Focolare Movement » People & Places Official International Website Sun, 04 Oct 2015 10:05:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Pope in Philadelphia, USA Thu, 01 Oct 2015 06:00:00 +0000 20151001-03
Photo © Renato Araujo

The Pope concluded his visit in the city of Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence and the Consitution of the United States had been written. It was a historic visit that had a deep effect the people of the United States.

At Independence Hall, a central landmark,with his usual smile Pope Francis clarified that he is niether right nor left. He highlighted the importance of religious liberty and dialogue in an increasingly multicultural society, emphasising what is positive in the people of the United States: “We remember the great struggles that led to the abolition of slavery, the extension of the vote, the growth of the workers movement and the progressive efforts to eliminate every form of racism and prejudice directed towards successive waves of new Americans,” the Pope said.

He extended special greetings to Hispanic immigrants from a Pope who was the son of an immigrant family: “You bring with you many talents to your new land. Never be ashamed of your traditions,” he told an applauding crowd. He mentioned the fervid faith and family deep family values of the Hispanic population: “As you make your contribution, you will not only establish yourselves here, but you will help to renew society from within.” Jennifer Huertas from Puerto Rico, who has been living in the United States for two years: “The Pope asks us not to forget our roots, and to recognise the uniqueness of every individual. Yes, diversity isn’t something bad, because every human being is unique.”

A few hours later, he attended the conclusion of the World Meeting of Families with young and older families, singles, men and women Religious and priests who had prepared the city with particular care. After listening to six testimonies from couples and families who recounted how they tried to overcome their struggles through faith in God, the Pope delivered a very animated homily, highlighting the importance of family life. A boy had asked him what God was doing before He created the world: “God loved, because God is Love,” the Pope answered.

His words enchanted the half million people who had waited for hours along Benjamin Franklin Parkway. “It was fantastic to see the Pope,” says Thea from Los Angeles. “I especially liked when he pointed out that God had not placed Jesus in the midst of a Kingdom, but in a family. Nowadays, very few people visit their parents, many of my friends live like that and it’s painful. It’s not always easy in my own family either, it is often hard to listen deeply to one another, but the Pope’s words will help me to face this difficulty.”

On the following day, the crowds continued to wait patiently to hear the Pope, singing and dancing as they waited in long lines at security checkpoints. Never loosing their cool, they smiled and thanked the police officers for their work. “My son turned 2 today, but my wife and I thought that this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that couldn’t be missed,” one security officer said.

Photo © Andrea Re

Around a million people attended the Mass and, another million watched it on television. Francis greeted everyone and blessed children before the Mass began with Scripture readings in Spanish and Vietnamese. The liturgical readings of that Sunday contained strong words, where Moses and Jesus both affirmed that even people who do not belong to their group could perform miracles in the Lord’s name. “We must not be scandalised by the freedom of God,” the Pope told the crowd. Then he invited families to perform small gestures of love and compassion: a warm meal after a long workday, a warm embrace: “Love is shown in the small things,” he said. This means being “prophets,” overcoming the “scandal of a love that is restricted and petty” and he sent a clear message to the Church that must accept diveristy and trust the action of the Holy Spirit.

He also had other significant encounters: with prisoners, and the survivors of sexual abuse by the clergy; regarding which the Pope said “God weeps.” It is like a Black Mass, “there are no excuses.”

His six-day visit was a breath of fresh air, not only for the American Catholic Church, but for the whole country. The Pope highlighted the cultural values of the land beginning from the country’s founding, and he invited Americans to be faithful to those values: love, family, the dignity of every human being, caring for the poor.

While leaving the United States, he sent a message on Twitter: “With my gratitude, may Christ’s love continue to guide the American people! #GodBlessAmerica.”

Susanne Janssen and Sarah Mundell – Living City Magazine

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In the Kinshasa Clinic Wed, 30 Sep 2015 06:00:52 +0000 Alcuni membri CL Lemba“One day we were closing, when at 4:30 p.m. a mother with a baby about 8 months old arrived for a blood sample withdrawal.” Aline M. is a nurse and a biologist in the university clinic of Kinshasa. In the Congo/DRC, the birth rate is very high, as is the mortality rate and the infant mortality rate. Life expectancy at birth and the average age of the population are both very low.

