Focolare Movement » Life of witness Official International Website Tue, 31 Mar 2015 15:14:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Violette Karram Sat, 14 Mar 2015 06:00:17 +0000

Violette KarramBorn and living in Haifa, the Holy Land, it was thanks to Violette that the ideal of unity was able to plant solid roots in a region with strong political-religious complexity.

She was raised in a deeply Christian family and then she met Boulos, a man of faith. They had four children whom they taught the highest values.

After seven years of marriage, Boulos suffered a brain haemorrhage and was left partially paralysed. Even in suffering, Violette never lost heart. A strong woman anchored to the Gospel, she took the reins into her own hands and, besides taking care of her husband and children, she gave sowing lessons in order to earn a bit of money.

It was the boys who attended the first Mariapolis (summer Focolare gathering for people of all ages), which was being held in Bethany. They returned home enthusiastic, so much so that the following year they convinced their parents to attend.

In 1977, a focolare was opened in Jerusalem and from that moment on their home became the meeting place for the nascent Arab-Christian community of northern Israel. Later they would also be bridges in contacting Jews and Muslims. A few of the first focolarini from Rome went to visit the Holy Land and, when they visited the north, the home of Violette and Boulos became the “focolare” that hosted them.

ViolettaKarram_and family
Violette and family

More gifts awaited her: her oldest daughter’s entrance into the convent and Margaret’s decision to follow God’s call in the focolare, who is currently at the International Centre of the Movement. “When my daughters left,” Violette recounts, “we experienced the strength, the providence of God and his presence in our life.”

Following Boulos’s death in 1988, her home continued to remain open and welcoming, edifying everyone with her experiences of practicing the Gospel with the radicalism and simplicity of each day. With her concrete, personal and delicate love, she was able to offer advice and even correction, while respecting difficult decisions.

In the final three years of her life, the illness erupted that led her to depend more and more on the care of others. She had always been accustomed to taking care of everything herself, and it wasn’t easy for her to adapt, but she abandoned herself to every new situation, which she humbly (and with humour) welcomed as the will of God. She welcomed every visitor with a smile, giving support to the one who had come to support her.

Her condition worsened and a period of suffering that seemed would never end. She continued to repeat that God loved her, and that she was offering her suffering for the Church, for peace, and for the human family. When she was already extremely weak she called each person by name, because everyone had a place in her heart. To the parents of a young boy who had died years earlier she said: “Pretty soon I’ll be going to play with Jack!”

Violette died peacefully on February 4, 2015, while she was invoking the Blessed Mother. For us she will remain an example of a life spent entirely in love.

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Regis Roger Ndayiekeza Mon, 09 Mar 2015 10:00:52 +0000

Regis-cRoger Ndayiekeza, more popularly known as Regis, was originally from Burundi. He moved with his mother and brothers to Italy when he was eight years old, following the coup in which is father, the Minister of Agriculture, lost his life along with other Government officials.

His mother, Radegonda, having known the Focolare Movement in Burundi, began to take part in the activities held by the Movement in Caserta, Italy. She brought Regis along, and he was quickly fascinated by the ideal of unity, and met many other young people who were living the spirituality of unity together.

His deep personal relationship with God was expressed in his sincere, spontaneous and ever-new smile that was never a mere formality or down out of politeness, but a sincere desire to make the other person happy. Every person was special for him. Every encounter was unique. Everyone he met, even if only for a brief moment, stayed in his heart. Although he had difficulties in life, suffering from sickle cell anemia, his relationship with God helped him to transform the pains into launching pads, opportunities to devote himself to whomever was with him.

He concentrated on the essential. He didn’t say many words, but always new how to take people. During one Gen meeting (young members of the Focolare), a disagreement broke out that disturbed their souls. “Let’s not worry about it” Regis intervened. “It’s good that we discuss things, it shows how much we hold to being a family with each other.”

Regis_02His wisdom helped everyone to reflect and often resolve misunderstandings. He was able to the friend of everyone in a variety of settings: the social centre, disco, office, parish and family. Wherever he went he lived for others without ever losing himself. It was important for him to live the present moment, every day, until the last moment. Shortly before his death at the age of thirty, following a serious circuulatory complication, he continually repeated to his brother: “Don’t you worry!”

