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New City Phillipines and Living City Recognized for Innovative Journalism

2013 will be remembered as a good year for two of the Focolare’s English publications. New City (Philippine Edition) was awarded a special mention for Interreligious Dialogue by Christian Media (ICOM), which has its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. The North American Living City magazine received an honorary mention in the category “Best Coverage of Vocations to Priesthood, Religious Life or Diaconate” for an article written by Sarah Mundell. The award was conferred by the Catholic Press Association of Canada and North America (CPA).

From vocations of the Catholic Church to the great frontier of inter-religious dialogue.  An article in Living City and two in New City were particularly appreciated. The article in the American magazine was written by Sarah Mundell, following her interview with David Rider, the protagonist of the story, entitled: “Man of the cloth . . . and tap shoes” (LC June 2012). During the award ceremony the CPA described the article as “expressively written, fascinatingly original.”

New City Philippines magazine dealt with the fragile peace process in Mindanao (No 1/2013) and education for a culture of dialogue (No 6/2012). The award that was conferred during ICOM’s world congress in Panama City (September 28, 2013-October 5, 2013), gave recognition to the commitment of New City in easing the tensions of cultural and religious conflicts, recounting factual accounts of daily life in which there is a sense of reciprocity, mutual respect and solidarity.

The Panama event brought together journalists and professionals from around the world who have had opportunities to study the problems of the American continent. It was in this context that the International Journalism Awards were conferred, on October 4, 2013 at the University of Panama.In accepting the award, Jose Aranas, editor-in-chief of the Focolare’s magazine published in the Philippines, spoke about the cultural and religious context of his country, the only country in Asia with a Christian majority. He stressed how the articles leading to the conferring of the award were above all experiences of Focolare members from different religions who strive to live in the light of the Golden Rule that is present in one form or another in many sacred texts: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Mt. 7:12).

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Club You: Your Opportunity to Unite

It was a fantastic experience. The students started to live according to the Art of Loving, putting into practice the Golden Rule right away, first among themselves and then with everyone else.

When we returned to Texas, we asked ourselves: “What’s next?” “What do we do to bring what we learned at Expo to Eastfield College?”

We came home wanting to do something in line with, as the students called it “the Expo spirit,” but didn’t know exactly what.

The idea of creating a group that focuses on positive social change, animated by the principles of the Art of Loving, emerged almost immediately. After discussing it, we decided to create a student organization called “Club You: Your Opportunity to Unite.” The name came from a student who at a certain point, simply said: “it’s not anymore about me, but it’s about my neighbor, it’s about you!”

The organization would help and serve students on campus that are in need. The idea is to start a peer-to-peer or student-to-student advising service where we help other students choose their majors, select a four-year university to transfer to, or simply research the field of study that interests them. We also plan on helping student associations on campus that are struggling or need support. There were many ideas. But most if all, we want to be the spark of social change that was ignited at Expo, understanding that true change only happens through loving.

~ Jonathan Michelon – Dallas, TX

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World Youth Day – Rio, 2013

Over 3.5 million gathered to take part in the events of World Youth Day in Rio, Brazil.

It was Pope Francis’ first apostolic journey where he met with the young people in Copacabana for the Via Crucis, and in Campus Fidei for the Vigil and for Mass at the conclusion of WYD.

Among other stops were a slum area in Rio de  Janiero,  a Rio prison, and the  opening of  a new complex   for  drug addicts at St Francis of Assisi Hospital, one of the social legacies of World Youth Day.

The Pope cannot miss a visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida, where in 2007 the Fifth General Conference of Latin American and Caribbean Bishops (CELAM) took place.  Pope Francis gave, as a gift, the important and significant Document of Aparecida, issued by this General Conference to Heads of Latin American States who have visited him in recent weeks.

The following links will give a glimpse of the events and news of what happened.