“My colleagues had already closed the registration books and wanted to leave. But the words of the Gospel, which say to love one’s neighbour as oneself, came to my mind: ‘I have to welcome even this mother,’ I thought. I took a blood sample from the little one, and as I was finishing, the mother said to me with a firm voice, ‘God bless you, ma’am!”

C11I was just able to convince a colleague from the blood blank to take this last emergency, when another serious problem presented itself. It was already 5:00 p.m. There was a mother in tears, who could not pay for health insurance, with 4-year-old child in her arms, afflicted by severe anemia. My colleague decidedly told me that it was no longer possible to accept anyone. ‘Otherwise I’ll lose my job,’ she exclaimed.

I was moved by this suffering. I took a sheet of paper and attested in writing that I was responsible for the cost of the blood transfusion for this child. My colleague then accepted, and immediately gave the child the transfusion, saving his life. The child’s mother said to me: ‘God will return you the money. I am sure of it!’

C04Returning home, I asked myself: ‘Why is it that I met two mothers with such suffering children right at closing time?’ I read the Word of Life, a sentence from the Gospel, and I found comfort.

The next week, I received an invitation from my health service. From among my colleagues I was chosen for a 3-day professional training course. The financial contribution given to me for my participation was $150 US dollars! There was God’s answer. For having paid $25 US dollars for the blood transfusion, I received two blessings plus this amount which now allows me to also pay the scholastic fees for my children.”

A.M. – Kinshasa, Congo/DRC

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Francis in Cuba, demolishing walls and building bridges Thu, 24 Sep 2015 08:32:26 +0000 20150924-05“We strongly felt the dream of a “united world” during these days of grace due to the presence of Pope Francis in Cuba. His visit literally left a trail of light! Already the preparations were full of enthusiasm and novelties. In the three dioceses he would visit, the entire communities of the Church started up various initiatives: in the churches and the “mission houses,” groups of young people held meetings in parks, and around the neighbourhood to talk about the Pope – in short, it was a happy and expectant Church!

And, as never before, the means of communication (of the state) offered an extensive footage to prepare the Cuban people for this important visit – also from the political point of view, due to the known role the Pope played in reestablishing relationships between Cuba and the United States. The radios, TV stations and press continually announced the visit, with small “catecheses” on the Pope and the Church documentaries on his life, and also that of the other two Popes who had visited the Island. It was surprise and joy for a Church that had for years been isolated by the lack of the means of communication for so many years!»

“The Pope arrived like a “missionary of mercy,” with simple words and gestures – often gentle but impressive – he told the Cubans and the whole world that without forgiveness, without practising the culture of encounter and dialogue, it would be impossible to hope for the future. With his very first words he immediately opened new horizons: “Geographically, Cuba is an archipelago that plays an extraordinary key role between the north and south and between east and west. Its natural vocation is to be a meeting point so that all peoples can be united by friendship (…). We are testimonials of an event that has filled us with hope: the process of the normalisation of relationships between two peoples, after years of estrangement. It is a sign of the victory of the culture of encounter and dialogue.” He invited all to “continue to progress on this path and develop all its potentials, as proof of the important service in favour of peace and the wellbeing of its people and the entire America, as an example of reconciliation for the whole world.”

In the Mass in Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, he also said: “…authentic life is lived through the concrete commitment toward one’s neighbour, through one’s service,” recalling above all the service of the weakest among brethren. “We are all called due to our Christian vocation to serving others and helping one another not to fall into the temptation of practicing a service that exploits others,” he warned.

20150924-01In his meeting with the youth, the empathy was immediate. To the wish expressed by one of them, of “not wanting to present only their dreams, but of requesting something special that could revive hope…,” Francis answered firmly, “Continue dreaming, because if you offer the best of yourself, you will help the world to be different. Don’t forget: go on dreaming! Dream and recount your dreams. Talk about them since the big endeavours have to be told!”

20150924-04“Many of us – they continued – had the chance to greet him personally, starting not only from the focolarine working in the Nunciature, but also the families, and the youth in the various cities he visited.”

The Focolare has been in Cuba since 1998 and the service it tries to offer the Church and society is that of weaving a network of fraternity, bringing “social friendship” which the Pope presented to the youth and to favour “the culture of encounter,” to pursue as a journey of hope.

“Many of us were part of the service staff, before and after the visit: some helped the media in organising the events, some gave interviews on the national and international media, or simply stayed in their places along the route the Pope would take, to greet him. In line with our vocation of unity, together with believers and agnostics, we lived and participated in these days of grace.”