At the funeral, the emeritus bishop of Caserta Nogaro in the presence of dozens of priests of the diocese and the the Ambassador of Burundi, the bishop said “We are certain that Regis is in Heaven. Visiting with you was always a joy. Being in your company always made everyone smile.”

Regis_genThere was an intense applause at the end of the Mass when his friends shared their words with him: “Dying is nothing; the frightening thing is non-living. Being with you was a joy; you always found a reason to laugh and make everyone smile. You lived of dreams and a powerful sense of friendship. We’ve been so fortunate.”

“Regis never wasted any moment of his life, always projected in loving others. He lived life 100%

Especially significant were the following words from one of the Gen who attended his funeral: “As his final act on this earth, he united all of us from many lands and tongues . . . in a true and profound family, it’s true. It seems that this was really his characteristic: to be the one who brought balance and unity!”

The Gen from his group continue each day to seal their strict pact with him, taking to heart the words that Chiara Lubich had once addressed to the Gen: “If by some impossible chance all the Gospels in the world were destroyed, the Gen should be so perfect that they could re-write the Gospel with their own life.



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Father Giò (Joe) Aruanno Sat, 28 Feb 2015 06:00:12 +0000 Don Gio'AruannoFr Giò’s name was given to him by Chiara Lubich in 1968. It refers to the passage in St John’s Gospel where Jesus says to the beloved disciple: “Here is your mother” (19:27). That name and those words are a perfect summary of Father’s Giò’s life: attentive to his relationships with others, which were filled with depth and human warmth; his contemplative spirit that enabled him to always gather some new meaning in the Word of God; the way he lived the Mass and his filial relationship with the Blessed Mother.

Giuseppe Aruanno was born on September 8, 1924 in Ruvo di Puglia, Italy. He was the thirteenth child in a close-knit family. Entering seminary at an early age he was ordained to the priesthood in 1947 for the diocese of Molfetta. He quite soon became a very prominent figure who could be entrusted with important tasks such as that of canon penitentiary. Very attuned to the signs of the times, among other things, he began the John XXIII Social Centre for the formation of the laity during the post-war years.

In 1964, unable to refuse a friend, he reluctantly attended a meeting for priests of the Focolare Movement in Ala di Stura, Italy. He was impressed by the radicalism in living the Gospel that he found in them, and without anyone telling him anything, he approached the focolarino who was conducting the meeting and handed him all the money that was in his wallet. He had found his family.

Two years later he attended the newly-begun “Priests School” in Frascati, Italy. He was supposed to stay there for six months, but God manifested a new calling: to put his life at the service of this new reality in the Church. Without thinking twice, with the permission of his Bishop, he moved to the Centre of the Movement leaving all his possessions to the Diocese of Molfetta. Thanks to his generosity, the first men’s and women’s focolare houses were opened in that region.

The Priests Centre in Grottaferrata, Italy, had become his new operation base. There, together with other priests, Father Giò performed his 24-hour secretarial service, welcoming people, handling telephone calls, posting newsletters, keeping files, archives and creating a network of relationships that led to the opening of many ‘priest focolares’ in many several corners of the world.

In 1982 Chiara entrusted him with running the Priests School, which had moved from Frascati to Loppiano. Father Giò felt “inadequate,” “nothing,” “the last one for such a demanding assignment.” Bishop Michael Mulvey from Texas thinks differently. He had accompanied Father Giò for two years at the School in Loppiano: “With Father Silvano Cola and the first priest focolarinos,” Bishop Mulvey says, “Father Giò by his example prepared many diocesan priests to live the Marian priesthood;” that is, having Mary as their model who in humility and service offers Jesus to the world.

Trials were never lacking in those years, which he faced without giving up. “Carry on, Father Giò,” Chiara wrote to him in 1999, and she invited him to look to Jesus on the cross who took upon himself every problem and human weakness in order to make us rise with Him. Then “life will overflow even more abundantly in and around you to the glory of God and the joy of Mary.”

In his twenty years of service at the Priests School, Father Giò formed hundreds of priests and seminarians in the spirituality of the Focolare, many of whom have become bishops, vicar generals, formators in seminaries, etc.

