“In 1978 I left for the mission in the Congo. It was a hard moment for me. Africa, the rainforest, a new world to be discovered and loved.” This is how Sr Valeria of the Sisters of St Joseph Cuneo begins her story. She was speaking at the “Charisms for the New Evangelization” Convention being held in Turin on 17 March 2012. Sr. Valeria’s story is intertwined with that of Sr Nicoletta from the same Order. Arriving in Lolo – a small diocese on the outskirts of the rainforest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Sr Nicoletta “discovered a place inhabited by simple folk” mostly fishermen and farmers.
On the other side of the river Sr Valeria had already begun a series of meetings for a group of New Families of the Focolare. Their “serenity, involvement and unity” fascinated Sr Nicoletta and she decided to invite Sr Valeria and the families to Lolo, so that they could share their experiences there as well.
“Then I felt I was also being strongly invited to live the Ideal of unity,” Sr Nicoletta recounts. Families in Lolo began to meet, and the monthly commentary on the Word of Life was translated into the local language. It’s power was stronger than that of many of the ancestral traditions that divide the life of men and women.
Despite the difficulty, the two sisters were also able to find time to meet and share with each other recounting the fruits of living the Gospel. The Bishop as well as their General Superior encouraged them to take things forward. In 1988 the first Mariapolis was held in Lolo with over a hundred people.
Today, even though the mission has been closed down, the Bishop has notified us that many of those families are now very actively involved in the diocese.
Since a few months the two sisters have been living together in the same community in Italy: “We help each other in living the Ideal of unity as it sheds new light on the charism of our founder, Jean Pierre Medaille. All the way back in 1650 he invited us to live the communion with God, among ourselves, and with each neighbour; a communion founded on the Word of Jesus: ‘That all may be one’ (Jn. 17:21).
“This is the New Evangelization:” explains Sr Valeria, “loving and allowing our life to say to everyone: ‘God loves you!’” She also shared about a group of teenagers from the middle school who meet once a month to move along a Christian journey together based on the Word of God. They are brought ahead on this journey by Sr Valeria, another Sister of St Joseph, a Daughter of Our Lady Help of Christians, and a Cottolengo Sister. “There’s much communion among us – she concludes – and the beauty of each charism is brought out.”