The words Pope Francis pronounced at the World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013, “Go out and serve without fear,” triggered in the youths of the Focolare, the desire to take up the challenge. And so, those of the city of Juiz de Fora (500,000 inhabitants), in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, launched a project that gathers the youths of different charisms. “The aim is to testify to unity in the diversities of the Church,” they said, “and be disciples of Christ and missionaries, in line with the invitation of the Latin American bishops to all Christians. Of course, there are difficulties, but this does not discourage us.”
It was Archbishop Gil Antonio Moreira who gave the group – of 60 – the name of “Young Continental Missionaries”. “We come from different spiritual experiences – they explained – Renewal in the Spirit, new Communities, parish groups and the Focolare Movement. The start of the mission consists in the personal consecration to God for a year, renewable for another year. And then there are three points that help set the compass: prayer, training and mission, and putting ourselves at the service of others.”
Four years after the launch of the project, numerous missions have been undertaken in the parishes of the Juiz di Fora archdiocese, with a hundred visits to the families of the rural communities at the outskirts and violent districts of the city, the asylums and orphanages, and the rehabilitation centre for minors with criminal records.
“We created socio-health programmes, as in the case of the battle against dengue (tropical disease), operating wherever there were the highest death rates. In particular, we worked to ensure hygiene in the environment, eliminating rubbish and dump sites that enhance the proliferation of mosquitoes that transmit the disease, but also informing the population through brochures and posters. At the moment we are carrying out special missions in Haiti and in the city of Obidos (State of Pará), in the Educational Centre for juvenile offenders and with the “cartoneros” (rubbish bin collectors of cardboard which is then recycled). We highlighted the importance of their work for the benefit of our great home: the planet Earth. We did not miss out in supporting the youth economically and psychologically, in particularly difficult situations. Furthermore, the “supportive Christmas” project enabled us to gather nonperishable food and other essential goods, that were then donated to a charitable institution.”
The Young Continental Missionaries began to settle in other places over time, and reached Obidos (State of Pará), the heart of the Amazons. “Coming in contact with the people, we saw that the call to missionary life echoed in them, and a variety of vocations came to the fore.”
Surpassing the confines of Brazil, they even reached Haiti. Last 17 July, a group of six people of the archdiocese of Juiz de Fora and their archbishop set out for Haiti.
The situation of that country is really challenging, 7 years after the earthquake that had devastated it: in just 24 seconds more than 300,000 buildings had collapsed among civil and institutional structures, causing the death of 200,000 people. With its magnitude of 7.2 on the Richter scale, it was the worst earthquake registered in the Americas.
“Haiti is the poorest periphery of Latin America. And that is where, “Bishop Gil Antonio Moreira wrote, “my eyes and those of the Continental Missionary Youth are focusing on. With great joy we shall go to serve without fear, because the reason, and our goal, is Jesus Christ.”
The youth of the Focolare concluded by saying: “Paradoxically, what assures us that we are on the right path are the difficulties we encounter, and in which we try to love a countenance of Jesus Forsaken, He is the secret of our joy and the fruits we have seen.”