The contribution of the youth of the Focolare Movement

A show on the life of Chiara Luce

Pope Francis to the young people in Rio: “Go, do not be afraid, and serve”

The noise in Rio 2013

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Diary of an entrepreneur

Early Monday morning

I left work early last Friday, so when I returned to the office on Monday I faced a long “to do” list. I threw myself into the tasks and marked myself on our company computer tracking “in/out” box (IOB) system as “in” but “DND” (Do Not Disturb). Nevertheless, after a few minutes, there was a knock at the door, and one staff member entered and said “Good morning, how was your weekend?” My first thought was, “Hey, didn’t you see the DND in the IOB?” My second thought was “I don’t have time for this, I hope she hurries up.” Then, I remembered, “This is my neighbor. This is Jesus.” We spoke about our weekends and she also talked about her young son who had been sick which caused her to miss work. In a short time, she asked about the work load this week and how she could help. When she left my office, she took two piles of my “to do list” — for me a sure sign of God’s Providence.

Competitors

This week I was in meetings with several people, including those I would call “competitors” — people who do the same kind of work we do. I was asked to critique these competitors’ work product, and provide opinions about the direction of important projects. This can be a very delicate thing, especially when the competitors are in the same room! A real human temptation is always to present yourself very well, and show off your knowledge of the subject, letting your ego take over.

Before each meeting, I said a little prayer, “You, Lord, are everything. I am nothing.” I listened carefully to everyone, trying to understand all sides. When I finally spoke, I was able to highlight the positive things about my competitors work, their organization of scientific data, and their presentation. After that, I offered some suggestions that enhanced their work. By the end, we agreed about the direction of different situations. Later, these competitors called to thank me for the way I handled the meeting: “We really felt your support and we hope to see you again in other situations.”

Office cleaning

During the last busy weeks the office became, as my mother would say, like a pig-sty. Our kitchen was piled with dishes and left-over containers. No one was making a move to do anything about it. During lunch one day, when everyone was out, I went into the kitchen and did all the dishes, scrubbed the counters and sinks, swept the floor, emptied the refrigerator of “bad containers,” took out the trash.

As people came back from lunch, there was murmuring about, “Who had cleaned the kitchen?” After a while it became apparent that I had done it without saying anything. Later that same day, someone cleaned up the report production room. Some began to clean their own work areas. Everyone noticed that the atmosphere of the office had changed … stress levels seemed lower, people were getting along better, and a certain peace was present among everyone.

A new kind of business dinner

On a recent business trip overseas, my American colleague and I were invited to a weekend dinner with our client representative, his wife and four-year-old daughter. Conversation soon turned to business, culture, politics, sports. The longer the conversation went on, the less our client’s wife and daughter were involved. I could see that the mother struggled to occupy her daughter. I had also learned that the couple both worked full time, and had given up their free weekend night to take us out.

I began to think about what God wanted from me in that moment and remembered the Word of Life for the month: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not. See, I am doing something new!” (Is 43:18 19). I knew that it was time to stop the “old” way of doing business, and start something “new.” I asked the little girl if she knew how to draw any pictures. Soon, we were making all kinds of smiley faces and letters around our plates on the paper tablecloth. I learned all about her: what she liked, her favourite animals. I showed her a magic trick. “Do it again!” she pleaded. Soon she learned the disappearing spoon trick and showed her mom, and even her dad.

As we continued our fun, her mother relaxed and joined the conversation with her husband and my friend. The atmosphere soon changed from a business dinner to a family dinner.” At the end of the evening, the little girl shook my hand and asked when we would see each other again. I felt as if I had made a friend for life.

In the taxi I wondered what my client thought about my supposed lack of attention to him during the dinner, and whether it seemed unprofessional. However, the following morning at his office, the first thing he said was, “You won’t believe it. The only thing my daughter talked about all weekend was you. Thank you for the wonderful time, we’ll have to do it again.” At that moment I more fully understood the revolutionary power of the Gospel, and how this new way of doing business transforms everyone.