In 2002, he returned to the Priests Centre at the Centre of the Movement where he continued to give of himself in a thousand ways. As he advanced in years Father Giò more and more discovered the art of loving in the small things, always creating a family atmosphere around him that had something of the Divine. In reality, he was living a period of new youthfulness, always more free, always more focused on the essential. As he felt the moment drawing near to meet Jesus, his constant prayer became: “Take everything from me, but leave me enough clarity of mind to be able to love You until the last moment.” And so it happened. He died peacefully on the evening of December 31, 2014 surrounded by his confreres.


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Maria do Carmo Gaspar Sun, 22 Feb 2015 10:00:52 +0000

Maria do Carmo Gaspar“I wanted to have a family that would give a positive contribution to the world.” It was a dream that came true over the 72 years of Maria do Carmo Gaspar’s life. She was the first married focolarina from southern Brazil.

Many recall her penetrating gaze, her constant smile, her great love. They say that no one drew near to her without discovering Love. Amidst the hundreds of messages that arrived just moments after her death, one describes her as “a warrior of love and faithfulness to God.”

She was born in Araraquara, Brazil in 1942. She married Rozário at a young age, and they had five children. Several years later they found themselves in a good social and financial situation. “But,” as she put it, “I had become comfortable. I had become indifferent to the spiritual dimension of life and our matrimony went into crisis.” At that moment she came across some people who were witness to the fullness of life that came from living the Gospel. That light revolutionised her life and that of her family. A living community began around them.

Then, her husband, Rozário lost his life in a sudden accident. Now, a widow at 29, she wrote to Chiara Lubich: “In the moment I realised that he was never going to return from the lake and that I would be left without him, I believed in Love and re-chose Jesus Forsaken. I understood that, for my husband, this unexpected call could only be God’s love, because He is a Father. I believed in Love both for me and for my children even amidst my non-understanding, nourishing myself on the Word of Life. Now my family has begun to live its eternal destiny because, in Rozário, we are already in Heaven.” Because of this choice of Jesus on the cross who reached to the point of crying out the abandonment by the Father as the spouse of her soul, a new and striking spiritual fruitfulness blossomed in her.

Maria-do-Carmo-famigliaMaria do Carmo was amongst the pioneers in the construction of the Focolare town near São Paulo, Brazil, Mariapolis Ginetta,. She gave up comfort and home in Araraquara, to move with her children to the Mariapolis where there was no electricity, telephone, or water.

Much could be written about the many different fronts in which she was gradually involved: family life, young people, Cidade Nova magazine. She was there in 1991 when Chiara Lubich began the Economy of Communion. Firmly believing in the prophetic force behind this project, Maria do Carmo enthusiastically took up the new challenge. With a small group of entrepreneurs she dedicated herself to one of the first Economy of Communion businesses in the Spartaco Business Park: “The Tunic”. Later, she worked untiringly for the development of the Political Movement for Unity.

In July 2014 there were the first symptoms of an illness that would require specialised care. In her last letter to Focolare president Maria Voce, she writes: “I try to respond to God with pure love, certain that this is perhaps the best gift He could give to me, and so I offered Him everything that I might go through from this day forward: sufferings, detachments, renunciations. . . I would like to intensify the race towards ut omnes [that all be one] (see Jn 17:21).” She died peacefully on December 22, 2014.

Many see has as a model in life. Federal Deputy Luisa Erundina writes: “We will certainly miss her very much, but her example will continue to inspire us, giving us strength to continue living universal brotherhood and unity in Parliament and wherever we are led in the exercise of our office.”


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Sr Anna Hoare Thu, 19 Feb 2015 10:30:38 +0000
Sr Anna Hoare

Nominated for the Nobel Peace prize in 2005 Sister Anna led an extraordinary life. Sadly we learnt of her death yesterday. She was 97. Recently two focolarine visited her where she was living near Oxford. An article on their meeting and about Sister Anna’s life is published in New City magazine this month. We share with you this article in loving memory of this wonderful lady. May she rest in peace.

What do a 97-year old Anglican nun and a handful of people coming from Scotland, England and Austria have in common?  It is in their meeting together near Oxford on a sunny Autumn afternoon, to remember a place they all know: Belfast and to say thanks to the sister who had such a profound effect in the early days of Focolare in Ireland.