In the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Charit, Pope Francis left us with a programme: “We want to be a Church that goes out from its homes to build bridges, demolish walls and sow reconciliation. Like Mary, we want to be a Church that is able to walk with its people in difficult situations, committing ourselves with our lives, our culture, society, and not isolating ourselves, but walking alongside our brethren. All together, all together.”

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Burkina Faso in an unstable political situation Wed, 23 Sep 2015 06:00:43 +0000 BurkinaFaso“Ever since the coup d’etat last Thursday, 17 September– we are all still at home: the schools, offices, and shops are all closed. Petrol and food are running out and whatever is available, costs double,” explains Aurora De Oliveira of the Focolare in Bobo-Dioulasso, the second city of Burkina Faso. The protest here is felt, but not as strongly as in the capital, Ouagadougou (population of 1.5 million), where the main events of last week came about and where more than 100 people were wounded and at least ten have died. “These are determined people who do not wish to be crushed. In the big cities of Burkina Faso everyone participated in demonstrations, but peaceful ones. Undoubtedly, all are afraid, since war could explode any time now.” Jacques Sawadogo of the focolare community in the capital wrote: “The activities in Ouaga – where the army came – have slowed down. The banks, shops and stations have closed. Only small self-supporting activities have continued, like those of the Movement’s members in Ouagadougou. We try to keep contact via e-mail or telephone. We are trying our best to be peacemakers in words and actions.”

We spoke on the phone also with Fr. Sylvestre Sanou, general vicar of the diocese of Bobo-Dioulasso. The situation is in constant evolution and we fear it may degenerate. “There’s a general strike throughout the country – Fr. Sylvestre continued – In reality it was not really a coup d’etat. It was a raid conducted by a small group of the Presidential Guards headed by General Diendéré, a close ally of former president, Blaise Compaoré, who rose to power in 1987 with a small coup d’etat and was forced to escape after 27 years, and only in October 2014, after days of protests. Since then he has taken refuge in the Ivory Coast. “It seems that Generale Diendéré has tried to negotiate for his immunity, after having been President Compaoré’s right-hand man.”

We are, therefore, not dealing with a religious conflict between Muslims (50%), Christians (30%) or Traditional Religions (20%) but with a political situation. “The army seems to side with the population and the governors of the various regions are also against “coups,” and even Diendéré’s house was burnt down. Violence generates violence,” Fr. Sylvestre continued. “On 22 September we were all holding our breaths for the ultimatum of the army which entered the capital from four cities. The political future of the country is uncertain, despite the mediation of the Presidents of Benin and Senegal, on behalf of the Economic Community of West African States (CEDEAO) and the return of the transitory President of Burkina Faso, Michel Kafando and also the Prime Minister, Isaac Zida (arrested and then released).”

“I had just returned from a stay in the Mariapolis “Victoria,” the town of the Focolare Movement in the Ivory Coast, and found myself in this situation,” concluded Fr. Sanou. ”They blocked the undergoing process of dialogue between the political parties which had tried to find common ground. But all blew up. Let us pray that a solution emerges without bloodshed and also quickly. In the meantime, we have started with the priests, religious and catechists of the diocese and also with our bishop, the pastoral visits programmed before these events. We feel the importance of going ahead and praying for our people and our country.”

“How are we all taking this? At the start we were angry and disappointed– Aurora De Oliveira confided – since after the 2014 events the political situation was coming along well. Just a step away from elections, programmed for 11 October (and now moved to 22 November), and here comes an armed group to spoil it all. This was my first reaction, and we felt the need to protest. The next step was to see in this suffering the countenance of Jesus Forsaken, and thus try to strengthen unity among us all in order to transmit peace and forgiveness. We tried to contact all those who share our spirituality of unity, because love must overcome all.”

While the meeting in Rome of delegates of the Movement from all over the world has started, and makes the hopes and sufferings of people all over the world particularly felt, the President of the Focolare, Maria Voce wrote to the community of Burkina Faso: “We shall continue to pray and live in greater unity with all of you, certain that Mary will protect us all.”

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An after-school program at zero cost Tue, 22 Sep 2015 06:00:42 +0000 doposcuola_01“I accepted this assignment in order to make concrete my choice to live the spirituality of unity, staying connected with other politicians who, like me, commit themselves to seek the common good and to make brotherhood emerge as a political category.” These are the words of Maria Elena Loschiavo, Deputy Mayor responsible for social politics and schools, in a municipality of just over 7,000 inhabitants.