Beyond winning

Yesterday I had a meeting with an attorney who represented someone whose property one of my clients had contaminated. Instead of using his attorney to meet with their attorney, my client wanted me (an environmental engineer) to negotiate. He knew that I had developed a positive relationship with the property owners. As it happened, the opposing attorney and I also knew each other. He remembered that my company donates a portion of its profits to the poor. This meeting could have been a very stressful one: how much does my client owe his client for damages? Who would win the negotiations?

Before he left, the attorney shared that he had not visited this building since he ate lunch there with his late father. The attorney’s eyes welled up. “One week later on a hunting trip to Colorado, he was lost in a freak snowstorm. I guess you never know what life will present you with,” he said. I shared an experience about having lunch at the same restaurant a few years ago with an old friend that came to town for her dad’s funeral. He had been my godfather and was very close to me. That lunch had represented a new time in my life as well. In the midst of the busy work day, we experienced a moment of communion that went beyond business as usual.

By John Mundell

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Everyday life stories in Denver, Colorado

Miguel: We are members of a very large Catholic parish near Denver, Colorado. We arrived there from Argentina about 3 years ago. We didn’t know anybody, not one single person in the area; we arrived in the middle of a “snowy” winter, when people – understandably so –tend to “socialize” less. The fact of us being retired didn’t help.

It was a new chapter in our lives, but, as always, a new opportunity to practice the “art of Christian loving”. We sensed immediately that it was going to be a matter of taking the initiative – be the first- to reach out to “strangers”: fellow parishioners, neighbors, etc, in an attempt to get to know and build more permanent relationships with them. So Raya and I said to each other: “We have to be pro-active and creative in trying to create opportunities to do this, not just for ourselves, our “survival”, but to contribute a little “to change our little corner of the world” for the better.

Many of our parishioners were well acquainted with one another and had enjoyed for many years well-established social networks that seldom allowed for newcomers. Our first effort was to deliberately hang around after Mass in order to start a conversation with someone. Our second effort was to meet and greet these folks each week for the next 18 months. I consciously did this by always asking them something they may have shared with me in our previous conversations, and almost everyone always seemed to feel valued.

Miguel: I joined a Catholic men’s association where I found myself helping others install big Christmas trees in the parish, , and driving 60 miles to take food baskets to migrant workers in the Colorado corn fields. In most of my conversations, I would first try to talk about what the other guys would feel comfortable with: daily life, Denver Broncos or mountain hikes; trying in other words to make myself “one” with them as the “art of loving” suggests. But then, whenever the opportunity allowed, I would also try to share something from my spiritual life and my experience in trying to live -not just think- in the spirit of the Gospel. Gradually, I could sense their “respect” and friendship was growing, and within less than 18 months, Raya and I were nominated for the Parish Council.

Raya:  A few months later, we were asked by the Church to host a new “small faith community”. Since in all the 80 or so existing small church groups, we had not found any who emphasized the practical side, the connection between Scripture and daily life, we knew that we wanted to focus our group exclusively on this topic so we agreed to host these weekly meetings.

Miguel: About 50% of our time together in the group consists in the sharing of real-life experience in the art of loving so that the abundance and diversity of opportunities to love our neighbors can be universally appreciated. After a while people in the group also started sharing their own experiences of living the Word. One, for example: George, a computer engineer, shared one day: “Since I saw this new approach to the Gospel I realized that I had to change my relationship with my customers and colleagues, by being more attentive, 100% present in each moment, in dealing over the phone with anxious customers whose computer systems were not working, or by taking without the usual ’lamentations’ more complex jobs which my colleagues or boss would send in my direction.”