A little group from the North of Ireland has travelled to England to visit Sister Anna Hoare, a Sister of the Love of God (SLG). They have come to thank her, the Anglican nun who, in the 1970’s, sowed the first seeds of the Focolare Spirituality amongst young people in Belfast coming from both Catholic and Protestant backgrounds.  Also to thank her for the immense contribution she gave to the lives of people who try to inspire themselves by a “spirituality of unity”.

Back in the 1970’s Sister Anna  arranged for a group of 12 young people from some of the biggest secondary schools in Belfast to attend the very first large-scale Focolare Youth event – held on the 1 May 1973 in Loppiano, Italy – an event which became the forerunner to subsequent youth festivals or Genfests.  They left Belfast extremely conscious of their differences as Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists and Catholics.  They came back utterly changed, now convinced that their differences were not an obstacle and if they wanted to make a difference, change had to begin with them.   One of those young people was Sally McAllister from North -Belfast. Sally now lives in Loppiano, in the Tuscany region of Italy, and works with the international  Performing Arts Group, “Gen Verde”.  Through their concerts and workshop activities with young people, Gen Verde strives to contribute to the creation of a global culture of peace and unity, through the arts.  Another of these young people was Angela Graham, who is now living and working as a journalist in Wales.

From this first initiative, a vibrant Focolare youth group sprang to life. They were young people, who believed that by letting the words of the Gospel change their own hearts, they could contribute to changing the future of their cities.  Sister Anna was  instrumental in this desire.

But who is Sister Anna who has had such influence on so many people? This Anglican sister was attached to a contemplative Anglican Convent in Oxford: the Sisters of the Love of God. Thanks to Sister Adrian, SLG who has known Sister Anna for many years, we have been able to find out more about Sister Anna Hoare, who was born in 1917 in the South of England, in a family of “landed gentry”.

Her life conceals a history of  someone truly original. From very early on she had a passion for God, for peace and for unity amongst people. In 1943 she graduated in Theology from Oxford University and felt called to be a “monastic pilgrim” which in her words means “to travel anywhere on the surface of the globe without money, doing whatever providence gives me to do”.

Sr Anna Hoare
Sr Anna (left) with Sr Adrian (Sisters of the Love of God)

Her first adventure was among a German community of refugees in Leicestershire, who she tried to help recover from  their wartime anguish. After that she went to France where she worked in plantation fields alongside Russian Orthodox  nuns who gave her board and taught her their language. Her journey then took her to the Greek Islands where she discovered her gift of “getting things done”. She started by “begging for portions of corn” to pay some villagers in order to re- build a derelict house for a family. This eventually turned into a project which saw the refurbishment of some 30 houses.

In 1971 an invitation from Mother Teresa of Calcutta brought her to Belfast. Her welcome to the city included being showered with milk bottles by a group of protestant children who mistook this Anglican nun for a Catholic. From this came her resolution “to train” the children in the province in reconciliation tactics and she became a pioneer and sower of seeds for peace and reconciliation in the midst of the “Troubles”.  One of these seeds included giving birth to the first Focolare group in Belfast.

Her limitless faith in Providence enabled her to cross many boundaries. People from Belfast remember her walking out into streets with her bucket in the midst of “trouble” to collect the nails that had been scattered to puncture army vehicles. No bullet ever touched Sister Anna. Her love for her neighbours of both denominations was practical and hands on. She would travel from house to house on her moped with her crash helmet on her head, looking after those whose lives had been shattered, helping both Protestant and Catholic young people to find jobs and to do well at school. She would  travel  around Europe and America fundraising. She took  groups of people away and out of the warzone to have a different experience, sometimes without anything but a flask and tea bags. As she knocked on doors for hot water, she won over people as well as hot meals and lodging! It is said that it was impossible to say “NO” to Sister Anna.

One of her biggest contributions to Northern Ireland was her work with the organisation “All Children Together” which established an integrated secondary school in a Belfast interface area in the hope that children could live, learn and make friends with one another. Lagan College, named after the river that flows through Belfast, today has over 1200 students. Other schools followed Lagan College’s example and there are now over fifty integrated schools around the North of Ireland.  In 2008, when Sister Anna was visited in England by some staff from Lagan College, she was asked for a message for the students. Her answer was simple: “I want them to be happy. If they are good they will be happy and if they are happy they will be good.”

