Knill of Tulane University. He returned to the United States in 1989 and took the position of Lecturer at the College of the Holy Cross. In 1996 he joined the staff of the Vatican Observatory and was stationed at the Vatican Observatory Research Group at the University of Arizona as a research scientist. In 1998 he was appointed as a permanent member of the staff of the Vatican Observatory and also took on duties of an administrator.
In 1963 along with Lawrence Conlon, presently at Washington University in St. Louis, he formed the Clavius Group of mathematicians. This is a group of lay and religious mathematicians who meet each summer at various mathematical centers and departments to form a Faith Community and to do mathematics at levels from research to study seminars on current topics of interest to the Group. As of this writing [Jan, 2000] we have met for 37 consecutive summers.
After fourteen years based at the University of Arizona as a research scientist for the Vatican Observatory, Whitman returned in August 2010 to his Jesuit Province of New Orleans, where he is assigned to St. Charles College at Grand Coteau, Louisiana. There he is a “writer” since he is completing a textbook in Lie Algebra. En route to Grand Coteau Whitman assisted at the 12th Vatican Observatory Summer School, Castel Gandolfo, and attended the 48th annual gathering of the Clavius Group at the College of the Holy Cross. (http://home.cogeco.ca/~clavius/ )
Whitman’s colleagues at the Vatican Observatory and his many friends have been taking the opportunity of his retirement from the Vatican Observatory to recognize his many years of cheerful and unique service to the Church and to mathematics. Through farewell parties in Tucson and at Castel Gandolfo we thank him sincerely for these fine years together and wish him continued joy as a writer and member of the Jesuit community at Grand Coteau.

© Copyright 2015-2016 Vatican Observatory. All Rights Reserved.

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