‘The Parish – a witness of God’s love’: was the theme of the Parish Movement and Diocesan Movement Congress which was held at the Mariapolis Centre, Castel Gandolfo from 16 to 18 April. The theme was inspired by the reflection the Focolare Movement is dedicating to ‘God Love’ and the encyclical of Benedict XVI ‘Deus caritas est’. There were over 1,500 delegates coming from different continents.
‘The biggest certainty that we have taken away with us’ – a young person writes – ‘is that God loves us immensely, the phrase that was most repeated in these three days! We have acknowledged this and it entered inside of us with a new certainty and conviction …. We can only rejoice in this and draw strength from it!’
During the congress a face of God not always present in today’s mentality emerged: Don Silvano, who was the first focolarino priest and who died in 2007, wrote: ‘Without wanting to, we have often preached a Kingdom of God where it appears that a paternalistic father is saying to the child: if you are good, and do what I tell you I will give you the prize.’
The Parish changes from a ‘place where the Church is administered locally’ to a ‘place capable of announcing the God that Jesus has revealed to us’, ‘a space which shows the community of people gathered in the name of Jesus.’ This is the experience of a number of parishes where they try to live communion and sharing.
A very relevant experience in this year dedicated to priests, the living heart of the parish.
Of prime importance is the fraternal relationship between people, families, groups, associations and movements – amongst everyone. In this way the parish becomes an ‘Epiphany’ of God, a witness to his love. One of the participants said ‘The important task I have to do now is to help to nourish a spirit of fraternity amongst all the realities present in the parish where I am.’
A Parish which is a witness to God’s love is capable of responding to today’s challenges: young people’s expectations, the crisis in family life, situations of suffering, the new poverty, the urgent need for dialogue.
The witness of Chiara Luce Badano, told by her mother and father through a video and by others who knew her, made a deep impression on everyone. Her yes to Jesus when she was told of her illness encouraged many to adopt a new attitude of total trust in the will of God.