Maria Voce in the USA

Here in Luminosa, the Focolare town for North America, the welcome was second to none. For the visit of Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti it was as if the unusually long winter had been prearranged, so that the snow on the ground would enhance the appearance of the buildings surrounded by woods and grassy banks.  While the two important guests were visiting the offices of Living City and New City Press, a group of agile deer passed by  just 10 meters away from the surprised visitors. “It never happened before’, the residents exclaimed.  “Its the presence of the media” was the thought of others.

After Montreal, the president of the Focolare had arrived in Luminosa, the first step of her ‘discovery’ of the USA after a day’s journey by car, which included the usual border procedures of digital photos and electronic fingerprints.  It is the first time that the President and the Co-President visit the USA.  Their arrival in the Focolare town – located in the Hyde Park area, two hours by car from New York, where President Roosevelt used to spend Christmas – was met by scenes of celebration.  At the entrance to the town, a colorful banner festooned with balloons began the festive welcome, below the US flag of stars and stripes and the focolare flag, a big golden star on a blue background, designed by Chiara when she was here in 1990.

The focolare founder, Chiara Lubich, had visited the town in 1990 and 1997, a sign of her closeness and participation in a project which was dear to her heart for this immense and important nation.   Chiara’s first inspiration for this project goes back to October 1984. The search began for the most suitable location, and fund raising started, sustained by the generosity of many and by the arrival of Providence.  At first some land in Pennsylvania was considered, then in other areas, until the discovery of this place.  That was in May 1985, but it took six months for the contract to be signed, because the local authorities were initially not in favour of it.

The inauguration was on September 14, 1986, even though Chiara, at the last moment, could not come because of her health.  But her absence added prophetic value to the message she sent for the occasion. “It will have its own beauty and its own vocation,” she said, and at the same time asked, “Will it be ecumenical and will people from other religions take part?”  “Everything makes us think so, because above all it must represent these people, and just as the Americans knew how to put together people and ethnic groups coming from different countries and different continents, so the little town in the USA will be an exemplary model of the unity of peoples, the social aspect of what Jesus prayed for, “That All May Be One.”

Twenty five years later, the 33 hectares contain 22 buildings, an outdoor swimming pool and a sports field.  There are 50 residents from different parts of the world, and during the summer many people come to live the experience of a cosmopolitan fraternity.   There are houses for families, youth, priests, religious sisters side by side with the focolare houses.  At the centre of the town is the church dedicated to Our Lady of the Light.   The various halls have meeting space for 500 people, be they youth, families, or bishops.  A lake and a little stream complete the landscape, which is home to a variety of animals, including friendly squirrels.

In this setting, Maria Voce and Giancarlo Faletti met for two days with those responsible for the Movement in Canada, USA, the Dominican Republic and Oceania.  Then on Tuesday March 29th a retreat began, for 260 men and women from the focolares all over North America.

From our correspondent Paolo Loriga

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