Among these is the vocation called Volunteer for God, founded sixty years ago as a response to Pope Paul VI’s plea for an army of volunteers for God as an answer to the Communist revolution in Hungary. Encouraged by Chiara Lubich’s wish to answer the Pope’s plea, professionals, who were also members of the Focolare, responded by freely offering their lives to help permeate the structures of society with the Gospel message of Love.
The women volunteers of the Midwest region of the North American Focolare community held their yearly retreat January 13-16, 2017. Due to geographical distances or health reasons, many of the women were unable to attend the retreat in person, but they were able participate remotely by video and voice conference calls.
Mornings of the retreat allowed the Women Volunteers time to go deeper in one aspect of the Focolare spirituality. This year morning sessions focused on Jesus Forsaken. This theme is a central piece to the Focolare spirituality. It gives members a deep understanding of the role of suffering in one’s life and in the world by looking towards the redemptive suffering and the abandonment experienced by Jesus in his passion and death on the cross.
For the members of the Focolare, Jesus’s passion and abandonment are fulfilled in the resurrection, and so it is possible that people can live this same transformation from suffering to resurrection when they find and love Jesus in all that is suffering or disunity in them and around them. The Midwest women volunteers focused on this theme during the mornings of this year’s retreat.
In the afternoons there were daily breakout sessions which culminated in an evening plenary session to share the multiday work from the breakout sessions.
Each of the breakout groups focused on different sides of a cube which is used as a tool in spreading the Focolare’s message especially as it relates to protecting the environment in light of Laudato Si. This cube and tool is called the Earth Cube. It is meant to be rolled daily, with each side offering a concrete way to respect the earth as a precious gift from God.
During the breakout sessions, each group made model communities focusing on their particular side of the Earth Cube.
At the plenary session each group displayed and presented their towns which were modeled on their particular side of the Earth Cube. All were then asked to guess which statement from the Earth Cube inspired each of the models.
In other sessions during the retreat, the women had workshops entitled, Dialog and Division. In these workshops the women explored and practiced how to best dialogue when faced with divisive and emotional issues.
Present at this year’s retreat were four new members of the Volunteers for God group. The four women celebrated their formal entry as Volunteers during the celebration of a solemn and joyful Mass.