For the president and co-president of the Focolare Movement this is the final stage of their trip to Northeast Brazil before going on to Belem: they visit the CEU (Uirapura Spiritual Condominium), in the heart of Fortaleza, the capital of the Ceara State in Brazil.
Ready to welcome Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti in the foyer of the hotel in CEU, which is run by the Sisters of St Dorothy, are Moises Louro of the Shalom Community, Nelson Giovaneli, who together with Frei Hans Stapel, founded the Fazenda da Esperanca; Fr Renato Chiera, from the Casa do Menor, the Mother Superior of the Carmelite Convent and the Prioress of the Benedictine Nuns. Just to mention a few of the founders and leaders of the communities that have built their houses in this vast area known as the Fazenda Uirapuru. This is the name of the land given by Benedito Macedo, a businessman who dreamt of helping to find a solution to all the social problems of the region.
Renowned for its natural beauty, Ceara State is not dissimilar to other Brazilian States with its serious social inequality, which brings poverty and poor health and education provision as a consequence. A breeding ground for drugs, prostitution, violence and desertion. ‘Cammino’ is a group based at CEU which looks after ex-prisoners; ‘Sole Nascente’ helps those suffering from AIDS discover the possibility of a future; victims of abuse regain their dignity at the ‘Casa di Santa Monica’. Young people discover the beauty of contemplation following the way of the Carmelites or the Benedictines. The long list continues. “We are all here in answer to a double call”, Mother Bernadette, Superior of the Carmel, explains, “Firstly the call of our own charism but also to be a living image of the Church of unity, to witness the fruitfulness and richness of communion among the different charisms.”
And this is what shines out in the testimonies that are given in the Auditorium, packed with the residents of the CEU, together with the Archbishop of Fortaleza, Jose Antonio Aparecido Tosi Marques. A long-awaited meeting, marked however by a suffering: two days earlier Frei Hans, the first to start off this experience of communion, and among the first to invite Maria Voce, had a heart attack. He still wanted to give a welcome to the two guests however, with a brief video message. This was followed immediately afterwards by Moises who in his address defined the CEU as a “fruit of a plan of God”, “a spiritual lung” for the city of Fortaleza.
“Here I have witnessed something really great”, Maria Voce said afterwards visibly moved. Just as Frei Hans had mentioned in his video message she recalled a historic fact which gave rise to the path of communion among the movements: their meeting in St Peter’s Square in 1998. The President of the Focolare Movement recognized in CEU “a realization of that invitation to unity launched by Pope John Paul II and of Chiara Lubich’s promise of commitment to it.” And here she underlined another aspect of the novelty which CEU represents: the fact that many communities, each one with its own charism, find in the spirit of unity of the Focolare Movement nourishment for their own community and want to participate in it also and above all to live the not so easy path of communion among the different charisms. And this was the reason for the invitation.
“In this experience”, Giancarlo Faletti added, “there is a special strength, the strength of unity.” And he defined the CEU experience as “a model for the Church”. But the last word goes to the Archbishop of Fortaleza: “This is a path of unity which God wants for the good of our Church and of society”, he said. And he prayed to God for “great strength for what you are doing”.