The past scholastic year several children and teens who exhibit learning disabilities and who, for various reasons, cannot depend on their families for support, were brought to her attention. “I wanted to invent something for them, but the friends of the Administration reminded me that there were no resources. So I discussed the matter with my husband, and then I spoke with friends and colleagues who are retired, and I called some young people I know. I immediately had at my disposition a good group of people from various cultures and religious traditions. Talking with them, we got the idea for an after-school program, every afternoon, from 3 to 5 pm. It was a bit of a gamble because starting something means carrying it through to the finish. It also means saying goodbye, for months and months, to our afternoon rest time. But we wanted to try, we wanted to enter the hearts of families who feel marginalized.”

As soon as the town announcement was made public, many requests arrived, but the limit was 25 students. “For each one of them, there is a story, with troubling family situations which unfortunately do not help their inclusion in the learning process. We barely had time to organize ourselves, and then on March 9th, with great enthusiasm, we began: in a rather naïve way, without knowing exactly what we would encounter. But in the end the results were certainly visible! From the families, who strongly ask that the experiment be repeated next year, and especially from the children and teens.”

“As the municipal administrator of a small town, I must admit that creating a team of people who are willing to give, is not easy to do. But neither is it impossible. It has certainly been exciting to see how each person in the group has accepted the chance to work together to love these young people, giving them a piece of his own life. We experienced together that freely giving is a difficult path to take, but it makes you feel you are building universal brotherhood, starting from the town where you live.”

doposcuola-02In October, the project begins again, this time with new developments, but still at zero cost, both for the administration and for the users. “In this second year,” explains M. Elena, “we can count on a greater number of teachers and therefore a greater number of children who can access the program. The location will be at the school, which facilitates working in synergy with the teacher of the class, who can observe each child’s difficulty, allowing us to immediately begin working to solve the problem. Thanks to the volunteer work we can avail ourselves of a medical-psycho-pedagogical laboratory. The teens will have recreational time (in our town there are many talents, great and small, in the fields of animation, painting, dance, etc…) and for the mothers there will be a yoga class each week. And with the support of the Athletic Associations in the area, there will be activities for motor development education. ”

“The ideas that are being fulfilled here are many, but I am sure that many others will come, because as someone told me one day, in the field of solidarity it’s enough to take the first step. Then solidarity itself will guide the next ones.”

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Bertin, the force of a choice in life Fri, 18 Sep 2015 06:00:05 +0000 BertinLumbudi«I have been out of my country for more than 30 years. Every time I would return there was always the chance to meet with one of my brothers or sisters who had gotten married, or witness the birth of a nephew or niece. In my life, our family relationships and above all, the faith of our mother, a simple and brave woman like many African women, have always been the force that has sustained me in all my decisions and choices in life. Ever since I was a child, I had always been impressed by one of my uncles, a Franciscan friar who, at every visit, took care of all the children in the neighbourhood and not only his nieces and nephews, leaving a mark in my heart, and the desire to follow his footsteps in the future.

When I just an adolescent – Mandela was already in prison – the massacre of the youth of Soweto happened and upset me so much that I vented out my anger against Fr. Paul, a Belgian Jesuit. I had said him, «If it only depended on me, all the white people would have to return to their own homes.» He answered calmly: «You know, we can fight discrimination with other weapons.» A few months later, he invited me to meet the Word of Life group in my town.

Five years later, I found myself in Fontem, Cameroon, in the first testimonial-town of the Focolare in Africa, side by side with young people from Italy, France, Ireland, Belgium and other various African nations like Burundi, Uganda, Kenya, and Cameroon; and together with them I discovered that we are all brothers, despite our differences. This was how in my heart I felt the great desire to shout it out to the whole world, and testify to this fraternity, especially in daily life.

In 1986 I was sent to Man in the Ivory Coast, where I remained for eight years. Together with all those who wanted to live the same ideal of fraternity, we nurtured mutual love among us, which drove us to promote concrete initiatives to help the needy in many ways, also through music, to tell the world that the united world is not a utopia.