Sister Anna with Elisabeth a focolarina from Belfast

In 2005 Sister Anna was nominated as part of a group of a thousand women for the Nobel Peace prize and was also honoured with an MBE for her work in Northern Ireland. The Sunday Mirror, an Irish Newspaper, said of her: “This great lady’s dedication to her vocation and her tireless work among the sectarian divide in Northern Ireland epitomises true Christian values.” (Irish Sunday Mirror, July 13, 2003).

So many things could still be said about Sister Anna and a book would probably not be enough to talk about her multi-faceted life. But what has it been for us to meet her on this memorable afternoon in November 2014?  Sister Anna Hoare, a person who saw beyond appearances and touched the lives of many people.  A woman, whose life has been impressively fruitful and has given rise to so many initiatives and projects, working incessantly so that people could experience God’s healing love. Encountering her at 97-years of age, totally blind and with her cognitive ability fading, we were plunged into a reality in which we encountered not so much her actions but her soul. When we asked her whether she was born in England or elsewhere, she answered: “Of course I am English, but my heart is in God.” We understood that at her core, Sister Anna had always been active, yes but this had nothing to do with activism. The person we met in this little Nursing Home in Oxford proved this to us: that God is and has always been the centre and driving force of her life. God has remained the reality she now inhabits.  While we were with her, she repeated on various occasions that secularism was growing and on a request for a message for her friends in Ireland she asserted: “The only person is God”.

At our departure, from her arm- chair,  in her small room on the outskirts of Oxford, Sister Anna said to us with a smile on her face: “We must blow people back to God.”

by Elisabeth Ohlbock

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Giuseppe Maria Zanghì (Peppuccio) Tue, 03 Feb 2015 06:07:31 +0000 PeppuccioPeppuccio, as he was commonly known, had a very rich personality and life. He was endowed with a deep inner life and an outstanding capacity for thought and study which he placed at the full service of the charism of Chiara Lubich by highlighting its cultural, doctrinal and prophetic dimensions.

Once again this year – in spite of his 85 years – he spent nearly two months at the Focolare centre in Montet, Switzerland where he explained the spiritual experience of Chiara to some young men who were preparing to live in focolares. When he returned home to Rocca di Papa he spent his days in an air of simplicity and a greater fraternal tenderness towards each of the members of his focolare. There were no signs that his life was rapidly declining.    

Peppuccio was born in Syracuse, Italy, on December 16, 1929. He soon left the island because his father, who worked for the Finance Guard, was transferred to Lombardy in northern Italy. Peppuccio spent his childhood and early adolescence there, and then returned with his family to Sicily where he graduated in Philosophy at the University of Catania. He was influenced by atheist thinkers and fascinated by eastern philosophies.

When he was on the point of becoming engaged to be married a friend introduced him to one of the first focolarinas who was passing by Syracuse. He was so struck by her experience of the Gospel life, which she described to him, that he began to change. He attended the first Mariapolises on the Dolomite Mounains, but because of his rather pugnacious character he would often run off before evening. But he always returned after he had convinced himself that it was worthwhile to become committed for such a great ideal. He asked Chiara Lubich for permission to become a focolarino.

After a few years in several focolares on the peninsula he went to Grottaferrata where he began the first school of formation for focoarlinos. Afterwards, he was professor at the Mystici Corporis Institute of Loppiano near Florence.

In May 1970 Chiara entrusted him with the guidance of the Gen Movement where he worked for entire generations of young people. The Gen from those days recall: “Those years were marked by unforgettable international conentions in which, through his wise guidance everyone was given the chance to contribute to the “Gen Formula”, which was a first attempt at describing what the Gen Movement was all about.

At the age of 44 he was ordained to the priesthood.

Among the other tasks entrusted to him was that as director of the New Humanity cultural journal and the Focolare’s centre for culture, the Abba School which he directed with Chiara.

He was an authentic witness of Chiara’s innovative intuitions and, as a refined intellectual – corroborated by ample philosophical and theological study – became a zealous spreader of the charism of unity through publications and engaging discussions.

Theologian Piero Coda, president of Sophia University Institute stated: “The pages written by Giuseppe Zanghi were dictated by love and imbued with wisdom that flowed from obedience to a mission, from the practice of a vocation that was jealously embraced by overcoming many obstacles; in closeness with Chiara which he lived with intensity and produced much fruit until the end.”  

