One day, on his way into the Spanish Catholic Center of Washington, Rev. Mario Dorsonville, who directs Immigration and Refugee Services at Catholic Charities in the Archdiocese of Washington, was stopped by a young man who grabbed him by the arm. He told him that he had a lot of pain in his heart. “Let’s go find a doctor,” Dorsonville told him. “No,” answered the young man, because his pain stemmed from being an undocumented immigrant, from not being able to find a job. He didn’t know how he could face his children at the end of the day.
“I was thinking that there is no worse poverty than when we say to people that they’re invisible,” says Dorsonville.
This is what journalist Marylin Boesch wrote in the opening paragraph of her Living City magazine article, published recently, in which she gave a description of the Spanish Catholic Centre in Washington. It’s a so-called “lab of faith” where “these people are visible”. The centre’s mission is to provide the best quality of integrated services to immigrants and refugees in order to bring back hope and dignity to their lives and to make them more confident, respected, and effective members of American society. It does this by providing medical and dental clinics, counselling centres, English classes and job training programs.
Fr Mario Dorsonville received the Luminosa Award 2012, on behalf of the Spanish Catholic Centre, on 7 November in the presence of more than 250 diplomats, politicians, representatives of the Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith and others of no particular faith tradition gathered at The Catholic University of America in Washington.
“This prize encourages us even more to illuminate the darkness around us through service to our neighbour,” said Fr Mario Dorsonville in his acceptance speech.
As the award was sponsored by the Focolare Movement, during the conferral ceremony, Marco Desalvo and Clare Zanzucchi, Focolare Co-Directors of the eastern region of the United States, shared a reflection by the Movement’s founder, Chiara Lubich (1920-2008), on love of neighbour, one of the pearls of the Focolare’s spirituality of unity: “The Holy Spirit, enlightening us with his charism, said to us:’ your brother, your sister… can become your way to God, an opening, a door, a path, a passageway that leads to union with him. And if we have gained this by loving our neighbours, then they are not only our beneficiaries, but our benefactors as well; they have given us the best of what we had hoped for.” Very much in tune with the experience of the Spanish Catholic Center, this reading strongly resonated in those present, affirming and giving light to their day-to-day work in favour of those in need.
“It is an active, constant and courageous service that gives dignity to many people of diverse ethnic and social origins who are in difficulty due to various circumstances, thus helping them to become an integral part of society” – wrote Focolare president Maria Voce in her message to Fr Dorsonville.
The Luminosa Award for Unity of the Focolare, established in 1987, honours persons or associations whose lives and works have given a significant contribution to building bridges of mutual understanding and concern among diverse Christian denominations, major faith traditions and people of good will in all aspects of social life.