When I was 40 I transferred to Sao Paolo, Brazil, and had to learn a new language. I met a new people, which I fondly call a “population composed of peoples”: indios, native Brazilians and also the descendants of Germans, Italians, Ukraines, Japanese, Chinese, Afro-Brazilians and many other roots, but all Brazilians! It was creative, generous, and full of a contagious joy, which we, Africans are very familiar with. In a short time, I felt like I was one of them, that is, Brazilian.

Bertin_02For 15 I worked in the Mariapolis Ginetta as a graphic designer and in the production of books and magazines for the New City publishers, building relationships among the staff, suppliers, printing press workers and security guards who had the task of inspecting all the boots of cars. With others, I also coordinated the activities of the young people of the Focolare Movement: the Gen3 and Youth for Unity. This experience was one of the most important of this period because they taught me to become an “adolescent,” even if I was an adult. Through love for one another kept alive among us, I discovered that I also had the capacity to make big sacrifices, since they had overflowing energy and enthusiasm. I also understood why the hair of many parents start turning white when there is an adolescent in the family.
So now I am back again in the Ivory Coast: I have returned to continue building this pathway that started years ago with the youth. I had always been struck by the focolarini in the Focolare town of Victoria during the war, and who could have left the country then, but had decided to stay. Like Chiara Lubich and her first companions, they had sealed a pact of readiness to give up their lives for one another. This testimonial is something I treasure deep inside, and I wish with God’s grace, to live up to this measure with all our people. I do not know if we will achieve extraordinary things, but I would like to live each moment as if it were the last of my life.»

Source: African Nouvelle Cité, July 2015

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Focolare: voices from the five continents Mon, 14 Sep 2015 06:00:23 +0000 20150914-02This is the plea of the entire of the Middle East: ‘Stop the conflicts!’,” states Arlette Samman, a Lebanese, in the face of the unprecedented exodus of entire populations from Syria, Iraq and other countries: “For those who leave, it is an immense suffering, since they are going towards the unknown and feel that death is near. They find themselves without resources and security for the future of their families… otherwise none of them would have wanted to leave their own country.”

“It is comforting to see the humanitarian response by many European countries,” continues Philippe who has lived in Egypt over the past 14 years. “But we also wish to give a voice to the Middle East as it anxiously awaits peace and the right “to live and not to die”.

Both underline the importance of finding ever new solutions for brotherhood and above all, intensifying public opinion. This is the same perspective targeted by the peace mobilization that the Focolare Movement has currently relaunched together with all those working for the same aim.

In Europe, solicited by the words of Pope Francis, and also by the new awareness on the part of the political authorities – as recently expressed by the EU Commission’s President, Jean-Claude Juncker – initiatives have doubled to welcome the refugees with private homes opening their doors, coordination of material aids and fund collections.

20150914-05Practically the entire world will be present in Rome over the next days, with the 80 delegates from 36 countries, representatives of the respective geographical macro-areas: “Coming here is an occasion to meet our brothers and sisters operating for peace, and who continue to support us in difficult times.” This is the general state of mind of those coming from distressed areas. From Latin America, Maria Augusta De La Torre, gave us a view of other situations: “In Cuba people are full of great expectations and hope. On one hand is the ‘new friendship’ between Cuba and the USA, and on the other, the Catholic Church which in Cuba is more dynamic than ever. The Pope’s mediation and his next visit to the Island is boosting this revival.”

As to the frontier conflict between Colombia and Venezuela she said: «It is a very painful situation. We went to the border and saw the suffering of the people who had to leave their homes and there is great uncertainty with regard to the future, suffering and rebellion in face of the what has happened. Smuggling has always existed, but now nobody knows what lies behind these forceful decisions. In Venezuela the people feel depressed and without hope. The members of the Movement find the strength that comes from living the Gospel and want to continue to bear witness to fraternity between these two peoples. »

From Nigeria, Ruth Wambui Mburu, a Kenyan citizen, confided that the stronger commitment they have to face as a Focolare is the radical enforcement of separation between north and south, between Muslims and Christians, and ethnic groups. Their efforts and commitments consist in being testimonials of fraternity lived among these different groups. Georges Sserunkma, also from Nigeria, upon arriving in Rome precisely in this historic moment, said “I feel that this is really the unique home we all live in – seeing how the Church and the Movement take all these situations to heart, makes me breath a wider dimension and fills my heart with hope.”

