The network of love created by Gis

A month after she left us for heaven, we remember Gisella (Gis) Calliari who was a close collaborator of Chiara Lubich in the founding of the Focolare, and who was a protagonist, right from the start, of the birth of the charism of unity into the world.
Gis and Ginetta

The youngest of three sisters, including Ginetta who would also become a focolarina, Gis was born in Lavis, Italy on April 18, 1920. Thanks to their  mother’s many sacrifices, the three girls were able to continue their studies after the death of their father at an early age. When war broke out Gis and Ginetta moved to Veneto for work, where Gis would sometimes receive news from a schoolmate. With strong and incisive wording, the friend would describe the singular experience of the Gospel that was taking place in Trent among a group of her peers. Her words deeply struck Gis’ sensitive soul, who returned to Trent for Easter and wanted to meet Chiara Lubich. She soon discovered her own path in that experience of the Gospel.

Without delay, she told Venetian owner that, although very grateful for the job, she would not be returning to the business and, to the young man to whom she was attached with a promising feeling, she wrote: “I’m not leaving you for another man, but for God.”

From then on any reason was good to stop by the “little house” in Piazza Cappuccini, a small apartment that was being lent to that group of girls. “I lived a few kilometres away,” Gis recounts, “and the road was uphill all the way. I got up at five to attend the Mass with them, and for meditation in which Chiara made us enter into the fire of the words of the Gospel that changed the whole sense of everything: there was no difficulty whatsoever putting them into practice.” In the city everything was lacking because of the war. Gis remembered a land holding owned by her family where they grew fruit and vegetables. But how were they to get to them when only armed armoured tanks were allowed transit. Out of love for the many people who were knocking at the door of the “little house” in search of something to eat, they armed themselves with courage and stood themselves at the side of the road, hitched a ride from the soldiers who were driving the heavy tanks. They drove by them without even noticing them, but then one stopped and, at hearing the reason for their being there,, allowed them to climb up onto the tank. The same guy drove back with them to the “little house” with two huge baskets filled with good things from God.

FNFOC-20180123-Profilo-024_600x333When the war ended Gis and Ginetta asked their mother to let them live in the focolare. Ginetta got permission, but the little one no. She didn’t give up: she knew that her decision was final and it would only be a matter of time. The solution was found by Igino Giordani who, knowing Mamma Calliari to be one of his passionate readers, offered Gis a job in Rome. On December 6, 1949, the mother was happy to opt for Giordani. She let Gis leave for Rome, oblivious to the fact that besides being the judges secretary, she would open the first focolare at the capital of Italy with Chiara and others.

From then on Gis lived at Chiara’s side with a few short interruptions to start up focolares in several places around Italy. Speaking of those 25 years with Chiara, in 2005 she confided: “It’s very simple, limpid, profound: all that is hers is mine, all that is mine is hers.” It was a remark that fully represented who Chiara was for everyone in her focolare: “Philadelphia is more than a reality,” says Chiara. “It’s here where I take strength to face the daily crosses (after the personal union with Jesus). Here you go from Divine Wisdom that’s shared spontaneously, to practical advice on health, a dress, the house, the food; to constant little helps, every day, with sacrifices that could never be counted. Here […] The blood that flows between us is of a home, but a heavenly home.”

FNFOC-20180123-091“In her office,” Gabri Fallacara recalls, “she telephoned everybody, building a network of love, incisive, open and understanding. With absolute trust she placed herself in the most favorable conditions for discerning what the charism of unity asked, day after day, of Chiara and of us.”

Following Chiara’s death Gis continued living for everyone, in spite of her failing capacities, she was a gushing fountain of tenderness and affection. In July 2017 her worsening health transformed her room into a crossroads of heavenly encounters. On January 2018, Gis peacefully left this world. “Right to the end she continued to give of herself in order to make Chiara continue to live in the Movement today. She gave me a big lesson of simplicity, radicality, trust in God’s plan and unity with all.”

Photo Gallery



Related News