Raya: Eventually, I began to notice the power of this kind of sharing in helping to inspire others to live more authentically. One lady immediately realized that being a good neighbor was something that she and her husband could easily do—after all almost everyone has a neighbor or two. So, she recounts, “We took the initiative and went together to speak with a couple with whom we had only a casual encounter before. We soon discovered that the wife was about to undergo cancer treatment, and that the husband was quite anxious about it. We volunteered to prepare meals for him while she was in the hospital, we brought her flowers when she returned home, and afterwards I was able to share with them information gathered from my own workplace regarding many positive outcomes reported for her very kind of treatment.”

Miguel: But just having group meetings as you may all know is not sufficient to create a community – we also need to experience a sense of “family” among the members by relating one on one-personally- with each other and repeatedly. So whenever, our regular meeting schedule was interrupted, we would encourage group members to do something individually with another group member and to keep in contact with one another through telephone conversations at least once monthly. In addition, Raya and I regularly tried to model this individual caring for each of the members of our group by-for example- becoming empty of our own concerns when we would spend time with them, so that we could be 100% attentive to learning about theirs. We also encouraged others to share about their personal relationship with God, their deepest aspirations, and their honest struggles with the challenge to love others. All this, in the attempt to unite deeply, spiritually everyone in one group striving for a common purpose.

Raya: Striving to love our neighbors in this way always seemed to bear some kind of tangible fruit and the need to aim for this was always present. Sometimes, just before a meeting,  Miguel and I would differ on how we were going to proceed. We also knew we had a responsibility to always practice what we tried to teach, so working to always love each other as “neighbors” –  not without effort  – also became an important prerequisite for each meeting. The more we practiced living the Art of Loving, the more we began to see tangible fruits from our efforts. In myself, I noticed an increased sense of peace and well-being whenever I put the needs of another ahead of my own.  My relationship with Miguel also was enriched.

Our efforts were reciprocated.  Our neighbors began offering invitations to us, and some of the group members began sharing experiences of observable behavioral change. The importance of “practicing what we preach” became abundantly clear.

Miguel: Once one member shared : “I was brought up in a solid and even intellectual Christian tradition but here there is something “different”, a new approach related to ‘real every day life’ – a way by which I can concretely contribute to make of this world a better place: at work, family, wherever … Now I am also involved a with the formation of a teenagers and young adults groups, in my church.

Our faith community helps me not to feel alone, it gives me the strength of a “group” to start each day and to practice the art of loving…”.

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Crossin’ The Bridge

May 1st, 2013 marked the conclusion of a project that the youth of the Focolare began last August at their youth festival called Genfest – an international festival which gathered 12,000 young people from all over the world and presented the challenge to everyone to build bridges of peace, solidarity, action and a world project. This project is called the United World Project. Its goal is to gather evidence of big and small Fragments of Fraternity which are opportunities of concrete action from helping out in the neighborhood to assisting in a natural disaster, from social projects to smaller works that can be done anywhere.

The event was entitled “Crossin’ The Bridge” and was held in Jerusalem. When asked why Jerusalem the members of Youth for a United World replied “the greatest desire of the youth is to witness universal brotherhood wherever they are. Therefore why not Jerusalem? It is a city of contrasts and divisions but also the cradle of an ancient culture, minglings of people and religions, and ever since its existence, has been called to be a city of peace.”

Aurora Bottacci and Luca Filisetti, heading the organizing committee explained the event saying: “the message that we want to convey is simple and demanding at the same time: to make great gestures of peace, reconciliation, forgiveness that involve groups, a whole people or nations, we need to start ourselves to build a bridge to those who are next to us. Then the circle will enlarge. It’s not impossible. It’s enough to begin.”

The May 1st event was streamed live on the internet and transmitted via satellite. 250 were present representing 25 nationalities and from different religions. It was preceded by a week filled with tours, workshops, conferences and concerts in and around the Holy Land.

Before concluding the live transmission, an olive tree was planted as a sign of brotherhood in the park that will be built in the place where the event took place!

Finally it was announced to everyone that the city hosting the opening of the United World Week 2014 will be Nairobi!

The week in the Holy Land comes to an end, but the United World Project is just beginning!