RIMG4886“Each of us has come with a heavy load on our shoulders,” affirms Marcella Sartarelli from Vietnam, “but also with hope in believing that “the world is reaching out to unity.” One of these signs for her is also “the openness we saw in Vietnam, for example in our contacts with the Church. There is a new awakening, which is giving more hope. All we know about Vietnam is the war of 30 years ago, but less about what Vietnam is today – a country undergoing rapid development. Some passages of the encyclical Laudato Si’ seem to trace a precise profile of this country: a fast advancing economy, with ultra-modern cities and at the same time, the countryside abandoned to pollution. With a group of young people in a village near Hanoi, where the situation is critical, we are documenting this hidden problem, but at the same time, rolling up our sleeves to clean up.”

20150914-02Also in Oceania, environmental problems are strongly felt: “In New Zealand, the young people promoted the action Give one hour of your power, inviting everyone, on the day dedicated to the care of the planet, to switch off the electricity for an hour,” Augustine Doronila recounts, “while for years now there has been an ongoing action to help the population of Kiribati, an archipelago at risk of extinction due to the rising sea levels.”

Reflections and sharing of experiences will mark the two weeks meeting, from 14 to 27 September 2015, dedicated to the word “unity”: not only a point of the focolarino spirituality, but a key to the spiritual and social action of the Movement, the word that synthesizes its message.

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Fontem: Farewell to Pia Fatica Sat, 12 Sep 2015 06:00:02 +0000 PiaFatica_01Monday, 31 August. At this time it is not easy to reach Fontem, the Bangwa village in the midst of the Cameroon forest. This is, in fact, the heart of the rainy season and the road is muddy and practicably impossible to pass at some points. Nonetheless, a continuous procession of people have come to pay homage to Pia Fatica. Today there are at least a thousand people from all over the region saying goodbye to this extraordinary Italian woman who decided to live here 48 years ago.

The funeral rite is celebrated by Bishop Andrew Nkea who began by saying: «As a bishop and as a Bangwa citizen, I can say that Pia has lived all the beatitudes. This means that for her, today is the day of her birth in Heaven.» These authoritative words confirm what in 2000 the traditional locals had provided for, upon awarding Pia with the title of Mafua Nkong (Queen of Love). But who is this woman, who at 38 chose to pass the rest of her life in Africa, and also requested to be buried there?

Pia was born in Campobasso (Italy) in 1929. An obstetrician, a prestigious and profitable profession even in those times, she read an article in the Osservatore Romano that a mission was about to start in Cameroon, that would also see to the construction of a hospital. She felt involved, at first hand, and without even knowing what Movement planned the project, decided to leave everything behind to go and give a hand. Upon reaching Fontem, she found out that due to a widespread infant mortality, obstetrics was an absolute priority. She made the decision with all her heart, and delved deeply into the tradition of these animistic people who, anguished by the death of their newborns, turned to the Catholic bishop for help.

Pia Fatica

A practical and open person with a great ability to dialogue with the local culture, Pia was able to create important relationships with individuals, families, and the authorities with whom she speaks with respect and love, but when necessary, also with extreme honesty and interior freedom. As an untiring obstetrician she assisted at the birth of 11,000 babies, accompanying them later on, in their spiritual journey.

Just to cite an episode: a girl who had become a fervent Christian, confided that she did not wish to marry in church so as not to abandon the traditional values of her people. Pia listened with great openness and was aware that this was not an easy decision. Right there and then she did not offer any advice. Later, however, she picked up the conversation and told the girl that she was the one who had to decide freely, but reminded her that through Baptism which she had asked to receive, she had taken on a new tradition, that of Jesus. After a month, the girl asked her to accompany her for a three-person conversation with the priest. The result was a happy wedding, a splendid family and a testifier of faith.

Pia continued to give her contribution in various departments of the Hospital, up to the last service created purposely for her and called, “Office for all problems”, a title which in itself explained the broadness and openness of her heart. She deeply knew the reality of the Bangwa people and was particularly sensitive to the most unfortunate: the sick, prisoners in jail, and people with economic difficulties, and always found a way of helping out, even with the money she was able to find due to her great faith in Divine Providence.

Concreteness, her particular trait, accompanied her even in her last moments, when she decided to write to the President of the Focolare, Maria Voce, to tell her that she would soon leave this world: «I am glad to go to Jesus – she wrote – and deliver into his arms the world which I have lived for.» At the cemetery, under a pouring rain, the dances of the celebration enlivened the rites, as a sign of the deep gratitude for this great woman, and of everyone’s firm conviction that Pia has really gone to see Jesus.

