The Volunteers of God
The Volunteers of God is a branch of the Focolare Movement comprised of men and women from all social categories and professions who freely and radically follow God. This is the reason for the name “volunteer”. They live out the Gospel spirituality of unity in their daily lives
Since the beginnings of the Movement, Chiara Lubich felt urged to run out to humankind. Recalling those early days she stated: “I believe that our experience of when Jesus in our midst multiplied the loaves to help solve the social problems of Trent, it was an early manifestation of the vocation of the Volunteers, like a first seed.”
The seed took on life and form in 1956 when, under the pressure of the tragic events unfolding in Hungary, Pius XII pronounced his heartfelt plea: “God, God, God. . .” to make “the name of God resound in the public streets, in homes, and in offices. . .”
Chiara accepted that plea and seemed to echo it when she stated: “There is a need for true followers of Jesus in the world. Disciples who will follow him voluntarily. An army of volunteers, for love is free (. . .). A society that bears witness to one only name: God”.
The response was immediate: workers, doctors, nurses, politicians, educators, businessmen and employees – all wanting to be these “Volunteers of God”. It is a typically lay calling, since the Volunteers feel “the special vocation to permeate the things of this earth with the spirit of God.” This way of life is fascinating to many who are now engaged on this path of holiness, a way that the Movement is spreading in five continents.
In the late 60’s, as she saw the social projects that were coming to life through the Volunteers, Chiara entrusted to them the New Humanity Movement, the Focolare’s expression in civic life.
In 1983, during a large event entitled “Towards a New Humanity” involving John Paul II, Chiara gave a presentation of the Volunteers of God and of their vocation: “total donation to God, without any particular consecration. Immersed in the midst of the world, the privileged place for their spreading, they practice the Gospel following the example of the early Christian communities, whom they try to emulate in this century, being one heart and one soul, with the consequent spiritual and material ‘communion of goods’. Within our world (. . .) they strive to bring the fire, the light, the strength, and the richness of the Risen Lord by generating his presence through their unity, in homes, hospitals, schools, parliaments, offices and everywhere.”
In 2006, on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Volunteers, in the presence of the 11,000 persons present in Budapest, Hungary for the occasion, Chiara Lubich re-ignited their vocation, calling on them to respond to the challenges of today because, “the world is in need of credible persons who are builders of a new humanity in the different areas of society.” She concluded by saying: “Aim at accomplishing God’s plan for humankind: universal fraternity.”
At present, the men and women Volunteers are around 20, 000 with another 4,000 in the process of becoming Volunteers. They include Catholics, Christians belonging to different churches, and faithful of other religions.