USA: A Land Made for the Spirituality of Unity

 
Fifty years after the arrival of the Focolare in the United States, a picture of how it has spread everywhere in the country. Openness to interreligious dialogue and Economy of Communion

The Union of fifty states known as the United States of America extends across a vast area from the extreme northwest of Alaska to southeast Florida.

The first focolarini arrived from Italy in 1961. During those years the first centers of the Movement were opened in Manhattan, Chicago and Boston. Toward the end of the 1970’s focolares were also opened in San Antonio and Los Angeles, followed by Washington D. C., Columbus and Atlanta. Mariapolis Luminosa, located in Hyde Park (New York), was inaugurated in 1986 and is the heart of the Movement in North America.

During her first visit to New York city, in 1964, Chiara Lubich wrote the following: “(. . .) It seems particularly adapted for the spirit of the Focolare. There is not an atmosphere of ethnic superiority, but a clear feeling of internationality. There is simplicity. At Mass I prayed for the Movement on this continent and I hope that God listens to my prayer, because I’m praying for the spreading of His reign.”

Her prayer was heard. In fact, over the years, communities began to appear throughout the country. As the Focolare Movement grew, so did its interreligious dialogue. With Jews who come into contact with the spirituality of unity, this dialogue is expressed in daily living, professional collaboration and theological study. In many parts of the country a fraternal “dialogue of life” has began and grew with Muslim followers of Imam W. D. Mohammed.

Chiara visited the United States seven times. In 1990 she stressed that she had “captured various signs of a united world” in this land. In May 1977, as the guest of Imam W. D. Mohammed she spoke about the Spirituality of Unity to nearly 3000 Muslims gathered at the Malcom Shabazz Mosque in Harlem, New York.

Then, at the United Nations “Glass Palace,” at a symposium organized in her honor by the WCRP (World Conference of Religions for Peace), she spoke about the unity of all peoples. Lastly, she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

In 2000, Imam Mohammed invited her to return again to the United States: “America needs your message” he said on 2 November 2000 to a crowd of 5000 Muslims and Christians gathered in Washington D.C. for a meeting entitled: “Faith Communities Together”which had been organized by the two communities. Gatherings of this type multiplied in several other cities with annual events that seemed more like family reunions than meetings for dialogue. In her last visit to the US, in 2000, Chiara received the honoris causa degree in Education from the Catholic University of America, in Washington D.C. 3.000 people gathered there: Jews, Buddhists and lots of Afroamerican Muslims, to underline the specific contribution of Focolare Movement to the interreligious dialogue.

Meanwhile, the Economy of Communion project began to spread its roots within nineteen businesses which operate in different fields, such as environmental engineering, the arts, education, agriculture, free time and business consulting.

The recent visit, in 2011, of the president of the Focolare Movement, Maria Voce and of the Co-President, Giancarlo Faletti, for the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the Movement in North America, gathered together 1,300 people from many communities in Canada, the United States and the Caribbean, including Jews and Muslims.

On this occasion, the book “Focolare – Living a Spirituality of Unity in the United States” was released. It responds to the questions people have about the Movement today, through compelling stories of many Americans (children, youths, married couples, elderly, singles, nuns, priests and bishops who belong to the Focolare) whose lives have been transformed by the encounter with Jesus. Readers discover the spiritual values and practices of the Focolare, the various vocational paths of its members and how it helps in supporting the values of American culture, such as freedom, happiness, community and the commitment to the common good in public life.

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