Websites

United World Project
Youth for a United World
Be the bridge

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The Company Cube

How does it work? Pick up The Company CubeTM and roll it, read it, live it, share it, and experience it!

The Birth of a New Business Strategy. About twenty years ago, in 1991, a group of socially-minded small businesses began a worldwide network of collaboration (Businesses for a United World in The Economy of Communion in Freedom Project). They wanted to not only change their work environments, but the entire economic and business world around them.

They believed that even small changes in the way business is done can have a dramatic impact on the economy at large. And they understood that everyone can contribute to a positive work environment by actively:

  • Valuing every person and every idea
  • Building relationships every day
  • Supporting others with actions, not just words
  • Helping as soon as there is a need
  • Sharing ideas, time and ourselves with those around us
  • Seeing everyone, even those who treat us badly, as worthy of our friendship and respect

The ‘small business’ attitudes and lifestyle contained in these simple focal points of their day-to-day experiences became the basis for The Company Cube,TM a practical way of remembering that these values need to be lived daily. With a renewed focus that is person-centered, the idea of The Company CubeTM changes the status quo, and offers a new way, especially within small businesses, to make a positive impact.

The Company Cube Website

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A very special Italian final

Occasionally, I am called to teach Italian at the Culinary Institute of America, located in Hyde Park, NY. It is one of the finest cooking schools in the country. The students share a common passion for the art of cooking, be it in the pastry and bakery or in the culinary program. And they’re really good at it.

For most, however, learning a foreign language is not as easy. I understand them very well, so I try to find many ways to inspire them and get them involved. We have gone on field trips to a café, the local Italian deli, even to the train station. As Christmas was approaching, I invited them to visit Mariapolis Luminosa, the little city of the Focolare where I live, with its large cafeteria and dining hall, as well as its international nativity scene display.

They enjoyed it very much! Friends of mine from different countries welcomed them, speaking Italian and showing them the kitchen, where they could learn the Italian names of the utensils. Half joking, one of students launched the idea of coming to cook there to prepare a dinner, instead of the usual final oral project. Everyone was immediately in favor of such an unusual exam.

The dean and the other Italian professor showed great support for our project. We divided the tasks. Someone created a Facebook page where we could all communicate our ideas, recipes and menu; someone else offered to prepare the invitation; another would prepare the menu. Even when faced with obstacles like a very small budget, the students did not allow me to drop the project. At all costs they wanted to go ahead. When the day finally came, there they were in perfect uniform with an introduction for the special guests — naturally, all in Italian!

The harmony with which they worked together in the kitchen was incredible, even though this group had never done so before. At dinnertime each student shared something about themselves, together with their recipes, praising the team more than themselves. Some Italian music and songs, played by a German, an American and a Filipino, concluded the evening.

And the Italian, you may ask? “I almost did not realize I was speaking in Italian, until my teacher pointed it out to me. I believe that every class should have this experience,” shared one of the students. Another wrote, “I realize that after the project a wall has crumbled. Now I feel more secure about going to Italy, because I know that I can speak.” It was a truly reciprocal experience: “Personally I was touched to see the guests set up the dining room, share their stories and play music for us, as much as we worked at making a great tasting meal.”

I realized that together we had cooked more than a delicious dinner. With passion, love, joy and generosity we had transformed many ingredients into a single dish of friendship, which nourished all of us. For dessert two of the students had prepared a tiramisu from scratch, and on top they decorated it with a heart. That was it — we had become one heart!

Jackie DeGrandpre and Christa LiTrenta created the tiramisu recipe we want to share with you. They write about it: “The recipe isn’t too difficult to reproduce but it requires just the right amount of love and care to make it incredibly delicious! We were so delighted that everyone at Mariapolis Luminosa enjoyed our tiramisu. We hope that everyone you decide to make this recipe for enjoys it just as much!”

By Maria Luce Ronconi

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