Focolare Movement of the US and Canada
Press Contact: Betsy Dugas
Chicago, Dec 1, 2014 “… This wealthy world has “kidnapped” Christmas and everything around it, and evicted Jesus! It loves the poetry, the atmosphere, the friendships, the presents, the lights, the stars, and the songs. It looks to Christmas for the best profits of the year. But there is no thought of Jesus.”
These words of Chiara Lubich gave rise to a project promoted by the Gen 4, the young members of the Focolare Movement. Every Christmas since 1996, outfitted simply with smiles and spunk, the Gen 4 set out to offer Baby Jesus figurines – lovingly cast, painted and wrapped by them – in big city squares and shopping centers, but, as only they can, these ambassadors of true Christmas meaning end up making their little patch of the world stop and smile again. Sent off with smile and figurine, shoppers bring home the true Peace of Baby Jesus.
This year’s projects take place in locations diverse as: Central Park, New York City; Piazza del Popolo, Rome; City Hall, Newark, OH; “Lights in the Heights Celebration,” Houston, TX. Eight thousand small baskets, dispatched from the Gen 4 International Headquarters and used as cradles for Baby Jesus, will be welcomed into homes from Spain to Japan, Africa to Sweden.
In Chicago, the Gen 4 will offer Baby Jesus at the Water Tower Park (180 E Pearson St, Chicago, 60611) in the heart of the Magnificent Mile on Saturday, December 13, starting at 2p.m. Donations to this project will support children victims of Ebola in Sierra Leone and the Central African Republic. For last year’s Chicago images, click here.
Read some impressions from the Baby Jesus Project in different parts of the world:
Turin – Offering many
When Margherita, a little girl from Turin, saw on the TV news that some supermarket chains had stopped selling nativity scenes because they were ‘not commercially viable,’ she exclaimed, “This year we will have to offer many, many (figurines of) baby Jesus!”
Germany – He came back with two envelopes
The German Gen 4 put their Baby Jesus stand in a Christmas market. A man came up and took a statuette in his hands, looked at it, then went off without taking it. The Gen 4 decided to give it to him as a gift. They caught up to him and said, “We want to give this to you as a present!” His eyes lit up. He thanked them for the figurine and told them how he had lost his job and had no money to buy a figurine. After a while he came back with two envelopes, his gift for them. In the first envelope was a prayer written out for them and in the second a letter saying, “Hello, dear children! I want to thank you for the biggest gift there is. I’ll never forget it. You gave me a big surprise! I wish you all a Happy Christmas and beautiful presents.”
Dallas (Texas) – No time to stop
For the first time, the Gen 4 in Dallas had permission to offer the figurines of baby Jesus outside a big office building. It was not easy: people passed by, muttering “No thank you,” or asking, “What are they? Cookies?”
The Gen 4 were quite dismayed, and asked themselves why no one had time to stop to bring baby Jesus home. So they asked Jesus to help them bring his love to these people. It didn’t matter if they collected no money for the poor. They knew they were there to bring Him into the world. They didn’t give up. They prepared colorful posters offering the figurines as a Christmas gift and sang carols.
The people began to stop and take the figurines. A lady who wanted to take one realized that she had left her purse at home. Without hesitating, the Gen 4 gave it to her, and she went away happy, touched by the gesture. The Gen 4 were happy too: Jesus had found yet another home. When they came to count the money, they decided to give 10% to the company that owned the office building. They went together to the director’s office. He told them instead that he wanted to make his own contribution, so that through the Gen 4 all the money would get to those who needed it most.
Trent – You are all invited to my house
Silvia and Monica met together to make the plaster figurines of Baby Jesus. They decided to invite their classmates, too. Silvia wrote the invitations: “On Saturday afternoon you are all invited to my house to make figurines of Baby Jesus.” Then on Saturday ten classmates turned up to help! Before starting, Silvia and Monica showed them all a video where the Gen 4 explained the project “They Have Left Jesus Homeless.” No one wanted to go home at the end, and they promised to meet again soon.
Pisa – I can do acts of love too!
A very distinguished gentleman, finding himself in front of Lorenzo who offered him a figurine, answered, “I’m not interested. I’m an atheist.” Lorenzo answered, “I’m a Gen 4. What is an atheist?” “And what are the Gen 4?” asked the man. “The Gen 4 are those who do acts of love”. “Well, even if I don’t believe, I can do an act of love, too!” he concluded, and, taking a figurine, he left a very generous offering.