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Refugees in Hungary Fri, 11 Sep 2015 06:00:39 +0000 Ungheria_01Viktoria Bakacsi and Laszlo Vizsolyi from the Focolare Movement in Hungary write: “Every day we encounter suffering under so many guises, right outside the doors of our homes. We listened to the words of Pope Francis and are now trying to put them into practice even more.”

“For months,” they write, “there has been a continual influx of refugees. Some two thousand people arrive in Hungary every day: families with children, exhausted. Despite the general chaos, many people are stepping out and giving a helping hand, people belonging to civic groups and church organisations.”

Ungheria_02The Focolare Movement in Hungary has also gone to work. Viktoria and Laszlo continue: “We shared ideas and experiences and with the Apostolic Nuncio, Alberto Bottari de Castello, have become involved in gathering and coordinating efforts so that things can run more smoothly and efficiently. We are working closely with several religious orders, including the Jesuits who already have a program in place, and groups like the Community of Sant’Egidio, which not only has the infrastructure and experience, but also legal expertise. The work undertaken also aims at promoting openness and welcome through an educational program which we started during a summer camp with 230 young people.

Focolare members who are active in parish life go every day to the Keleti Train Station. One of them writes: “I’ve been in the midst of refugees for two months. There are a lot of us helping. There are so many children, such desperate people… I try to see the face of Jesus in each one of them, and this gives me strength. They are so grateful for every little help they receive, and the children rejoice over even the smallest gifts.”

A psychologist writes: “I try to share my professional skills by supporting the many volunteers.” A focolarino priest writes: “On Thursday we had our meeting with priests. After reading this month’s Word of Life, six of us went to the Station to help the people.” A young woman: “After the Youth for a United World Camp we went to the refugees to help care for the children. There were twenty of us. Around 70 children and families gathered around us, since we were dressed up as clowns. We played, drew pictures and found every way possible to communicate with them. Many of them don’t speak English, and many of them tried to teach us a few Arabic words. We will continue to go once a week.”

Ungheria_05“We especially noticed the difficulty in communicating and the lack of information available. A  focolarina who works in collaboration with the Association of the Order of Malta, started producing signs with useful information. She finds someone who speaks Arabic to translate them. We are also continuing to help out in Szeged where refugees are continually arriving. Besides our regular collections, we have been brought several boxes of leftover fruit. One of us, a police woman, goes to help the women and children in the camps at the end of her workday.”

“We realise that what we are doing is only a drop in the ocean,” they conclude, “but we wouldn’t want that drop to be missing.”

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Korean young people: A voice of peace Wed, 09 Sep 2015 06:00:59 +0000 Book Concert 01The Book Talk Concert is an event supported by the Korean Bishops Conference. It began three years ago with the goal of spreading the faith through monthly cultural events with popular artists and writers, and also newcomers.

In August the Book Concert offered a special edition for young people lifting up the message of Pope Francis to today’s Korean society: “You, me, us – wake up!” The event was held at the beginning of the month in the Cathedral of Myeungdong where the Pope had celebrated the 2014 Mass for the Peace and Reconciliation of the Country .

The main guests included authors such as: Kong Ji-young, a favourite author the young; Father Jin Seul-ki, a young priest; and Cho Seung-yeon, a young expert in global culture.

”Wake up” was the heart of the Pope’s message to the Asian young people gathered in Korea last year, and this year’s message was: Wake up and rise, get moving in favour society and your neighbours, especially the suffering.”Book concert

The writers talked about their personal awakenings, as they responded to the questions of the young people on how to face and overcome problems of faith and everyday life.

There was a concert by Third Chair, followed by discussion and experiences. There was also a deep moment of prayer for peace, using the words of Pope Francis. Twenty flags from several Asian countries painted a scene of brotherhood and the overcoming of age-old hostilities among nations.

One young man from the Focolare recounts: “I worked on two teams, scenario and art. We performed what we had prepared for last year’s Asian Youth Day, which concluded the Book Concert. There were difficulties and tension at times, but we always aimed for an atmosphere of mutual understanding, also between generations, knowing that this was the only way the event could be a gift for the young people who had been invited.”

Another young volunteer commented: “Through our often hidden service, we were able to relive last year’s visit of the Pope and to convey that experience to many other young people.”

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