Peppuccio was entrusted with the aspect of culture in the Movement, a task which he carried out with great enthusiasm and which led to the Sophia Cultural Institute begun as a summer school for young people, and later evolved into Sophia University Institute. Simultaneously, for a few years he also directed the Focolare’s Centre for Interreligious Dialogue.

Chiara Lubich had offered him a Scripture verse based on Psalm 27 with which Peppuccio was able to reach his full spiritual and human identity. “If you put me in combat, that is where I will place my trust” [our translation]. His death has left a great void, but he remains an example of what it means to be the disciple of a charism: total fidelity and total creativity.


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Fr Lino D’Armi Mon, 02 Feb 2015 06:00:35 +0000 Fr Lino was born in 1933 into a beautiful family from the Province of Pescara, Italy. At the age of twelve he was convinced that he had a vocation to the priesthood and entered seminary. Just before turning twenty two, he was ordained a priest. He learned of the Focolare from his bishop who was also drawn to its sheer evangelical life that had arisen a few years earlier in the city of Trent. It was the bishop who asked Graziella De Luca, one of Chiara’s first companions, to visit the village where Father Lino was young pastor, so that she might transmit some of the novelty that he had found amongst the Focolare. Father Lino was fascinated.

“In that one short hour,” he said, “I saw my entire life coming together in harmony, finding the answer to my search for freedom and the sense of expectation I had always had. That encounter was my ‘Mount Tabor’, my homecoming, a total immersion in the family of origin, of the one Father of all.”

From that moment on Father Lino was a lively member of the nascent Movement in Abruzzo, and later one of the members of the first priests focolare of that land. Meanwhile, he was called to the Curia to be the bishop’s secretary, and later director of the major seminary of Chieti. He was just over thirty years old. A group of seminarians began to form around him because they were drawn by the ideals Father Lino professed: a precusor of the Gens Movement that would begin a couple of years later.

In 1968 he obtained permission to move to Cameroon, to the Focolare town that was rising in Fontem where, due to the large number of conversions that began to blossom, there was need for a parish priest. Just as he arrived he was struck with sleeping sickness. He was able to be saved thanks to the talent and courage of focolarini doctors. Basic to him, also in this trial, was his relationship with Chiara Lubich.

He wrote to her: “Jesus Forsaken, Mary Desolate, God, the life of unity, acts of piety and the relation with the surrounding world – they’re all unifying more and more as they converge on high and become only something that is one. I’m always more and more feeling the desire to become transparent and empty so that the encounter with each neighbour might only express God.”

Meanwhile, the witness of unity between him, a priest, and the men and women focolarini, as well as their disinterested concern for others, continued to work wonders. During the Easter period of 1970, the bishop administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to a good 1, 080 people.

In 1974, because of a few after-effects of the illness he had contracted upon his arrival in Africa, it was necessary for him to return to Italy. From then on Father Lino remained at the Focolare’s Priests Centre where Chiara entrusted to him the nascent Branch of the Priest and Deacon Volunteers, which he served for thirty three years. In 2009, Father Tonino Gandolfo took over responsiblity for the work that had been begun by Father Lino. Father Tonino recounts: “He had a personal love for everyone that was very intense, imbued with supernatural affection. He also had a great capacity for listening. He never offered preconceived solutions, but placed himself on the other person’s side, so that the light would emerge from within the person who had opened themselves to him, and so it was a a fruit of a relationship lived in God.”

In one of the testimonies following his death, a person writes: “Thank you for your life, Father Lino, for your generous willingness to answer God’s call; thank you for the keen spiritual intuitions that you offered us in your homilies that were always so key, essential and luminous. Thank you for having been a big brother to us, a father, a servant of the Truth, the builder of a movement with Chiara which, thanks also to you, is making ‘history’.”

