Small groups comprised of young people and adults from different callings in the Focolare Movement spend brief periods in temporary communities known in Italian as “focolares” or “hearths,” far from their homes, visiting far-away and sometimes isolated communities around the globe. This year, there were forty such hearths from Sri Lanka to the Azores, from Vietnam to Santo Domingo, from Brazil to Tanzania. They were self-financed with lots of personal sacrifice. Each community has a different story, but they all share one common denominator: the presence of a temporary hearth that helps bring new life.
Idalina and Toni are a family from Portugal. They and seven other people, including some young people, left in August for Saurimo, Angola. “We stayed at the Bishop’s house, and shared our meals and many other moments of the day with him.” During their two-week stay they formed many friendships with the children and adults of the local community: “At the end of the fourteen days, they asked us when we would come back again.” Chiara Lubich’s art of loving turned out to be a great discovery for them.”
At Yellowknife, the main city of the region and Seat of the Diocese, we were welcomed by the Emeritus Bishop who has spent his life among the Native American populations of the north. Coming back from a month among Native Americans in Canada’s North West Territories, Father Harry Clark, a priest from British Columbia, Marilena and Mike Murray, a husband and wife from the state of Maryland, in USA, Maria Santana from Montreal and Ljubica Dekic from Toronto write: “From there, we took off for Wha Ti, one of four villages of the Tlicho Tribe, 40 minutes by plane. We were guests of the parish rectory. The villagers were simple folk and very reserved. One of the problems in the tribe is the communication gap between the elderly, who are rooted in Native American culture and the younger generations, who no longer use the tribe’s native language. We presented the spirituality of communion, and then focused our attention on the activities of the small Catholic community for children and adults. We also met some Lutherans and a couple of Mennonite missionaries, a very nice collaboration was begun. We went by canoe along the river and took part in some tribal events with the annual assembly of villages that happened to be taking place during that time.”
In Bambio, 300 kilometres from Bangui, in the Central African Republic, one temporary “focolare” met a group of Pygmies that has been living the ideal of unity for twenty years. Fidelia writes: “The Pygmies possess so many beautiful values: loyalty, monogamy, purity a sense of the sacred. They told us their experiences in living the art of loving and the Word of Life. Each village meets once a week, from six o’clock in the morning until eight o’clock, before the day begins. The told us: “The focolare taught us to live, to love, to make ourselves one with others. There is no longer ‘you’ and ‘us’ – we’re all ‘us’. The Pygmies don’t mix with others, because they look down on us. But the focolare looked at us as equals and came to live with us, to share our sorrows and joys. They didn’t ask us to become Catholics, but they taught us love.” Someone else said: “We Pygmies have many traditional practices. But ever since we’ve been we’ve been part of the focolare, we’ve dropped a few of them. For example, when my son got sick, I didn’t turn to the witch doctor has I had done before, but took him to hospital. As soon as the focolarinies heard, they came to help me until he was well again.” The gratitude and enrichment was mutual, as the awareness that we’re one family is growing.