The Focolare president and co-president’s arrival at the Portuguese Mariapolis coincided with the feast day of the Assumption of Mary (August 15, 2012) and the liturgy proclaimed the joy of the babe in Elizabeth’s womb. This little “sign” caused the president to remark: “This will be a visit filled with exultation!” The welcome they received at the airport and in the Mariapolis seemed to confirm it. There was a large group to welcome them, with choreorgraphies par with the “creativity of love.” A portico was covered in bright flowers. There was a pair of campinos (cattle herders in traditional costume), music, families and children.

August 16, 2012 was spent touring Mariapolis Arco-Iris, which is fifteen years old. The land in Abrigada that is located 50 km from Lisbon was purchased through contributions from the Focolare commmunity in 1966.

The tour began at the cemetary where they visited the “living stones” of the Mariapolis. There are now eight people resting in there, witnessing to the deep roots of the Spirituality of Unity in Portugal. They paused before the grave of focolarino Eduardo Guedes who was also the first Portuguese Gen. Maria Voce once again entrusted the youths to him, just as she had already done a few days before he died, but this time she included all those who would attend the Genfest.

The tour continued at the Ciudad Nova Publishing House where twelve people are work; 3,000 magazine subscriptions; and a good production of books. “The offices are simple and attractive,” commented the president, while underscoring the importance of the unity between daily life and  spreading a message that is valid and credible.

Then they visited the Gen boys and girls and there was an explosion of joy among the thirty young people gathered for the occasion. Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti met with them in the two little houses that are the reference points for all the Gen in Portugal, places where they can visit or spend longer periods of time. Many of them study and work in Lisbon or in the neighbouring areas. Monica is a physiotherapist at a clinic in the Mariapolis: “It’s such a great gift that I can stay here. The presence of Jesus among us, here in the Gen house, with the other inhabitants of the Mariapolis, at work. . . urges me to live the ideal of  unity, even when I am relating to other people.” Tiago (twenty-four years old), soon to receive his degree in Medicine: “My main effort is to always try to live in the will of God. In this way I feel that ‘together, we are Jesus’ who is creating this Mariapolis and the life in each one of us.” Maria Voce urged them to offer  a living Gospel life to everyone, “that it might explode” everywhere. Each year on the 1st of May around a thousand young people gather for an annual appointment at the Mariapolis.

Next were the families. There are five families at the Mariapolis. “We’ve been here for ten years. We saw the Mariapolis being born,” recount Jose and Conceicao Maia. They were the first family to move into the Mariapolis along with their six children. “We’ve been here for three years,” say Toni and Idalina Nogueira with five children. “We’re so happy! We’re having a new experience as a family and as a community. Every day a few of us take off for Lisbon, some for work and others for school, then we return together to finish our day with Mass in the Mariapolis.” Maria Voce underscored the great importance of the families not only for the Mariapolis, but also for the Church and the world. She affirmed: “What matters is the never predictable novelty of the Gospel life. So always begin again each day without worry.” And Giancarlo Faletti: “Your houses are beautiful, but more important is the journey you have taken as a family, overcoming many difficulties.”

In the afternoon they visited the “Giosi Guella Business Park” which was inaugurated in 2010 with three Economy of Communion businesses that have ten branches in several other areas of the country.

Next was the visit to the attractive Mariapolis Centre, with its meeting hall for 200 people, 60 beds and an average guest attendance of 5,000 people each year.

Future plans reflect the growth of the Movement in Portugal. They visited a piece of land where a house for the Women Volunteers of God is to be constructed. Maria Voce planted a medal of Our Lady on the spot, in an atmosphere of deep joy and emotion. Then there are some other projects including the construction of a series of small houses.

The busy day concluded with the Mass that was animated by songs in the Fado style, which  is characteristic of the Portuguese spirit. Among her concluding remarks on that day Maria Voce also said: “Our first day in Portugal was lived in an every-increasing joy.” Then commenting on the Portuguese music style, she recalled Chiara Lubich who had once invited everyone to “interpret” Jesus on earth, and she wished that the “Portuguese Jesus” would emerge from the people of this land as a gift to all the other peoples of the world.” Giancarlo Faletti added: “It was a day filled with God… we have good reason to exult!” Then the president went on to say: “Now let us live the joy. Our Lady still sings the Magnifica even now.”  

By Gustavo Clariá

Photos © M. Conceicao / M. Freitas

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