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Antonietta Trapani Thu, 22 Jan 2015 06:10:49 +0000 AntoniettaTrapani_aAntonietta Trapani from Sicily had a very bright personality and was full of life. When she was twenty years old she came across the ideal of unity and quite soon felt the call to choose God by following the path of the focolare. Even though her parents posed many obstacles, because of their fear that she might one day end up all alone, Antonietta wrote to Chiara Lubich of her determination. She told Chiara about her parent’s concerns and, in response, Chiara sent her a verse from the Gospel: “I am not alone because the Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). From then on Antonietta took this verse as a personal reassurance from God, that He is a God who is near, a Father who would always accompany her. Happy and determined, she began her formation as a focolarina and, in 1976, was already a focolarina in EnglandLater she would go to Ireland where she developed an outstanding ecumenical sense.

Her first destination was Fontem, Cameroon, a small Focolare town that emerged from the Bangwa tribe in the heart of the forest. The first impact was hard, but “I realized that here I can’t live like an Italian, I have to become African with the Africans. . . I’m happy.

Antonietta Trapani Luglio 2014 Mariapoli_PieroLater, she moved to Nairobi, Kenya, where she was given the gift of living first beside Marilen Holzhauser, and then Bruna Tomasi, both of them among the first focolarinas of Trent. Those moves did not burden Antonietta, on the contrary! “It’s beautiful to do the will of God. If I want to bring an invasion of love into the world, I’ll have to be only love.” She continues, “In love, everything that before seemed burdensome and impossible, now seems sweet and light.”

When Chiara visited Nairobi in 1992, Antonietta took part in the foundation and the later development of another Focolare town in Africa: Mariapolis Piero which was home to a School of Inculturation. On that occasion she wrote: “I’ve been here many years, but now I begin to see Africa in a totally new way.”

In 1998 she returned to Turin, Italy, to assist her father who was ill and aging. She called those years, seven years the “school of life,” during which she continued to giving herself to the care of her father who returned to the Sacraments. She was by his side until the moment he departed for Heaven.

Antonietta Trapani MPiero maggio 2012
Antonietta with a group of women focolarine at Mariapolis Piero in May 2012

Then she went back to Africa. She was joyful and busy living at Mariapolis Piero: she was always there to welcome and assist anyone who came. It was precisely while accompanying a group of young people who were visiting the Mariapolis that she noticed the first symptoms of the illness. The medical tests revealed an inoperable brain mass. Antonietta immediately uttered her yes, and her life took a leap in quality. She wrote to the president of the Focolare, Maria Voce: “Now, after this great gift that Jesus wanted to give to me, I feel like another person, experiencing such great joy, fulfillment and so much peace. I feel that God loves me immensely, more than ever before.”

Only three months following her untimely death at the age of sixty-five, there are already countless touching testimonies from people who knew and loved her and with whom Antonietta had shared the ‘holy journey’ toward Heaven.

Now we think of her surrounded by all those who were like her – as many say – “witness of true love.”



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Enzo Fondi Wed, 31 Dec 2014 05:00:07 +0000

EnzoFondi_a«A soul in love, » Enzo «lived constantly in God’s presence, always one with Him. Always.» This was how Chiara Lubich described Enzo Fondi, just after he passed away all of a sudden, silently and serenely on 31 December 2001. «Enzo Fondi has gone to Heaven,» Chiara wrote to all the members of the Movement: «It is a great joy, even if in my lifetime […] we have never felt such great pain. The joy is because we cannot only say that Enzo has died, but that he gently passed from one “room” to the other. When they found him after the Te Deum, the expression on his face was one of great peace, without the shadow of anxiety at all, giving us the impression that he was “received” by Mary, our Mother, whom he loved in a particular way, with such tenderness. In our hearts we had the common impression that if we have been deprived here on earth, of this “gigantic figure” of the Work of Mary, we have, on the other hand, a saint in Heaven. This was how we considered him over the last few years, when his illness had refined and prepared him for this step.»

Enzo Fondi, a doctor from an affluent family, was born in Velletri in 1927. In 1951, he joined the first Roman focolare. He was a part of the first group of Focolarini doctors who, at the start of the 1960s, crossed the confines of the socialist block to work as an assistant surgeon in the Catholic Hospital of Leipzig in Eastern Germany. From then on the spirituality of unity spread throughout Eastern Europe. In 1964 he was ordained priest at the service of the Movement, and later was assigned to the United States.  

