19 May 1973, a Saturday and Loppiano, as every Saturday for the last nine years, is bustling with activity to welcome the weekend visitors who come find out about the permanent ‘Mariapolis’. It seems like a day like any other, but it will turn out to a historic one.
In fact on this day the Loppiano Cooperative was founded. The idea was to offer a witness to the Gospel lived in a real experience of work. This may seem like a small thing, but the origins of this particular firm were in a mixture of ‘gold’ and ‘mud’ – the latter also literally.
Loppiano had begun several years before. On those Tuscan hills there was no lack of enthusiasm and joy, and the young people worked hard in all possible ways to fulfil their dream: to make visible the Ideal of a united world in the relationships among the little town’s inhabitants. They came from all over the world, were extremely diverse, and at the same time among them reigned a harmony that it would be hard to find elsewhere. Of course, it was not easy because change was needed in many stony parts of each of their hearts, the effect of their mentalities, ethnic origins or differing cultures.
But there were also other things to weigh them down, more visible and just as burdensome. These were the land that had been abandoned for years, rendering the terrain inhospitable, transportation difficult and the living conditions extremely uncomfortable. They needed someone competent to work the land, rebuild the houses and make it possible for the rural setting to show signs of becoming a city, even if only in miniature.
The appeal that went out to the whole of the Focolare Movement was heard especially by the ‘Volunteers of God’ throughout the world. Some of them, living in the valleys of Bergamo in the north of Italy, left their work and all they were already doing and, with tremendous generosity and even more faith, moved with their young families to Loppiano. They had no job security or guaranteed housing, but they began restructuring some of the cottages and, with sacrifice and hard work, they began to construct the little town and to cultivate the land surrounding it. It looked like madness to eyes of their friends and relations. And yet, thanks to these first families, Loppiano flung open its doors to the world and became a tangible spiritual and human experience known and valued today by people in every continent.
It incarnated the spirituality of the Focolare Movement in the concrete work of every day, respecting nature and the human cost of what was done. As a result, in all these years no synthetic products have ever been used to cultivate the land, but everything is grown organically and is certified as such.
The Cooperative has more than 4000 shareholders spread throughout the world. By means of their shares and consuming its products, they contribute to developing the business and, indirectly, also to building the whole of the little town. In 1991, when Chiara Lubich launched the Economy of Communion, she said that it had be presaged by the Loppiano Prima Cooperative.
Today Loppiano is indeed a beautiful place, with its lawns, houses, roads, running water for all. But the faith and courage of its pioneers were needed. Most of them are still alive, some are already in heaven, but without them nothing would have been possible, especially not the fulfilment of Igino Giordani (Foco)’s prophetic words in a message to the Cooperative: ‘You witness to and proclaim the Gospel with a loud voice through your work and the communion of goods … And you are the first fruits of a society many have expressed only in words and yet all have dreamed of it. Because of you and thanks to you, the world of tomorrow has already beguin’.
End of Part 1 (To be continued)
Official Cooperative Website – Terre di Loppiano: http://www.terrediloppiano.com