Youth Bring Life to Midwest Focolare Communities

 
Since the first days of the Focolare Movement youth have been an integral part of the Focolare Movement. In speaking to a gathering of young women in 1966, Chiara Lubich called young people, the new generations in the Focolare, to a “revolution of love.”

Like that of the whole Focolare, the aim of this revolution of love for youth would be to fulfill Jesus’s last prayer: “That all may be one.” From the response of thousands of young people throughout the world to this invitation the “new generation” of the Focolare Movement was born.

Youth activities across the world within the Focolare Movement take shape for four different age groups, each referring to new generations following the spirituality of unity. Accordingly, they are called the Gen2, Gen3, Gen4 and Gen5 movements as the second through fifth generation following Chiara and her first companions. The Gen encourage one another to live the Gospels concretely in daily life and come together to go deeper in the spirituality of the Focolare as well as share both their struggles and joys, as a gift to the other Gen and to share the effort in bringing about “that all may be one.”

Around these more committed youth groups are a wider sphere of youth who want to collaborate with the Gen in building a world of universal brotherhood and sisterhood. These at large movements, according to the older or younger age group, are called Youth for a United World (Y4UW) and Teens for Unity (T4U) respectively.

In the Midwest Focolare communities there are many youth activities for all the different Gen groups as well as activities for the Y4UW and T4U.

Below is a glimpse of youth events happening across the Midwest since the start of 2017.

For more information on how to join or support these activities, email us, or call the local Midwest Focolare houses:

Women’s Focolare House Hyde Park, Chicago: (773) 536 -7873

Women’s Focolare House Ohio: (614) 532-8171

Men’s Focolare House Berwyn, IL: (630) 337-6104

Gen 2 Boys and Girls:

The Gen 2 boys and girls, ages 19 on up, held their yearly convention this past January. 16 young adults—nine young men and seven young women from the Chicago area, Indianapolis, Michigan, and Ohio participated, said Marcia Barbosa, one of the adult leaders of the Gen 2.

“It was an annual retreat that took place in the Mariapolis Center. This year was the first time that we held a retreat for the young men and women together,” Barbosa said. “The purpose was to deepen our understanding of the spirituality of communion of the Focolare and to strengthen the unity among the young adult generation. Specifically, we went into depth in one of the points of our spirituality that is “Jesus Forsaken”

Barbosa said the weekend events were divided into three parts, with presentations, discussions, reflections, and sharing on important questions, such as “What is the situation of the word today?”  “What does it mean to be a global person in today’s world?” “What is being done?” and “Where do we go from here?”

By meeting monthly, the Gen deepen their spiritual lives and friendships with God and one another.

“The purpose of our getting together is to be in fellowship, in God’s love, and with his presence among us, whether we be eating, playing, or praying,” Barbosa said. “We also want to make the evenings accessible to all, especially to our friends who may not share our religious convictions. Currently, we change the format of our get togethers each month, in 3 month cycles. For example, we have a game night the first month; an evening of reading and sharing on the “Word of Life” the second month; and a cultural night, where we celebrate the culture, food, music, etc., of a particular country, the third month. The thought is that in this way people can come according to their interests.”

Gen 3 boys

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The Rusher family opened their home in Fremont, Ohio, for a Gen 3 boys weekend retreat for boys ages 9-18. The boys continued to consider the Focolare theme for the year, “Jesus Forsaken,” They took time away from their busy lives to recognize and love Jesus Forsaken in their own personal sufferings and in those sufferings of those around them. With it being the season of Lent, the boys considered seriously how to be reconciled with their neighbors. They each took a moment to think of one person who had hurt them and planned concrete ways to re-build that relationship. There was also time for sports and a bonfire, all in a spirit of mutual love which helped build the presence of Jesus among them.

Older Gen 3 Girls:

In January, 15 girls of the Focolare Gen 3, ages 13 to 17 years old, attended a weekend retreat at the Mariapolis Center in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood.

The girls of the youth group came from Illinois, Missouri, and Michigan to spend a weekend to learn to live the Focolare ideal of unity and to listen to another’s “different experiences and perspectives,” said Ana Paula Panzarini, one of the adult assistants for the Gen 3 girls.

Besides topical discussions, the Gen 3 girls attended mass at Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral, spent time in prayer and meditation, and visited two Gen 3 girls who were unable to attend because of illness. The girls also made time for fun activities, such as ice skating at Maggie Daley Park in downtown Chicago and enjoying food, dancing, and singing for a “Polish Night” event with older Gen 2 boys and girls.

Panzarini said that in addition to meeting at the Mariapolis Center, the Gen 3 girls will meet at a local parish, a retreat center, or a Focolare member’s home, whichever is convenient for the particular Gen activity.

“Every summer for the last four years there has been a Service trip to one of the cities in the Midwest,” said Gen 3 leader Bea Romo. “The Gen 3 usually attend this trip with their friends and together go try to spread the spirit of unity while serving in different ministries of the city. This summer beyond the local experience there will be an international experience. A group from all over the US will travel to Croatia and meet with hundreds of other Gen 3 from all over the world for an experience of unity and service.”

Gen 3 girls’ groups meet in Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis, Columbus, Ohio, and other Midwest cities.

Younger Gen 3 Girls:

The younger girls ages 9-12 came together for a yearly retreat this past February. Coming from Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Ohio, 26 girls participated in the retreat at the Focolare retreat center in Chicago. The younger Gen 3 girls were honored to have some of the older Gen 3 girls come as junior leaders for the retreat. The weekend’s theme was Jesus, My Best Friend.

Loving Jesus in each neighbor becomes easy if is our best friend. Throughout the weekend the girls shared beautiful experiences of how Jesus is present in their lives and how they want to make more space for Him.

As the older girls and boys discussed in their retreats, the young Gen 3 girls deepened their understanding of suffering and how Jesus made himself one with all suffering in His abandonment on the cross.

Although they were young, many already had experienced sufferings related to relatives and friends who are ill.  Most striking was the suffering of one of the young refugee girls whose parent was killed by the militia in her home country.  Many gained a deeper appreciation of how the sufferings of Jesus can help in one’s personal sufferings.

They enjoyed games to reinforce the different themes of the weeknd.  One game about events in the life of Jesus was done in the style of the “Jeopardy.” Other games such as capture-the-flag helped them practice how to love Jesus in one another.  Still other games focused on comforting those who are suffering.  For example, to experience the concept of carrying each other’s burdens, the girls took turns carrying one person at a time a short distance in a blanket.

On the last night the girls shared musical and artistic skits in a gala show. In these exuberant skits and music, the girls demonstrated how they had to let go of individual preferences and styles in order to perform well together.

Lastly, to show in a practical way how their love extends beyond Chicago, participants produced a video clip and wrote letters which they sent to girls who couldn’t attend the weekend retreat, including two who were ill and one who was overseas with her family in the Middle East.

Teens for Unity (T4U):

On Saturday, March 11, the Chicago area Teens for Unity (ages 14-17) served as the main helpers at the Confirmation Retreat for St. Bruno Parish, Chicago.  For those T4U in attendance who are also Gen 3 girls, planning and leading the retreat provided many opportunities to demonstrate in a concrete way what they had learned at their retreat in January. The focus of the Confirmation retreat was living concrete love in daily life by seeing Jesus in each neighbor and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.