20020107bIn 1977, the year in which Chiara Lubich received the Templeton Prize for the progress of religion, Enzo was assigned the task of developing interreligious dialogues of the Focolare, and with one of the first focolarine, Natalia Dallapiccola, gave his fruitful contribution to this end. On hearing the news, our Muslim friends in Algiers wrote: «With great simplicity Enzo taught us all the rules of the “art of loving” and opened our eyes to the universality of Chiara’s work and to what degree the miracle of unity is daily within our reach!» For years, Enzo was in charge – together with Natalia – of the spiritual formation of the members of the Focolare Movement. There is, therefore, a big archive of his answers, writings, and talks, with which he helped many to acquire a deeper comprehension of the charism of unity.

EnzoFondi con ChiaraLubich«Enzo had spent his last years on a cross,» Chiara wrote again. A serious disease, in fact, had more than once led him to the brink of death. «But – we had the impression – that he had embraced Jesus Forsaken in such a perfect way. He was never impatient even for a moment, and never complained to his co-focolarini. The drama he was living was a matter between him and Jesus. Though rarely, he had confided to me about his physical condition, always with a smile on his face. And in this way, in the last period his life was an uphill, relentless climb, embellished with virtues, and God bestowed the grace of union with Him.»

This is testified to by Enzo’s last thoughts dated 15 December 2001: «My last will and testament. For me, it is the last will of God, the last thing he wants of me now. There will be no other. I must fulfill this last will to perfection, whatever it may be, and this is my last testament. I don’t know what will really be the last will of God I shall undertake in life. The only thing I am sure of is: for that last and this present moment, I will have the actual grace to help me do it, inasmuch as I have practiced in exploiting this grace, by living the present moment.»


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Giulio Sarrugerio Fri, 12 Dec 2014 05:00:32 +0000 “Eternity is in the present moment. Each instant is a treasure for offering. The small sufferings of each day that, due to age, abound, are like precious thorns that the roses of love adorn…” These words were pronounced by this Italian focolarino during his final goodbye, before he ended his journey on this earth, at the age of eighty-nine, fifty of which were spent in Brazil.

Who was Giulio? He was born in Melzo, Italy, on December 3, 1925, the youngest of eight brothers in a nice Catholic family. In 1943 he finished technical school in Milan. In 1944 he was drafted during the Second World War. A few months later he managed to escape, thinking war a folly. That is when he felt called to spend his life for peace by giving himself to God. But he didn’t know how.

When the war ended he became a trade unionist and was active in his parish. But he was unsatisfied. In 1953 he came to know the Ideal of unity and was fascinated by the possiblity of living the Gospel in daily life.

In 1954 he found his road: consecration to God as a focolarino. In 1966 he left for Brazil where the Movement was rapidly spreading. He docked in Recife, in the North East. Then, at the request of a bishop, he and another focolarino transferred to the island of Marajo, at the mouth of the Amazon River, to run a social project for the poorest of the poor. He experienced that living the Gospel was truly a social revolution.

In 1970 he moved from the Amazon forest to the concrete forest amidst the skyscrapers of San Paolo. From there he made many voyages and gave a precious contribution to the birth and consolidation of the nascent local communities in the States of Minas Gerais, Parana, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, as well as in several States of the North East of the country. He returned to Recife in 1974, where he went through difficult moments that he overcame, finding himself enriched with new love for Jesus Crucified and Forsaken.

Since 1983 he lived in Mariapolis Araceli (now Mariapolis Ginetta), offering a concrete contribution to its growth and development. He was one of the pillars of Cidade Nova Editrice. Many remember him as the one in charge of the Parish Movement, because of his untiring dedication and the simplicity with which he shared the Word and the fruits of living it. He was the cause and the witness of many people changing their lives for the better, which were important moments that took place in the history of that Mariapolis.

Giulio Sarrugerio also loved to write. In one of his writings it says: “Yes, every year that passes, is a constant battle for my body. But, for the spirit, which love for Jesus forsaken helps to grow, it’s like “going from one Heaven to another” in every moment. The presence of Jesus in our midst that makes every gesture shine, as well as every step on our journey, provide us with the opportunity of transofrming even the smallest everyday things into a stupendous ascent.”

With the passing of the years, his health began to fail. But even as his health diminished, he always brought a joyous note.

A great crowd attended his funeral in the Church of the Eucharistic Jesus in Mariapolis Ginetta, expressing gratitude for the gift that he was.


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